The Black Starlets were pipped by the defending champions in their quest to lift the U-17 Afcon trophy for the first time in eighteen years
Ghana suffered a 1-0 defeat at the hands of Mali in the final of the Africa U-17 Cup of Nations in Gabon on Sunday.
Momadou Samake opened the scoring for Mali, converting at the second attempt after Ibrahim Danlad saved Faisal Osman’s penalty.
After reaching the final of the tournament for the first time in twelve years, Ghana coach Paa Kwesi Fabin maintained his starting XI that defeated Niger 6-5 on penalties in the semi-finals with the hope of annexing the trophy.
The Black Starlets began the game on high with skipper Eric Ayiah having the first opportunity by the third minute but he couldn’t send his effort on target.
Mali appeared to be wobbling within the first quarter of the game, but finally ventured forward in the 22nd minute, with Mohammed Iddriss’ sidestep too deft for Gideon Otu, who clumsily felled the Malian striker.
Faisal Osman’s penalty was poor as Danlad saved to his right, but Samake slotted in the rebound for the opener.
Although, Ghana responded quickly with Ayiah combining with Emmanuel Toku upfront, they couldn’t find a breach in the opponents’ back four as the Black Starlets began to show signs of frustration.
Things went from bad to worse by the 31st minute when Mali were awarded another penalty against the run of play. Abdul Razak Yusif brought down Fode Konate, however, Danlad once again saved Seme Camara’s effort, pushing it out of play this time to put his side still in the contest.
On the 38th minute, Gideon Acquah saw his long drive being tipped over the goal post by Mali goalkeeper Youssouf Koita and, with three minutes remaining in the first half, Toku dropped deep in Mali area, setting up Gabriel Leveh, but the latter’s effort could only find the side net.
Ghana returned from the recess still struggling to put passes together as Samake orchestrated a counter-attack by the 49th minute but his effort was saved by an impressive Danlad.
Leveh won a free-kick outside Mali box by the 74th minute but substitute Edmund Arko-Mensah, who came on for Yusif, blasted wide.
Ibrahim Sulley was brought on for Mohammed Iddriss but the Malians were resolute at the back and held on to defeat Ghana for the first time in the tournament to retain a title they won in 2015 over South Africa.
Ghana, Mali, Niger and Guinea will represent Africa at the Fifa U17 World Cup to be staged in India in October.