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'
|Bertrand joins Southampton on loan|
|Van Aanholt features as Sunderland fall to defeat|
|UEFA Champions League Review: Celtic hammered in Warsaw|
|Collison stakes his claim as QPR are held|
|Newcastle youngsters edge to Wednesday win|
|Villa beaten by buoyant Chesterfield|
|Juve held by new boys Cesena|
|Late Drinkwater strike helps Leicester see off Walsall|
|Everton seal club-record Lukaku deal|
|Lazio complete De Vrij capture|
|Fabregas opens account in Chelsea win|
|AFA president Grondona dies aged 82|
|Trezeguet heading for Indian Super League|
|Premier League to introduce vanishing foam|
|Rennes bring in Bruls|
|Kehl steps down as Dortmund captain|
|Capello: I´m staying until 2018|
|Pedro saddened by Fabregas departure|
|Fernandez agrees Porto switch|
|West Ham close on Jenkinson, says Allardyce|
|Donnelly out for three months|
|Chambers: It has been a whirlwind|
|Lukaku drops Chelsea exit hint|
|Mee signs new deal at Burnley|
|Lovren denied United States visa|
|Redknapp admits Fer interest|
|No official Cuadrado bids, insists agent|
|Maguire ready to make step up|
|Rodgers: Liverpool have a strategy in transfer market|
|Ki out to prove himself at Swansea|
|Garcia plays down importance of Real scalp|
|Evian complete Bruno signing|
|Poyet frustrated by lack of new faces|
|Mexes convinced Milan are improving|
|Mazzarri praises Inter attitude|
|Ronaldo could face Manchester United - Ancelotti|
|Tevez thanks fans after father found ´safe and well´|
|Gabi braced to tackle big-spending rivals|
|Shaw: I deserved Van Gaal criticism|
|Morinigo surprised by Gedoz substitution|
|Honduras appoint Medford|
|Van Gaal delighted with United display|
|Roma battle past Real Madrid|
|Simeone talks up Hernandez transfer|
|Defensor Sporting 1 Nacional Asuncion 0 (1-2 agg): Visitors into final despite loss|
|United edge Inter on penalties|
|Gerrard: It´s been ´the worst three months of my life´|
|Sabella set to quit Argentina post|
|Toure plans to see out career with City|
|Tevez´s father released after kidnapping|
|Benitez denies Callejon spat|
|Brownhill stunner downs Burnley|
|Sunderland edge out Recreativo|
|Barton and Hoilett earn QPR draw|
|UEFA Champions League Review: Lafata treble puts Sparta in command, Slovan beat Sheriff|
|Gomis opens Swansea account at Exeter|
|Schneiderlin hints at Southampton discontent|
|Scolari makes Gremio return|
|Bojan strike in vain as Schalke beat Stoke|
|Tevez to miss friendly amid kidnap reports|
|Porto sign Jose Angel from Roma|
|UEFA Europa League Preview: Trencin v Hull City|
|Liverpool land Origi|
|UEFA Europa League Preview: Torino return to Europe after 20-year absence|
|Rodriguez and Schneiderlin not for sale, say Southampton|
|Rakitic: Not all about front three|
|Barkley pens new Everton deal|
|Guardiola relishing Chivas friendly|
|Drogba targets Premier League glory|
|Hull make Maguire and Robertson double swoop|
|Perisic blow for Wolfsburg|
|Ibrahimovic scores hat-trick as PSG hammer Kitchee|
|Al-Hilal coach sacked over referee row|
|La Liga boss wants cream of the crop|
|Valencia granted work permit, completes West Ham move|
|Atletico complete deal for Griezmann|
|Reus focused on fitness battle despite ´major European interest´|
|Barcelona announce club-record revenue|
|Bony could be sold for right price, says Jenkins|
|Confidence key for Newcastle, says Taylor|
|Saivet out for four weeks with knee injury|
|Genk part company with Ferrera after just one game of season|
|Gold clarifies Twitter gaffe|
|Vidic adapting to different style at Inter|
|Toulouse bring in Matheus|
|Butragueno backs Rodriguez to cope with pressure|
|Benteke aiming to come back stronger|
|Valdez joins Frankfurt|
|Jovetic ready to shine|
|Simeone hails Griezmann qualities|
|Monk unsure over De Guzman future|
|Benitez: Michu will take time to adjust|
|Diaby confident of staying fit|
|Shaw not fit enough, says Van Gaal|
|MLS Preview: RSL look for attacking spark|
|Monk slaps ´astronomical´ price on Bony´s head|
|Australian clubs looking at Ronaldinho|
|Sinclair enjoying ´one of the best pre-seasons´|
|Spiranovic surgery a success|
|Seattle Sounders 0 Los Angeles Galaxy 3: First-half blitz fires Californians to victory|
|Lemina thrilled with Bielsa effect|
|Bayern´s Green chomping at the bit|
|Palace complete US tour with easy win|
|Carragher: Liverpool didn´t want me|
|Simeone: Atleti´s La Liga triumph was no fluke|
|Sturridge: ´I´ll step up´|
|Van Gaal: Formation gives United flexibility|
|Mathieu insists age is no barrier|
|Martinez the deal sealer, says Besic|
|Coaches embrace blockbuster Serie A start|