Ghana moved top of Group B at the Africa Cup of Nations after beating Mali 1-0 in Port Elizabeth on Thursday.
A penalty from Espanyol midfielder Wakaso Mubarak ensured the four-time African champions got their first win of the continental showpiece after drawing with DR Congo in their opening game on Sunday.
Wakaso put the Ghanaians in the lead in the 38th minute of the match at Nelson Mandela Bay Stadium, the spot kick won by Emmanuel Agyemang-Badu off Adama Tamboura.
The game started quietly as both teams felt their way into the contest, but Ghana’s goalkeeper Fatau Dauda had a fortunate escape after he received only a yellow card for deliberately handling outside the area.
Mali started to get the better of the exchanges after that, but failed to really threaten, with Ghana also showing glimpses of their ability as Asamoah Gyan’s effort was diverted for a corner after he received the ball in the penalty box.
The Black Stars finally started to find their rhythm but seemed to be struggling to break through the Eagles back line as Harrison Afful and then Wakaso took shots from distance, with none of them causing problems for Mamadou Samassa.
The goalkeeper was beaten by a glancing header from Agyemang-Badu moments later but his post came to his rescue. The Udinese midfielder was played through on goal a few minutes later only to be brought down by Tamboura for a penalty.
The spot kick was slammed home by Wakaso to open the scoring with 38 minutes on the clock.
Ghana started the second half the more hungry team as they looked to add to their goal, with Albert Adomah and Gyan going close.
Mali managed to cause Dauda a couple of uncomfortable moments in between with some very good deliveries into the box.
An Isaac Vorsah mistake almost gave Mali a good chance but the Black Stars defenders quickly reorganized to spare their colleague’s blushes.
Much of the play was confined to the middle third, with a long-range effort from Agyemang-Badu one of few sights of goal mid-way through the second period.
Mali went down the other end almost immediately, causing a goalmouth scramble with another long-ball into the box but Ghana managed to clear once more as the game looked to be finally opening up.
Solomon Asante almost made a spectacular entrance into the game as his effort whizzed past the post just seconds after coming on for Adomah. Mali managed a couple more forays forward but failed to find an equaliser.
Mali will now have to get a result in their final game against DR Congo if they are to qualify for the next stage while the Ghanaians will be feeling more confident about their chances ahead of their final game against Niger, who are considered to be the weakest team in the group.