GUWAHATI: African U-17 champions Mali maintained their intimidating form in the FIFA U-17 World Cup India 2017 as they beat Ghana 2-1 to storm into the semifinals here on Saturday.
Mali, who had defeated Ghana in the final of 2017 U-17 Africa Cup of Nations back in May, came out with some dominating performance against the West African nation in the first quarterfinal at the floodlit Indira Gandhi Athletic Stadium in Guwahati.
Two sides fought tooth and nail, but at the end Mali came out with an all-round performance, which make them the winner.
Hadji Drame (15th minute) and Djemoussa Traore (61st) scored for Mali before Ghana reduced the margin through Kudus Mohammed in the 70th minute.
Mali now play either Spain or Iran, who play each other in the quarterfinal tomorrow, in the semifinal on October 25 at the venue.
The Eaglets of Mali, who are in the U-17 World Cup semifinal twice in succession, dominated for most part of the match with several attempts at the Ghana goal.
Drame, the linchpin in the Mali front-line, tormented the Ghana defense with his runs from midfield into the attacking third.
Ghana’s Black Starlets, on the other hand, employed their usual slow build-up using short passes but could rarely breach the Mali defense, led by Fode Konate and Abdoulaye Diaby.
The duo of Eric Ayiah and Emmanuel Toku made one-on-one situation on a few occasions but never threatened to breach the Mali defense.
Drame opened the account for Mali just past the quarter hour mark. A through ball for Drame penetrated the Ghana defense before the forward unleashed a powerful shot in the near post.
Mali could have doubled their lead in the 37th minute but Salam Jiddou’s low right-footed attempt from a close angle was cleared off the goal-line.
Meanwhile, Ibrahim Sulley thought he had equalized for Ghana in the 40th minute, but his goal was disallowed as Algerian referee Mehdi Abid Charef called for a foul on a Malian defender.
The second half started from where Mali left in the first, with the attacks continued in large numbers. Meanwhile, Ghana pressed for the equalizer which remained elusive.
Mali skipper Mohamed Camara made a fine run down the right flank from near the center line and essayed a fine cross but Lassana Ndiaye headed it wide.
Just past the hour mark, Ghana fell to a silly mistake by their keeper Danlad Ibrahim. Traore capitalized with a long-range effort after the Ghana custodian misjudged his rush off his goal-line to make an attempted clearance outside his box.
Ndiaye then made a fine attempt on the Ghana goal in the 67th minute after a one-on-one with Drame but Danald dived to his right to collect the ball.
Kudus brought back Ghana into the match with 20 minutes to go by converting a penalty which was awarded to the Black Starlets after substitute Sadiq Ibrahim was fouled inside the Mali box by Konate.
Thereafter, Ghana continued to put pressure on the Mali defense looking for the equalizer. The Black Starlets even had a few close chances but their last-ditch efforts to level the score went in vain as Mali sealed a well-deserved win.