x Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 28 July 2017

Mali pay penalty as Asamoah Gyan's Ghana edge closer to African Cup of Nations knockouts

West African nation's captain and Al Ain striker cautious despite 1-0 win in their Group B match.

Ghana's Mubarak Wakaso, right, scores the only goal of the match. Schalk van Zuydam / AP Photo
Ghana's Mubarak Wakaso, right, scores the only goal of the match. Schalk van Zuydam / AP Photo

PORT ELIZABETH, SOUTH AFRICA // Asamoah Gyan, the Ghana captain, says the four-time champions need to back up their win against Mali yesterday with another victory against Niger in their final Group B game of the African Cup of Nations.

The Black Stars went to the top of Group B with a 1-0 win against Mali as Mubarak Wakaso converted a 38th-minute penalty after the lively Emmanuel Agyeman Badu was brought down inside the box by experienced left-back Adama Tamboura.

Victory against Niger, who played the Democratic Republic of Congo in last night's late game, in their final encounter on Monday will ensure Ghana progress to the knockout stages, while Mali, who slipped to second place on three points, face DR Congo in their last match.

"It was a difficult game. We needed to win and now we have four points, but we need more to qualify to the next stage and so we will not underrate Niger," said Gyan, who has scored 21 goals in the UAE Pro League this season for Al Ain.

Ghana dominated this encounter with Mali lacking the firepower to trouble their opponents even after the introduction of fit-again West Ham striker Modibo Maiga.

Wakaso will miss his team's final group game on Monday against Niger after he was booked for his celebration -- his second caution of the competition.

The Ghana coach Kwesi Appiah said: "We were much more tactically disciplined in this game than against DR Congo, but I know we can do a lot better than we did today."

This was the third time the west African countries clashed in the tournament within a year.

Ghana won a group game 2-0 in Gabon at the 2012 tournament before Mali gained revenge by winning 2-0 to clinch third place.

In a cautious first half, Ghana created more chances.

After eight minutes, Mali captain Seydou Keita's free kick from the edge of the box, after goalkeeper Fatau Dauda handled outside his area, narrowly missed the target with the goalkeeper beaten.

Thereafter, it was Ghana all the way.

On 13 minutes, Gyan saw his shot from inside the box blocked for a corner.

Badu's header in the 32nd minute off a Wakaso free kick came back off the foot of the post with Mali goalkeeper Mamadou Samassa beaten.

Mali began the second half brightly and veteran Keita just failed to connect with a clever chip by Mahamane Traore, who had a shot tipped over by Dauda.

A Wakaso free kick was not far off target and a Gyan shot nearly caught the Mali goalkeeper napping.

Badu had a free kick scrambled away for a corner and substitute Solomon Asante almost made an immediate impact when he latched on to a loose ball only to miss.

* Agence France-Presse

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