Mali won bronze at the Africa Cup of Nations after defeating Ghana 3-1 in the third and fourth-place play-off at Port Elizabeth on Saturday.
The Eagles scored a goal in the first half through Mamadou Samassa and had their second and third from captain Seydou Keita and Sigamary Diarra respectively. Kwadwo Asamoah had pulled Ghana within a goal of forcing an extra period, before Diarra’s late sealer.
Mubarak Wakaso missed a penalty before Asamoah got Ghana on the board, however it didn’t matter anyway as Mali secured their spot on the podium.
The game started in a calm mood with the Ghanaians getting the better of the early stages as the Eagles took some time to settle. The Black Stars, however, failed to provide any real threats to Daouda Diakite’s goal despite Mali’s sluggish start.
Mali finally settled down and got into the game but also struggled to open up the Ghanaian rear guard, managing to do so only once in the first 15 minutes of the game on which occasion Samassa managed to draw a good save out of Fatau Dauda.
Ghana also managed to test Diakite once in the opening quarter of an hour, with the Malian stopper having to get down quickly to save Christian Atsu’s shot after good work by Solomon Asante down the right.
Mali got the opening goal soon after that chance as Samassa dived in to head home a well-placed Adama Tamboura cross past goalkeeper Dauda.
The Ghanaians went up the other end almost immediately but Asamoah could only find the side net.
The second half started well for Ghana as substitute Jonathan Mensah got on the end of a good free-kick from Wakaso heading narrowly wide.
The Black Stars were made to rue the missed chance as Keita added to Mali’s lead with a neat side foot finish past Dauda after Ousmane Coulibaly’s cut back from the right.
Wakaso was handed a chance to half the deficit a few minutes later as Salif Coulibaly was adjudged to have handled the ball in the box despite replays showing that the ball actually came off his chest.
Poetic justice prevailed, though as Wakaso skied his effort from the spot, however, to keep the scores level. Diakite was called upon a few minutes later to save a goal bound free-kick from Asamoah Gyan. A few minutes later Dauda was the keeper under pressure as the stopper had to react quickly to tip Keita’s cross over the bar.
Diakite had a nervy moment a few minutes later as he struggled to hold on to a cross but Gyan and Wakaso could not capitalise on his error.
Again Mali went up the other end almost immediately and Keita looked to have increased the Eagles’ lead when he slotted the ball home past Dauda but he was adjudged to have been in an offside position.
Mali looked to be seeing the result out until the 82nd minute when Asamoah halved the deficit. A hopeful shot from distance from the Juventus midfielder sneaked past Diakite who misjudged the flight of the ball. Ghana went looking for the equaliser but were punished on the counter attack as Diarra added a third for the Eagles on the counter attack.
Mali managed to see out the result to achieve a podium finish for the second tournament running.