Ghana progressed to the quarter-final of the 2017 Africa Cup Nations with one match to spare after a 1-0 win over Mali on Saturday in their second Group D match.
Captain Asamoah Gyan’s 20th minute header- a record breaking eighth goal-divided the two sides at the Stade Port Gentil to amass six points.
It was a cagey opening with possession evenly balanced but it looked like the Black Stars were slightly on top.
Star man Christian Atsu nutmegged Traore and broke inside the box. He laid a pass for Andre Ayew who controlled and spun but his aim at goal from close range shockingly went wide.
Shortly Mali threatened with a header from a Molla Wague on a corner kick from inside the box which went wide.
But Ghana proved too strong in attack and Jordan pick up a ball and drifted to the left before whipped in a cross which was powerfully and perfectly headed by the skipper Gyan.
On the half hour mark, Jordan Ayew drove in a shot from just outside the box after cutting in from the left but his attempt was palmed away by goalkeeper Ousman Sissoko.
Atsu’s left footed shot was blocked by Salif Coulibaly after collecting a through pass from Mubarak Wakaso.
Mali barely caused troubles for Ghana and failed to create opportunities to leave them trailing.
Four minutes into the second half, Mali created their first scoring opportunity when Bakary Sako sent in a cross to the far right which was headed powerfull by Moussa Marega but Razak Brimah, the Ghana goalkeeper, dealt with it easily.
Marega was presented with another opportunity but he skied his effort from close range.
The decision by Mali coach Alain Giresse to introduce Yves Bissouma at the break seems to have lubricated the midfield as his speed and passes were impactful.
Mali found their groove and coupled with some dodgy defending from Ghana, they started asking questions which even saw centre back Coulibaly of TP Mazembe also make an attempt.
Left back Hamari Troare scared Ghanaian fans when his long range volley side-netted. At this point, it was obvious the Black Stars had run out of steam and backpeddling.
Giresse exhaused his cards by throwing on Moussa Doumbia and Kalifa Coulibaly but an out-of-gas Ghana side did well to neutralize them.
At the closing stages, Bissouma profited from Atsu’s poor clearance and slotted past Wakaso into the box and cut back with a cross but it found nobody.
With the pressure on his team, Avram Grant introduced Afriyie Acquah to stabilize things.
Kalifa Coulibaly nearly scored when he connected a cross from inside the box but Brimah was at his agile best to palm it back into play which was headed back for the goalkeeper to grab.
Mali were awarded a late free kick from close to the box but Sako’s effort came off the wall and the Black Stars knocked it away to safety.
Ghana’s next match will be against Egypt on Wednesday in the final Group D match.