The Eagles fly past the Black Stars to grab third place at the 29th edition of the Nations Cup in South AfricaMali won bronze at the 2013 Africa Cup of Nations after defeating Ghana 3-1 in the third and fourth-place play-off on Saturday in Port Elizabeth.
It was a rather quiet beginning to the game and a diving header from Samassa was enough to give Mali a half-time lead before Keita added another soon after the break. Mubarak Wakaso missed a penalty before Ghana grabbed a consolation through Kwadwo Asamoah. Sigamary Diarra added a third for Mali late on in the game as the Eagles managed another podium finish.
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.
The Eagles finally settled down and got themselves in the game but also struggled to open up the Ghanaian defence, managing to do so only once in the first 15 minutes of the game when 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 snap 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, who won the Fair Play Award in the match, could only find the side net.
Wakaso’s effort a few minutes later was on target but Diakite was on hand to produce a good save to keep the Eagles in the lead. The game levelled out after that chance but neither team managed to trouble the opposing goalkeeper until a beautifully weighted pass found goal scorer Samassa but the forward’s chip hit the post. A few minutes later Keita wasted a good chance to add to Mali’s lead poking his effort wide after the Ghanaian defence had allowed a long ball to run through to him.
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. 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. Not long after that Dauda was the keeper under pressure as he 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 Eagle’s lead when he slotted the ball 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 had clearly misjudged the flight of the ball. Ghana went looking for the equaliser but were punished on the counter attack as Sigamary 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. For the Black Stars, however, the tournament ends in disappointment as many expected a better finish from them.