Nigeria and Mali have been forced to settle for a point each in their WAFU Cup of Nations Group A opener following a goalless draw at the Cape Coast Stadium on Thursday afternoon.
It was a bright start from Mali as Kone unleashed the first shot from outside the box in just the fifth minute to test goalkeeper Ikechukwu Ezenwa.
Nigeria showed quality in the early stages, with Rabiu Ali a threat in the build-up to a great chance for Stephen Eze who scuffed his header inside the box.
Despite sitting back and soaking up the pressure for most of the first half, it was Mali who created the best opportunity just after the 20 minutes mark when Oumar Kida had lost his marker to force Ezenwa to push a shot to safety.
Mali continued to be frustrated going forward either side of the break, with the Super Eagles’ stubborn defence making it difficult for the Eagles to find the space they needed in attacking areas.
Ubong Friday looked lively when he managed to get involved further up the pitch, but he failed to trouble Diarra for a second time when curling a speculative effort wide of the target.
Adeleye Olamilekan made a timely goal line clearance in the 70th minute after Ezenwa made a good save from point blank.
Anthony Okpotu was introduced to add another option in attack for Nigeria, but the forward had an average show.
A venture forward from the Nigerian team almost produced a goal in the 82nd minute when a good pass from Rabiu Ali found Moses Peter Eneji but the Plateau United attacker fired straight at Diarra.
Olamilekan’s presence in the box caused problems late on, with the Malians twice being forced to make vital clearances as the game ended in a draw.