Striker Bassira Toure scored a brace as Mali beat hosts Ghana 2-1 at the 2018 African Women Cup of Nations on Tuesday at the Accra Sports Stadium.
Toure found the back of the net in either half, with substitute Elizabeth Addo scoring in between as Mali shocked the home team in front of their teeming fans.
It was the hosts who started the game on Group A’s Match Day 2 on the front foot.
They dictated the pace in the early stages with stand-in captain Priscilla Okyere and Jane Ayiyiem giving the Mali defenders some anxious moments.
The pendulum of the game soon changed and the Malians took the game to the Ghanaians with Toure and Sebe Coulibaly leading the charge.
After some pressure, the Black Queens eventually cracked in the 20th minute when goalkeeper Patricia Mantey fouled Toure inside the penalty box and the referee pointed to the penalty kick spot.
The AS Mande striker dusted herself to expertly nail the penalty kick through the middle to give the Les Aigles a deserving lead.
After the recess, Ghana made a quick change by taking off Okyere for Addo.
The changes made the desired impact as Addo got the equaliser via the penalty kick spot on 71 minutes after she was fouled by her marker in the vital area.
Ghana’s joy was however shortlived as Mali restored their lead three minutes later.
Fatoumata Diarra’s free-kick was spilled by goalkeeper Mantey and it dropped in front of Toure who directed home powerfully.
The Ghanaians mounted a last-minute charge upfront to get an equaliser, but the Malians held on to claim victory.
Speaking later, Bashiru Hayford, the Head Coach of Ghana, in spite of his disappointment with the game’s officiating, said he was not totally disappointed with the match’s outcome.
Hayford said: “I normally don’t like talking about officiating, but we all saw what happened with the referee.
“We had some chances to score but we failed to do so and so did the Malians.
“But I am not overly disappointed with the result because we played over 70 per cent of the game.
“We lost and as a coach I take all the blame.
“This is a match that we played better than what we did against Algeria.”
The coach added that he was still hopeful as they intended to reassess their strategies.
Hayford said: “We have not been eliminated from the competition because we have one more game to play on Friday (against Cameroon).
“So, we will still go back to the drawing board and make sure that we win irrespective of what might happen in the other last Group A game.”
Houssein Saloum, the Head Coach of Mali, on his part praised his players for adhering to instructions in spite of Ghana’s spirited performance.
Saloum said: “I want to congratulate my players for the performance today.
“We watched the game against Cameroon again and identified our mistakes.
“So, we worked at it and it worked today.
“Ghana played well and managed to come back after we scored.
“My players were resilient and restored the lead.
“It wasn’t an easy match, but this is what I was saying yesterday that we are ready to go all the way to the final.
“So, we needed a quick response today and we got it.”
The coach, while saying they would celebrate their victory for now, however said they would not be carried away and would quickly settle down to looking ahead.
Saloum said: “We will enjoy the victory tonight and go back to the drawing board and correct the little mistakes we created in the game so that we put up a flawless performance against Algeria on Friday.”
Group A Current Standings
Team P W D L GF GA GD Pts
Cameroon 2 2 – – 5 1 +4 6
Mali 2 1 – 1 3 3 – 3
Ghana 2 1 – 1 2 2 – 3
Algeria 2 – – 2 – 4 -4 0