Eagles soar to 2-0 victory over Ghana

Cheick Diabate scored in each half as Mali defeated 10-man Ghana 2-0 in a play-off on Saturday to finish third at the 2012 Africa Cup of Nations.

The big Bordeaux striker poked in a rebound midway through the opening half and tapped home a cross with 10 minutes left after Ghana defender Isaac Vorsah had been red carded for a second caution.

It was fourth time lucky for the Malian Eagles as they lost three previous third place matches in the African football showpiece while the Ghanaian Black Stars were suffering a second loss in three play-off appearances.

Striker Asamoah Gyan, who missed a penalty in the semifinal loss to Zambia, was a notable omission as Ghana made four changes with suspensions ruling out defender John Boye and midfielder Derek Boateng.

Mali also had four new faces compared to the side that took Côte d’Ivoire to the wire in the other semifinal with goalkeeper Oumar Sissoko, defenders Ousmane Coulibaly and Abdoulaye Maiga and striker Garra Dembele coming in.

Ghana dominated the cagey early exchanges at a sparsely populated Nuevo Estadio de Malabo in the Equatorial Guinean capital only to fall behind midway through the opening half.

A clever corner routine saw the kick from Barcelona midfielder Seydou Keita find Bakaye Traore just outside the box and when Adam Kwarasey failed to grasp his low drive, Diabate reacted quickest to poke the ball over the line.

There could have been a second goal for the Eagles 10 minutes later as a swift counter exposed the Black Stars defence, but when Kwarasey failed to hold a low Samba Diakate shot there was no Malian to take advantage.

With Ghana seldom threatening the Cedric Kante-marshalled Malian defence, coach Goran Stevanovic introduced striker Prince Tagoe for midfielder Samuel Inkoom nine minutes before half-time.

Another substitution by the four-time champions and four-time runners-up saw experienced Sulley Muntari introduced for the second half in place of fellow midfielder Mohammed Abu.

Muntari thought he had levelled early in the second half when he fired past Sissoko from close range, but big-screen replays suggested the match officials got a close offside decision correct.

Ghana suffered another blow as the slow-tempo match entered the final quarter when defender Vorsah was shown a red card by the Egyptian referee after a second caution.

The fate of the Black Stars was sealed in the closing stages as overlapping full-back Adam Tamboura crossed and Diabate timed his run perfectly to tap the ball past Kwarasey. – AFP

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