(Photo: Muzi Ntombela/BackpagePix)
Ghana yet again saw their hopes of winning the third-place play-off at the Africa Cup of Nations, ended by Mali, who won 3-1 on Saturday in Port Elizabeth.
Despite a Kwadwo Asamoah goal from a 30-yard drive sparking a late revival in the final ten minutes, the Malians still held on to win the game after scoring a goal in either half through Samassa Mahamadou, Seydou Keita and an injury time goal by Sigamary Diarra.
The game was the fourth meeting between both sides in the last two finals and second time for the third-place play-off in the last two finals, which Mali has prevailed.
It was a disappointing finish to a tournament that kicked off with so much hope as Ghana chased the elusive fifth Nations Cup title.
After 21 minutes, Mali broke the deadlock through an unmarked Samassa's diving header in the Ghana box.
On the half-hour mark, Mubarak Wakaso drove in a great shot but goalkeeper Diakite Soumaila parried away only for a Malian defender to whack the ball to touch.
Ghana had Mubarak Wakaso, Isaac Vorsah and Solomon Asante all booked.
In the 42nd minute, Samassa almost made it 2-0 after he lobbed an on-rushing Fatau Dauda only for the ball to hit the base of the post and go out of touch. Mali finished the first half 1-0 up.
Back from the break, Ghana made their first change, bringing on Jonathan Mensah for John Boye but it took Mali three minutes to double their lead when Keita scored from close range after Ghana failed to clear a cut back in the 48th minute.
In the 56th minute, Ghana were awarded a penalty after a low cross hit the arm of Salif Coulibaly. But Wakaso, who had scored three previous kicks from the spot missed this time round, sending his kick wide.
Ghana made two more changes with Albert Adamoah and Emmanuel Clottey taking over Christian Atsu and Asamoah Gyan.
With nine minutes remaining, Asamoah let go a shot from distance and it flew past the diving Diakite Soumaila, giving Ghana some hope of drawing level.
But in the final minute of injury time, Mali sealed victory when Diarra angled a shot to the far post of Dauda.