A late goal from substitute Max Gradel salvaged a 1-1 draw for Ivory Coast against Mali Saturday to keep the Elephants’ hopes of making the knockout stages of the Africa Cup of Nations very much alive.

Wolves striker Bakary Sako looked to have secured a shock victory for Mali in the Group D encounter in Malobo with a superb volley scored after seven minutes until Gradel stroked home a Serge Aurier cross with just seven minutes remaining.

The result leaves the group wide open with both sides joint top on two points after two games.

Mali went into the encounter as underdogs but got the perfect start Sako gave the Eagles an early lead off a cross from Sambou Yatabare after Ismael Diomande gave away possession in midfield.

The Elephants dominated possession after falling behind and could have had a penalty in the 31st minute when Wilfried Bony was felled in the area by Molla Wague.

Kolo Toure came close to equalizing for the elephants two minutes later but the Liverpool defender saw his powerful header pushed onto the crossbar by Mali goalkeeper Soumaila Diakite.

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