Gyan’s header sends Ghana into quarter finals

Ghana striker Asamoah Gyan headed the winner against Mali on Saturday night

Ghana striker Asamoah Gyan headed the winner against Mali on Saturday night

The Black Stars of Ghana advanced to the quarter finals of the 2017 Africa Cup of Nations (AFCON) after a lone goal victory over highly rated Mali in the second Group D game played at Port Gentil on Saturday.

The Stars managed the entry into the next phase of the competition by collecting the six maximum points from their first two games.

However, the Stars will need at least a draw to top the group and secure their Port Gentil venue for the quarter final game of the tournament.

It was a game that saw the Stars having the best of the exchanges in the first half and succeeded in scoring the only goal of the match, but like the previous game, the Malians came back strongly in the second half and threatened the Stars slim lead by coming close on several occasions.

But Ghana’s defense stood resolute, with goalkeeper Razak Braimah pulling some magnificent saves to keep the maximum points.

It was a close and a tight game with each side approaching with a lot of caution, but Ghana’s attack, led by the slippery Christian Atsu, threatened the Malian defense with the Newcastle midfielder constantly attempting to break down the left side of the Malian defense.

Andre Ayew, who earlier battled with malaria, was the first beneficiary of Atsu’s raids, but he misdirected one of the feeds as he failed to convert the best chance in the first quarter of the game.

Four minutes later, veteran striker, Asamoah Gyan, came on hand to give Ghana the lead, which eventually became the match winner.

Gyan dived to head to the right side of the Malian goalkeeper, Oumar Sissoko, a teasing Jordan Ayew crossed in the 20th minute after beating his marker in a one-on-one situation.

Mali responded swiftly with Mousa Marega, Bakary Sako and Mamoutou N’diaye raiding the Stars’ area in search of the equaliser, but John Boye and Daniel Amartey kept the Ghana defense tight with Thomas Partey always on hand to clear any danger.

The second half became an end-to-end action as the Malians intensified the quest for an equaliser. They piled pressure on the Stars defense but were just unlucky to score with some of the opportunities that came their way with Ghana goalkeeper Razak Braimah earning some plaudits for some vital saves.

Substitutes Yves Bissouma, Kalifa Coulibaly and Moussa Doumbia forced Ghanaian fans to sit at the edges of their seats as they kept probing for an equaliser which continuously was denied by the water-tight Ghana defense.

This compelled the Ayew brothers – Andre and Jordan, to drop deep together with Atsu, in the process rendering the Ghana attack impotent.

Realising the danger, Ghana coach, Avram Grant sent on two defensive midfielders, Afriyie Acquah and Agyemang Badu for Gyan and Ayew to keep the aggressive Malians at bay.

But it was the Malians who remained the aggressors as Coulibaly, on two occasions – 79th and 87th minutes could have converted two clear chances, but had Braimah denying him.

Sako’s free kick could have given Mali the last smile, but again the Ghana defense, stood firm and ensured the three maximum point was intact.

Line up:  Razak Braimah, Harrison Afful, Frank Acheampong, John Boye, Daniel Amartey, Thomas Partey, Mubarak Wakaso, Christian Atsu, Jordan Ayew (Afriyie Acquah), Andre Ayew, Asamoah Gyan (Agyemang Badu).-GNA



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