CABINDA, Angola (AFP) - Mali scored twice within three minutes of the kick-off en route to an ultimately meaningless 3-1 victory over Malawi in an Africa Cup of Nations Group A match on Monday.
Hosts Angola topped the mini-league after a goalless Luanda draw with Algeria, who finished level on four points with Mali but reached the quarter-finals because of a superior head-to-head record.
Frederic Kanoute and Seydou Keita were the early scorers for the 'Eagles' and Mamadou Bagayoko wrapped up the three points after Russell Mwafulirwa had reduced arrears during the second half.
Mali lacked Mamamadou Diarra of Real Madrid and fellow midfielder Bakary Soumare through suspension and made four changes from the team beaten 1-0 by Algeria last Wednesday.
The opening goal came gift wrapped from long-serving Malawi goalkeeper Swadick Sanudi, one of numerous 'Flames' who earn their living performing in the South African second division.
He was far too casual in clearing a James Sangala back pass and wide-awake 2008 African Footballer of Year Kanoute volleyed the ball with his right foot into the far corner of the net.
Egyptian Ayman Mansour holds the record for the fastest Nations Cup goal, scoring 23 seconds into a group match against Gabon at the 1994 tournament hosted by Tunisia.
Malawi were still reeling from the shock of conceding the quickest goal in this Nations Cup when they found themselves two goals behind 163 seconds after the Mauritian referee had signalled play to begin.
If Sanudi must shoulder most of the blame for the first goal, he was faultless for the second as Barcelona midfielder Seydou Keita snatched his third goal of the tournament.
Mali were awarded a free kick outside and slightly right of the penalty area and up stepped the midfielder to hammer the ball through a gap in the defensive wall and into the roof of the net.
Midfielder James Kamwendo, the sole South Africa-based Malawian playing for a first division club, turned his back to Keita and jumped as the kick was taken, possibly obstructing the view of his goalkeeper.
Free kicks were proving a problem for Sanudi and his chin blocked a Lassana Fane effort 42 minutes into a first half that ended with Mali still two goals ahead.
Russell Mwafulirwa, the giant striker who missed the loss to Angola through injury, pulled one back on 58 minutes by slamming a loose ball into the net after a wild goalmouth scramble saw Malawi come close three times.
The same player should have equalised with 19 minutes left as he lurked unmarked at the far post when a corner floated across, but his downward header bounced off the surface and flew over the crossbar.
Bagayoko put the result beyond doubt with a late header before goalkeeper and stand-in captain Mamamadou Sidibe made a point-blank save to rob Malawi of a second goal.
|Coach: S. Keshi|
for A. Maïga 50'
for M. Traoré 60'
for F. Kanouté 81'
|Blackburn give Bowyer permanent role|
|Dortmund can get better, insists Klopp|
|Fernandes: No Caterham exit plans|
|Inter appoint Mazzarri, sack Stramaccioni|
|Benitez in Napoli link|
|Adams signs new Ross County deal|
|Heynckes: Bayern are extraordinary|
|Platini: European sports police needed|
|Taylor calls on Coloccini to stay|
|Verratti is going nowhere, says agent|
|Neymar set to leave Santos ´within 10 days´|
|Gill expects Rooney stay|
|Departing Cole thanks West Ham fans|
|Shechter grateful for Swansea support|
|Townsend charged over betting rules|
|Reading release six players|
|Monaco splash out for Moutinho, Rodriguez|
|Rummenigge: Bayern not complacent|
|Giroud seeks improvement|
|Palermo chief welcomes bids for Ilicic|
|AZ bolster defensive stocks|
|Lambert: Benteke needs to stay at Villa|
|Andreolli poised for Inter return|
|Bianchi: Boca players tired|
|Cech: Mourinho a great manager|
|Blatter outlines racism resolution aim|
|Manchester City players coy on Pellegrini|
|Marseille priced out of Damiao move|
|McAuley: West Brom could have done more|
|Osman extends Everton stay|
|Stoke reject N´Zonzi transfer request|
|Carragher retirement ´sad´, says Mourinho|
|Manolev happy to help|
|Europa league winners to get Champions League spot|
|First goal bittersweet for Azpilicueta|
|La Liga Preview: Real Sociedad v Real Madrid|
|La Liga Preview: Pressure on for Euro spots|
|Ligue 1 Preview: Victory only hope for Troyes|
|MLS preview: Second place up for grabs|
|Coentrao heading for Real exit|
|Coppa Italia Preview: Roma v Lazio|
|Ligue 1 Preview: Lorient v PSG|
|Malaga win was catalyst, says Klopp|
|Milan finalise Zapata switch|
|Montella braced for Jovetic departure|
|Simeone will not block Falcao exit|
|Van Gaal talks down Netherlands´ chances|
|Coupet doubts Monaco´s potential|
|Man City edge Chelsea in thrilling friendly|
|Torres wants Mourinho at Chelsea|
|Copa Libertadores Wrap: Atletico Mineiro snatch late draw|
|Galliani dismisses Berlusconi row reports|
|San Lorenzo renew Coloccini pursuit|
|Benteke sparks fears of Villa exit|
|Weidenfeller: We can be heroes|
|Injured Messi called up by Argentina|
|Cleverley taking inspiration from Spain|
|Kellermann proud of resilient Wolfsburg|
|Robben hails dominant Germany|
|Europe the benchmark for Zaccheroni´s Japan|
|Osieck backs Schwarzer to shine|
|Van der Gun shoots Utrecht to away win|
|Firmino double fires Hoffenheim to win|
|Davies hails ´great´ debut season|
|Foster happy with eighth-placed finish|
|Wickham eyeing first team|
|UEFA to announce Europa League incentive|
|Fonte looking to hit the ground running|
|Hodgson keen to hand Jones defensive role|
|Onuoha: Keep the faith with QPR owners|
|Karagounis praises Fulham fans|
|McDermott: Byram keen on Leeds stay|
|Martinez´s Wigan future to be decided next week|
|Rodriguez: I think I will leave Porto|
|Erbes ´relaxed´ ahead of Newell´s clash|
|CSL Preview: Shandong Luneng eye top spot|
|Kwakman to leave Groningen|
|Werder Bremen complete Petersen signing|
|Mancini Inter return is possible, says Moratti|
|Baines: Everton must progress without Moyes|
|Nicollin: Cabella worth 100 million euros|
|Demel proud of West Ham´s home record|
|Debuchy: Premier League is difficult|
|Pazzini to miss start of next season|
|Ferdinand extends Manchester United deal|
|Pulis thanks fans after Stoke departure|
|Berlin to host 2015 UEFA Champions League final|
|Werder face Dutt wait|
|Finke appointed Cameroon boss|
|Wilshere keen to improve after comeback season|
|Vieira excited by MLS franchise|
|Rodgers wants quick decision on Carroll future|
|Kagawa wants European success|
|Mata hopes for Mourinho arrival|
|Welbeck disappointed with goals tally|
|UEFA Champions League Preview: Borussia Dortmund v Bayern Munich|
|Zabaleta excited by Pellegrini|
|Ramos: Bale is ´Real Madrid-quality´|
|Hart urges City to go forward|
|Copa Libertadores Wrap: Santa Fe earn away win|
|Fiorentina reject Jovetic rumours|
|Piszczek set for post-season surgery|
|Adriano signs Barca extension|
|International Friendly: Venezuela 2 El Salvador 1|
|Bundesliga chief slams Qatar World Cup scheduling|
|Gignac wants Barton to stay|
|Ramsey, Walcott hail Wenger´s achievements|
|Loew regrets timing of German finale|