Although they fought hard for a win, Mali lost their second 2017 CAF Africa Cup of Nations Group D match 1-0 to Ghana on Saturday evening at Stade de Port-Gentil.
The defeat for Alain Giresse’s men mean they remain placed at number three in the group standings with one point after a draw and one loss.
A first half goal from the Black Stars skipper Asamoah Gyan ensured the Ghanaians are through to the knockout stages.
The opening 10 minutes of the West African derby saw Ghana pushing to get into Mali’s final third and they were awarded a corner as Jordan Ayew delivered only to see John Boye failing to connect with Andrew Ayew’s flick on.
In the 17th minute, Christian Atsu displayed a brilliant piece of skill from on the right flank as he beat two Malian defenders, but it ended with a disappointing finish by Andrew Ayew as he fired wide from close range.
However, a minute later, the Eagles pushed forward and they were awarded a corner and defender Molla Wague’s header went inches over the cross bar.
Exactly in the 21st minute, Gyan handed the Ghanaians the lead when he netted with a fine header, beating goalkeeper Oumar Sissoko, which resulted from a sweet delivery through Jordan Ayew on the right wing.
Despite their dominance, Avram Grant’s men failed to bag a second goal and went to the interval leading 1-0.
Just after seven minutes in the second half, Moussa Marega disappointingly failed to keep his shot on the ground as he ballooned his effort at the back post over the cross bar.
The second half was a different affair altogether as Mali dominated the proceedings towards the last 20 minutes, but the Ghanaian defence stood firm.
In the last 10 minutes, the Ghanaian defence struggled as the Malians kept piling on more pressure, but Razak remained uncompromising in the air.
In the dying minutes of the tie, Razak produced two fine saves to deny Moussa Doumbia from close range after a wonderful cross down the right flank, and in their second attempt from a free kick the goalkeeper was alert to punch the danger away.
The victory for the 2015 finalists in Equatorial Guinea keeps them at the top of the group with six points, thus booking a spot in the quarter-finals.
Ghana (1) 1 (Gyan 21′)
Line Ups : – Ghana: Razak, Amartey, Boye, Atsu, Afful, Partey, Acheampong, M. Wakaso, A. Gyan (Badu 82′), J. Ayew (Acquah 90′), A. Ayew
Mali: Sissoko, T. Hamari, Salif, Wague, O. Coulibaly, Sylla, S. Yatabare (Bissouma 46′), Ndiaye, M. Yatabare (Doumbia 63′), Marega (K. Coulibaly 79′), Sako