Mali beat Ghana 2-1 in the quarterfinal of the FIFA U17 World Cup today at Guwahati to become the first team to book their semis berth.

Hadji Drame drew first blood for the Les Aiglonnets in the 15th minute and Djemoussa Traore doubled their lead at the hour mark. Kudus Mohammed scored the consolation goal for the Black Starlets from a penalty in the 70th minute.

Jonas Komla stuck to the same lineup for the third game in a row, playing in a 4-1-4-1 formation with star striker Lassana N’Diaye up top. Ghana made one change from their 2-0 win over Niger, Gabriel Leveh slotted in the left side of midfield with Edmund Arko-Mensah dropping out. Sadiq Ibrahim returned from suspension but did not find a place in the starting eleven.

Mali turned the heat early on in the wet and windy conditions as Mohammed Idriss’ cross found no takers inside the box with N’Diaye running forward. Even the loose ball was struck into the side-netting by Hadji Drame, who cunningly left his marker for dead on the right channel in the sixth minute.

On the other end, Eric Ayiah failed to showcase his poaching instincts as Ibrahim Sulley set him up but three minutes later, Mali broke the deadlock. Against the run of play, Salam Jiddou played a one-two with N’Diaye and found Hadji Drame who slotted the ball home in from an angle.

Ghana had a disallowed goal in the 40th minute when Ibrahim Sulley’s premature celebration was put to halt as referee Mehdi Abid Charef already blew the whistle when Kudus Mohammed fouled Ibrahiim Kane inside his opposition box.

Malian skipper Mohammed Camara tried to get one in the dying minutes of the first half but his attempt was foiled by a weak shot after doing so well to cut past two defenders.

The conditions turned for the worse in the second period when the teams returned from the tunnel with the downpour getting heavier by the minute. Ibrahim Sadiq was brought on for Ibrahim Sulley at last as Kwesi Paa Fabin chose to strengthen his attack in quest of an equaliser.

However, it was Mali who brought up the second of the night right after the hour mark. A long ball from the centre into the Ghana box saw goalkeeper Danlad Ibrahim come out of his box and miscue his clearance. Djemoussa Traore latched onto the ball and with ample time in his hand, curled the ball in from the left side. Danlad ran back in time and got some fingers to it but was unable to stop the ball from going into the net.

Sadiq Ibrahim then went on to win a penalty for his side as he was brutally tackled by Fode Konate inside the box and Kudus Mohammed made amends as he lifted his hand up to take the shot and did not mistake from 12 yards, beating the ‘keeper with ease.

With the patchy pitch turning out to be a hindrance for some smooth football, there were a few injury concerns as the match played out its remaining time in a dull manner.

There was jubilation after the full time whistle as Mali beacame the first team to qualify for the semifinals as they now travel to Navi Mumbai to face the winners of the match between Spain and Iran on 25th.

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