A penalty goal from Espanyol midfielder Mubarak Wakaso ensured the four-time African champions got their first win of the continental showpiece after drawing with DR Congo in their opening game on Sunday.
Wakaso put the Ghanaians in the lead in the 38th minute when his kick went past Malian goalkeeper Samassa Mamadou from the spot.
The first half of the game was one with very few chances as both defences remained solid but a good piece of play saw Emmanuel Agyemang-Badu win a penalty off Tamboura which was converted by Wakaso. The second half saw both teams a little bit more adventurous but neither really threw caution to the wind as the Black Stars saw out the rest of the game.
The game started quietly as both teams looked content to test the waters and keep things cool, but Ghana keeper Fatau Dauda had an uncomfortable moment after a slip forced him to handle the ball outside the area leading to a free kick on the edge of the penalty box which Seydou Keita almost scored from, hitting the ball just wide of the post.
Mali started to get the better of the exchanges after that, but failed to really threaten, with Ghana also showing glimpses of their ability as Asamoah Gyan’s effort was diverted for a corner after he received the ball in the penalty area. The Black Stars finally started to find their rhythm but seemed to be struggling to break through the Eagles back line as Harrison Afful and then Wakaso took shots from distance with none of them causing problems for Samassa.
The goalkeeper, however, was thanking his stars a few minutes later when a glancing header from Agyemang-Badu had him completely beaten, but his post came to his rescue. The Udinese midfielder was played through on goal a few minutes later only to be brought down by Tamboura for a penalty which was slammed home by Wakaso to open the scoring with 38 minutes on the clock.
Both sides looked to break the other team down after the goal but none of the keepers were really tested before the whistle blew for the end of the first half.
Ghana started the second half the hungrier team as they looked to add to their goal with Albert Adomah and Gyan coming close, though Mali managed to cause Dauda a couple of uncomfortable moments in between with some very good deliveries into the box.
An Isaac Vorsah mistake seemed to have handed Mali with a chance but the Black Stars defenders quickly reorganized to spare their colleague’s blushes. Much of the game was concentrated in the middle of the field after that, with only a long range effort from Agyemang-Badu breaking the ice as he forced Samassa into a save but the goalkeeper calmly claimed from the corner. Mali were then on the attack, causing a goal mouth scramble with another long ball into the box, but Ghana managed to clear once more as the game looked to be finally opening up.
Solomon Asante almost made a spectacular entrance into the game as his effort whizzed past the post just seconds after coming on for Adomah. Mali managed a couple more forays forward but failed to find an equaliser as they ended the game on the losing side.
Mali will now have to get a result in their final game against DR Congo if they are to qualify for the next stage while the Ghanaians will be feeling more confident about their chances with their final game against Niger who are considered to be the weakest team in the group.