Port-Gentil - Ghana
secured their place in the quarter-finals of the Africa Cup of Nations
as Asamoah Gyan's goal was enough to beat Mali 1-0 in Port-Gentil on
On an appalling playing surface, Gyan headed home from Jordan Ayew's
cross in the 21st minute to score his eighth goal at the Cup of Nations
over six consecutive tournaments going back to 2008.
With two wins from two matches in Group D, 2015 runners-up the Black
Stars are certain of another appearance in the knockout stage of a
tournament they have won four times.
"In tournaments you need to be winning games and that is what we did today," said Gyan.
"We are satisfied about our performance. Whether we play an excellent
game or not, at the end of the day we just want to win and move
Mali have just one point but are not out of it yet, while Egypt and Uganda meet in the other Group D game later.
"Every coach has an element of responsibility for a result and the
performance was not what we could have produced in the first half," said
Mali coach Alain Giresse.
"The players are disappointed but not completely knocked down. They will be ready to lift their heads for the last match."
The state of the pitch meant the teams were not allowed to use it for
their pre-game warm-ups, instead being forced to use an indoor
The surface did not lend itself to a flowing game of football, but at
least the sizeable Malian community in this Gabonese port city made for
a raucous atmosphere.
Sadly for them, Ghana initially coped better on the pitch and they should have been in front in the 17th minute.
Christian Atsu, the standout performer at the last Cup of Nations,
did brilliantly on the right before delivering a low ball to the near
post which Jordan Ayew would surely have converted.
However, Andre Ayew took the ball off the feet of his younger brother and stabbed a shot wide.
Nevertheless, Avram Grant's men were ahead before the midway point in
the first period as Jordan Ayew crossed from the right and captain Gyan
rose unmarked to head past Oumar Sissoko in the Mali goal.
The Ghana players celebrated by running across to the bench and
holding up t-shirts with a message of support for left-back Abdul Rahman
Baba, whose tournament was ended by a serious knee injury in the
opening win against Uganda.
Sissoko did well to save a Jordan Ayew cross-cum-shot that bounced
awkwardly in front of him and Mali then came out with greater purpose
after the break.
Just as in their opening goalless draw with Egypt, the introduction
of exciting young Lille midfielder Yves Bissouma gave them an extra
Despite that, they could not find an equalising goal, with Moussa
Marega heading straight at Razak Brimah from a Bakary Sako cross and
defender Salif Coulibaly hooking a shot just wide after Ghana had
struggled to clear their lines.
Ghana were hanging on right until the end, with goalkeeper Razak
making a fine reaction save to deny substitute Kalifa Coulibaly from
point-blank range in the 90th minute and then beating away a Sako volley
in injury time.