Last Updated: 28/01/12 8:54pm
It looks set to be a Ghana win and coach Goran Stevanovic can start planning for his side's final group clash with an energised Guinea, while Mali will have it all to do against Botswana with a win over the Zebras not set to guarantee them a quarter-final berth.
With four minutes of added time, the Black Stars need to keep their wits about them in order to preserve their advantage as the Eagles throw everything at their opponents out of share desperation. Long range shots are raining in with no real likelihood of finding the target.
Keita trying to create a bit of magic as he pops on the left and right for Mali in order to drift in and give his team an extra option on the flanks. But the Ghanaian back line are alert to the wily midfielder's intentions and close him done early, leaving him as frustrated as his team-mates with the clock winding down.
As the match enters the closing stages, Mali look just about of the running as Ghana's second strike knocked the stuffing out of the Eagles' attacking efforts. But now wouldn't be the time for the Black Stars to sit back and rest on the two-goal cushion as their opponents won't stop fighting to garner something from the tie.
GOAL! GHANA! AYEW! A clever back-heel under pressure from Gyan just outside the Eagles' box for Ayew leaves the Ghanaian ace with a bit of work to do. But the son of the great Abedi Pele turns his marker inside and then out and then drills in a left-footed shot in at the right corner for only his second goal for the Black Stars on the international stage.
Ghana look to double their lead as they commit men forward with Asamoah rifles in a long-range shot but it's blocked by a Mali defender. The Black Stars, though, suffer what looks to be a match-ending injury blow to John Boye after substitute Garra Dembele goes over the defender's leg.
A goal behind and forced into action to now find an equaliser, Mali almost hitback from a corner as Abou Troare struggles to keep his header down and under the crossbar.
GOAL! GHANA! GYAN! A stunning free-kick from the Black Stars' premier goalscorer, Gyan curling the ball up and over the wall into the right corner with ease.
Bakaye Traore nows sees his name go into the referee's book for a trip on Ayew, who seems to be going down under every challenge far too easy.
The Black Stars are looking promising on attack as they thread the ball from the back towards the enterprising Ayew. But the Ghanaian attack may be the poorer for the departure of Muntari, who looks to have picked up a knock and is replaced by Charles Takyi.
After a neat one-two with Asamoah, Ayew lets rip with a low drive that's on target and too hot to handle for Samba Diakite at first, but the Eagles shot-stopper manages to smother the ball at the second time of asking as several Ghana attackers bear down on him.
Soumbeyla Diakite will miss Mali's next group match after his cynical challenge on Ayew as the Ghana attacker tries to evade his marker.
Asamaoh whips in a feisty left-footed cross from the right towards Muntari at the left post, but the extra spin on the ball just takes the ball away from the Ghanaian forward.
Mali get the second stanza underway and will know that they have their work cut-out for them gaining more possession as well as trying to make it count in a bid to find the elusive opener.
As the half draws to a close, Ayew finds himself in the Eagles' box and rises high between two defenders to get his head to John Pantsil's hanging cross from the right. But the Marseille attacker's effort lacked the necessary control and goes just wide of goal. It's about as close as Ghana have come in the first 45 minutes, and both sides will have to do a lot more going forward after the interval to break the deadlock.
Keita goes into the referee's book for what looks to be for one too many chirps and back-chats. This after the Barcelona man's team-mates are looking like finding their attacking groove as Diabete almost shrugs off his marker as he barges his way into the Ghana box.
Cheick Diabate strikes the left post with a stinging free-kick take with the ball rebounding nicely for an alert Abdou Traore, but he skews his attempt when he should've done much better. Mali are suddenly looking like they could spring a surprise or two before the break.
Jonathan Mensah is penalised for a dangerous tackle just outside Ghana's penalty area and gifts the Eagles a decent free-kick on goal.
The Ghanaians are pressing high up the field and putting pressure on the Mali midfield and back four, the Eagles subsequently giving the ball away and almost paying the price as Alhassan intercepts a loose pass but losing it before he could it away. Kwadwo Asamoah the sets the Black Stars hearts a flutter with a jinking run then a shot from outside the box, but his effort flies well wide of goal when he should've done better.
Buoyed by their earlier attempts on goal, the Black Stars try to make something happen with some quick touches between Muntari and Ayew, who try to feed Gyan moving at pace into the 18-yard area. But the Eagles are alert to their opponents' intentions and poach the ball to try a counter-attack of their own, only to for it peeter out just over the halfway line.
With the game in desperate need of a spark, Gyan lets rip from range to strike the left upright, Muntari's follow up effort from the rebound garnering a reflex stop from Samba Diakite.
Mali with their first real attacking opportunity, a free-kick into the box from the right, but no luck on a player getting his head to ball and the ball is punched out shakily into touch by goalkeeper Adam Larsen Kwarasey. Same can be said from the resulting corner-kick, Kwarasey again clearing but not at all looking comfortable in the air.
The Eagles looking to build from the back and then spreading the ball to their widemen, but Bakaye Traore's attempt at a breakout move down the left fails to garner the required result as Ghana's cover defence get across to close him down. At the almost halfway stage in the first half, there has still been no real chance on goal for either side as both teams cancel each other out in the middle of the park.
Good pass into the area from Ayew for Gyan with just one defender to beat, but the ball just has too much pace on it and runs out into touch. While Mali have begun to assert themselves more on the game, the Black Stars are bossing the midfield area with Sulley Muntari doing a fair bit of work on defence as well as attack.
Seydou Keita a little over eager to get his side on the front foot, the Mali midfielder losing the ball just outside Ghana's box and then giving away a free-kick in his bid to regain possession. The Eagles have seen very little of the ball in the early stages with the Ghanaians dominance assured for the time being.
The Black Stars showing their attacking intent from the get-go, Andre Ayew and Masahudu Alhassan quite prominent down the flanks as they look to get the ball into the danger zone for lone frontman Asamoah Gyan.
Ghana get the game underway as we can only hope this encounter can live up to - or perhaps surpass - the group's earlier match between Guinea and Botswana, a 6-1 walloping in favour of Guinea.
Will have to back Ghana here. Mali were useless against Guinea. Had one shot on goal all match. Guinea should have won easily. Ghana to win 2/3-0. Eoin
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Mali are rated at 3/1 to beat Ghana today according to our friends at Sky Bet, while the Black Stars are 5/6 to come out victorious.
In team news, Ghana will have to do without captain John Mensah, after the defender was sent off in their against the Zebras. The Black Stars, however, are boosted by the availability of Asamoah Gyan, after the striker limped out of training on Thursday. Mali, meanwhile, have no new injury concerns and look set to field the same line-up from last time out.
Greetings and welcome to Stade De Franceville for the AFCON Group D clash between Ghana and Mali! The Black Stars will be looking to improve on their lacklustre 1-0 win over minnows Botswana in their first game in order to secure a spot in the quarter-finals. The same can be said of the Eagles, whose 1-0 victory over Guinea puts them also in the running for a spot in the knockout rounds.