Mali put right their disappointing scoreless draw against Belgium to secure a deserved win over Ecuador, though the Africans made life tougher than needed in Talca.
Mali scored early in each half of a match the dominated, but a goal from Ecuador with 20 minutes remaining left the contest in the balance until the final moments.
The Africans opened brightly but only had an early goal to show for their supremacy. Ironically then, it was a dose of bad luck for Ecuador that brought about the breakthrough as Carlos Pena’s blocked clearance fell at the feet of Boubacar Traore who scored from close range.
There were further notable openings for Mali’s Sidiki Maiga and Traore, but both were blocked by busy goalkeeper Jose Cevallos.
Without doubt the most spectacular moment of the match came as Sekou Koita left fly from distance with what could only be described as a James Rodriguez-esque volley, however, unlike the Colombian’s famed goal, this effort bounced back off the post.
Ecuador did have a good opening just after the interval only for Washington Corozo to see his close-range stabbed effort blocked on the goalline.
Instead it was the Malians who doubled the advantage just past the hour mark, when Aly Malle took full toll following a long pass from captain Abdoul Dante.
However, Pervis Estupinan pulled a goal back from the penalty spot with 20 minutes remaining, after Anderson Naula was fouled.
Ecuador’s task of regaining parity was made even harder with skipper Joel Quintero sent off after receiving a second caution with ten minutes remaining.
The win sees Mali join Belgium at the summit of Group D on four points, a point clear of Ecuador.