Mali secured a third place finish at the African Cup of Nations at the expense of a dissapointing Ghana.
Cheick Tidiane Diabate grabbed two goals either side of a red card to Ghanaian defender Isaac Vorsah, as the Eagles recorded their best finishing position at an ACON for 40 years.
The victory at the Estadio de Bata saw Mali gain revenge on Ghana for their 2-0 defeat during the group stage of the tournament.
Tonight’s win goes some way in soothing the pain endured by the West Africans following their semi-final defeat at the hands of the Ivory Coast.
As for Ghana, a tournament that had promised so much – the Black Eagles started as joint favorites for the cup – ends on a real low, as defeat this evening followed Wednesday’s shock 1-0 loss to Zambia.
Ghana coach Goran Stevanovic, under pressure following his side’s disapointing campaign, decided to start the game without a recognised striker, as Marseille’s Jordan and Andre Ayew were deployed up front in what was an experimental system.
His decision failed to bear fruit, as his side failed to create any meaningful openings during the first half. By the time the Serb changed his strategy, Ghana were 1-0 down.
The goal arrived in the 23rd minute, with Diabate the quickest to react to goalkeeper Adambathia Kwarasey’s parry from Samba Diakite’s firm shot.
The match became scrappy following the opener, with both sides guilty of niggly fouls. Ghana’s Sulley Muntari thought he had drawn his side level, but his volleyed finish was ruled out for offside in what was a tight decision.
The Black Eagles hopes of securing a bronze medal finish was dealt a further blow when centre back Vorsah was sent off for a second yellow card, becoming the third Ghana player to see red during the tournament.
Despite John Mensah’s curling effort going just wide of the post, the task in front of Ghana was too much, and Mali, sensing victory, began too dominate proceedings.
Their superiority was rewarded with a fine breakaway goal with 10 minutes remaining on the clock. Left back Adama Tamboura’s fine run down the left flank was followed up with a perfect low ball across the face of goal for Diabate to stick out a leg and slide home into an empty net.
The Bordeaux striker’s brace sees him join Didier Drogba, Chris Katongo and Emmanuel Mayuka on three goals for the tournament, although any of those three can go ahead of Diabate if they find the net in tomorrow’s final.
Although both Ayew brothers had opportunites to reduce the deficit, the final whistle soon brought the match to a conclusion, much to the delight of the Malians.
Mali will return home fully satisfied with their preformance at this year’s ACON, as their best finishing performance since the 1972 tournament signals real progress is being made. Ghana on the other hand, will go home feeling very much the opposite, as a tournament that promised so much for them, has ultimately, delivered very little.