Naby Deco Keita of Guinea during the 2019 Africa Cup of Nations match between Nigeria and Guinea at the Alexandria Stadium, Alexandria on the 26 June 2019 ©Muzi Ntombela/BackpagePix

Naby Keita back among the goals but Ki-Jana Hoever’s World Cup dream ends

Naby Keita scored his first goal since April as Guinea opened their Africa Cup of Nations qualifying campaign with a 2-2 draw in Mali on Thursday.

It came on a rare starting appearance for the midfielder this season, with injuries and competition for places hindering his progress at Liverpool.

Wearing the captain’s armband for Guinea, Keita took his place in the middle of the park for an end-to-end game marred by abysmal goalkeeping.

After a goalless first half, Mali broke the deadlock in the 56th minute, as Metz midfielder Adama Traore sent a Fabio Aurelio-style free-kick beyond the sprawling Aly Keita from long range at his near post.

Keita was able to level the scores just eight minutes later, however, and his came after a bundled save from Mali stopper Djigui Diarra, allowing him to showcase his poacher’s instinct to prod home.

Mali were back in front soon after, with Sekou Koita firing in from the tightest of angles after an initial effort was palmed back into danger by substitute ‘keeper Moussa Camara.

But blushes were saved as Sekou Conde headed in from a free-kick in the 74th minute to restore parity and ensure an away draw in Guinea’s first qualifier for the 2021 tournament.

There was a familiar scare for Keita in the closing stages as he went down injured and was placed on a stretcher to be carried off, but he opted to stay on the pitch and played out the full 90 minutes.

Manager Didier Six gave no indication of a problem after the game, and Keita could feature against Namibia on Sunday.

LIVERPOOL, ENGLAND - Saturday, February 9, 2019: Liverpool's Ki-Jana Hoever before the FA Premier League match between Liverpool FC and AFC Bournemouth at Anfield. (Pic by David Rawcliffe/Propaganda)

Meanwhile, Ki-Jana Hoever was forced to watch on as the Netherlands suffered defeat in the semi-finals of the U17 World Cup in Brazil.

The 17-year-old was absent from the clash with Mexico due to a yellow-card suspension, after producing an excellent run of form during a tournament that saw the Dutch come back from the brink in the group stage.

He was replaced by Steven van der Sloot, while captain Kenneth Taylor missed out due to illness, which deprived Peter van der Veen of two of his first-choice defenders.

A tense, exciting contest didn’t spark into life in terms of goals until halfway through the second half, with the Netherlands opening the scoring through Youri Regeer only to be pegged back by Efraim Alvarez minutes later.

That set up a penalty shootout which Mexico won 4-3, leaving Hoever to express his pride at reaching the semi-finals; his side will play France in the third-placed playoff on Sunday.

Elsewhere, Sepp van den Berg played the full 90 minutes as the Netherlands under-19s drew 3-3 with the Czech Republic in a wild friendly in Katwijk.