Aly Badra Sylla of Mali celebrates after scoring a goal against Sierra Leone in the WAFU Cup. Backpage pix.

By Brian Lee – ESPN

An Ali Badra Sylla goal four minutes into the match saw Mali beat Sierra Leone 1-0 in the semifinals of the 2019 WAFU Cup of Nations at the Stade Lat Dior in Thies, Senegal on Sunday.

It was the perfect start for Mali who opened the scoring after only four minutes when Sylla headed home a right-wing cross from Mamaye Coulibaly, 1-0.

The Eagles should have doubled their lead in the 25th minute when Moussa Kone broke through on goal, but he failed to beat the keeper in a one-on-one.

Just after the half hour mark Sierra Leone were afforded a great chance to level matters when Mahmoud Fofanah found himself in space 16-yards out, but he skied his shot over the target under no pressure from the defence.

Kone had another gilt-edged chance to score in the 40th minute when a pinpoint through-ball from Ibourahima Sidibe saw him with just the keeper to beat, but yet again the Eagles striker shot straight at Mohamed Kamara.

Despite their numerous chances in front of goal Mali went into the break only leading by a single goal.

It was more of the same for the Eagles in the second half with Coulibaly working his magic down the right flank in the 57th minute, driving into the box before seeing his shot from an acute angle eight-yards strike the side-netting.

Mali continued to press forward but were unable to find a second goal. Still, Sierra Leone offered very little in the way of attack and in the end were fortunate to only lose by a single goal.

The Eagles will now face Senegal in the semifinals of the Cup competition on Oct. 9 while Sierra Leone head home.