Oumar Diakité scored in stoppage time of extra time to lead 10-man Ivory Coast into the Africa Cup of Nations semifinals with a dramatic 2-1 win over northern neighbor Mali on Saturday.
Goalkeeper Ronwen Williams saved four penalties in the shootout for South Africa to advance by beating Cape Verde 2-1 on penalties after their quarterfinal match ended 0-0 after extra time.
Despite playing with 10 men for the entire second half and extra time, tournament host Ivory Coast finished with nine players as Diakité received a second yellow card for excessive celebrations amid scenes of unbridled joy among nearly 40,000 fans in the Stadium of Peace in Bouaké.
It was Diakité’s second yellow card, meaning he will miss the semifinal match against Congo on Wednesday.
Simon Adingra equalized with Ivory Coast’s first shot on target in the 90th minute to send the match to extra time, and Diakité completed a thrilling comeback by scoring in the 122nd minute.
“If it continues like this, I think we can do nice things,” Diakité said, referring to another remarkable recovery.
The Elephants came from behind to knock out defending champion Senegal on Monday. Ivory Coast had barely qualified for the knockout stage thanks only to results in other groups. It also fired its coach and tried unsuccessfully to hire another.
Ivory Coast was heading for a disappointing exit Saturday after Mali substitute Nene Dorgeles broke the deadlock with a brilliant strike from distance inside the top right corner in the 71st.
The Eagles had a player advantage from the 43rd minute, when Odilon Kossounou was sent off with his second yellow card for a tactical foul to stop Mali forward Lassine Sinayoko.
Kossounou’s first yellow came earlier after conceding a penalty for his challenge on Sinayoko. Ivorian goalkeeper Yahia Fofana saved Adama Traoré’s spot kick.
The penalty scare prompted more commitment from Ivory Coast, which had been outplayed, but Mali’s defense largely coped with the Elephants’ charge, especially after Kossounou was sent off.
Mali goalkeeper Djigui Diarra was untroubled until Adingra prodded the ball home after Seko Fofana’s initial effort was blocked.
It prompted an explosion of joy in the stadium. Security had to haul away a photographer who left his position to join in the players’ celebrations.
Fans watching on large screens in Abidjan flipped into party mode, jumping, dancing, and celebrating, but the real party only started after Diakité’s late winner.
South African hero goalkeeper Williams saved the Blue Sharks’ first three spot kicks, while Zakhele Lepasa hit the crossbar with South Africa’s second and Cape Verde ‘keeper Vozinha saved Aubrey Modiba’s effort from the third.
Bryan Teixeira then scored for Cape Verde to level the shootout at 1-1, but Mothobi Mvala scored the next for South Africa and Williams sealed the Bafana Bafana’s win by saving Patrick Andrade’s penalty.
South Africa will play Nigeria on Wednesday in its first Africa Cup semifinal match for 24 years.