Mali clinch third

2013-02-09 23:13

A Mamadou Samassa header and an early second-half Seydou Keita strike guided Mali to a second successive third-place Afcon finish as the Eagles defeated Ghana at a soaked Nelson Mandela Bay Stadium.

With action swinging from end-to-end, Samassa broke the deadlock in the 21st minute, handing last year’s bronze medallists the early advantage.

Ghana came back strongly and brought the crowd to their feet as they thought Kwadwo Asamoah’s shot went in, but the Juventus striker could only find the side-netting with his effort from right of the goal.

With rain bucketing down, Mubarak Wakaso forced a diving save from Soumbeila Diakite, after the joint leading goal-scorer of the tournament unleashed a fierce left-footed attempt, but the Mali keeper was up to the task.

The Eagles stretched their advantage just two minutes into the second period when Keita smashed home past Abdul Dauda, after receiving a low pass across the goalmouth from Ousmane Coulibaly.

Controversy, however, was not far away as referee Otogo Arnaud awarded Ghana a 57th-minute penalty after Salif Coulibaly was adjudged to have handled the ball.

Wakaso stepped up confidently, but flashed his effort over the goal, failing to add to his four strikes in the tournament, three of which were penalties.

Shortly after the hour mark, Asamoah Gyan tested Diakite, as the striker hit a curling free-kick on target, only for Diakite to make a diving save to his right.

Keita responded with a free-kick of his own, but Dauda was equal to the task, tipping the ball over the crossbar.

Keita thought he had doubled his tally in the 72nd minute but was ruled offside.

Having suffered a dismal evening, Asamoah sparked a revival from the Ghanaians as he pulled a goal back eight minutes from time, after his long-range strike appeared to have moved in the air, deceiving Diakite, who dived past the ball, handing the Black Stars their only goal.

Replacement Sigamaray Diarra had the last say, restoring Mali’s two-goal advantage and ensuring victory in injury time, after he volleyed in a well-taken effort from inside the Ghana area.

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