FRANCEVILLE — Mali grabbed third place in the African Cup of Nations 2012 after beating Ghana 2-0 in a game where the Black Stars practically failed to show up.
Cheick Tidiane Diabate scored a brace as Mali looked far more interested in taking home third prize than a dispirited Black Stars, still sulking after Wednesday’s shock semi-final defeat to Zambia.
The result leaves the future of Ghana coach Goran Stevanovic in doubt and adds to the frustration of angry fans smarting after their unexpected elimination.
Ghana’s team had to play the last 27 minutes down to 10 men after defender Isaac Vorsah became the third Black Stars player to be sent off at the tournament.
Diabate has now scored three goals in as many games at the finals, and joins six other players at the head of the tournament’s goal-scoring charts.
Diabate was first to react when Ghana goalkeeper Adam Kwarasey could only palm out a long range shot in the 23rd minute, sliding the ball home.
It would have been a difficult stop for the goalkeeper, who saw the ball late through a crowd of players, and Diabate was quicker than Vorsah to get a touch to the ball.
Diabate’s second goal 10 minutes from full time saw him again slide home the ball at the end of a breakaway and a pin-point cross from fullback Adama Tamboura, who had made a striding run down the left side of the Mali attack.
“Les Aigles” set out their stall early on when Garra Dembele showed their intent with an early chance. There was a hunger from Mali not evident in the Ghana line-up.
After halftime Sully Muntari was brought on to strengthen a comeback bid. He had the ball in the net for Ghana nine minutes into the second half, only for the effort to be ruled offside.
Jordan Ayew did the post for Ghana in the last minutes but by then the result was in no doubt.
Mali coach Alain Giresse celebrated with his players in joyous scenes afterwards, with Wednesday’s loss to Cote d’Ivoire in the semi-final long banished from their minds.