Mali midfielder Bassira Toure put the Black Queens to the sword by scoring a brace to hand her side a 2-1 win in their Group A clash of the Total Women’s AFCON played at the Accra Sports Stadium on Tuesday.
The result means that Ghana will now have no option but to win their final group match against Cameroun on Friday to stand a chance of making it to the semi-finals of the tournament.
The tie was decided by a 75th minute close-range finish by Bassira — the Total Woman of the Match — after Ghana goalie Patricia Mantey made a mess of a set-piece leaving the unmarked Malian star to slam home a shot past a number of Ghanaian defenders who failed to clear their lines.
The diminutive Malian dusted off herself to convert from the penalty spot in the 24th minute to give the Malians the lead against the run of play.
Swazi referee Leticia Antonella Viana pointed to the spot after Ghana goalie Patricia Mantey had brought down the player in the penalty box.
This was after slippery Malian playmaker Aissata Traore had raced into the box after capitalising on a loose ball, leaving behind Gladys Amfobea and Faustina Ampah before passing to Bassira who drew Mantey into fouling her.
Ghana defender Linda Eshun and Mali's Bassira Toure in an aerial challenge
Her goal deflated the early pressure and dominance of the Black Queens who were in total control of the match but were sometimes undermined by some dodgy calls from the referee who ignored some handball incidents that could have gone in Ghana’s favour.
The largely partisan spectators turned their anger on the referee after the penalty and jeered at every decision she made against Ghana.
Until the goal, the Black Queens had dominated the early exchanges but were once again — like in their opening clash against Algeria — let down by poor finishing.
Portia Boakye set the tone in the third minute when she drew a save from Malian goalie Adoudou Konate from a set-piece after winger Sherifatu Sumaila was fouled.
Seventeen-year-old Grace Asantewaa, who started in the place of the Ghana captain Elizabeth Addo, went close moments later but her feeble long range effort was saved calmly.
Malian midfielder Fatoumata Diarra tested the Ghana goalkeeper with a header which was easily handled. The goalie came to Ghana's rescue again in the 15th minute when she tipped over a lob from Aissata Traore.
The Black Queens threw caution to the wind as they were in the hunt for the equaliser and had to resort to some desperate defending to halt the Malians with Gladys Amfobea being yellow carded for whacking down the dangerous Bassira.
The second half continued in a similar fashion with the Black Queens dictating the tempo of the match, watched by a sparse crowd, including Black Stars skipper Asamoah Gyan and his deputy Andre Ayew.
However, all their good work was almost undone but for a superb double save from Patricia who denied Malian tormentor Bassira of a goal when the Ghana defenders were caught flat-footed during a counter-attack.
Ghana coach, Bashir Hayford, shuffled his team in search of the equaliser by replacing the tired captain Priscilla Okyere with Elizabeth in the 65th minute. His substitution paid dividend moments later when the referee awarded a penalty after she had been brought down.
Elizabeth, nicknamed Ama Pele, placed the ball cooly past the Mali keeper Adoudou Konate for the equaliser.
The Black Queens continued to attack in their hunt for the winner but were undone from a set piece which was awarded to Mali after Faustina Ampah fouled Bassira.
The Ghana goalie failed to save the kick which fell to an unmarked Bassira who slammed home the ball in the 75th minute.
Striker Jane Ayieyam came close to scoring the equalising goal moments later but her shot went over the bar. And with time running out, Coach Hayford brought on midfielder Alice Kusi for defender Linda Eshun as he urged his side to search for the equaliser.
Ghana will now have to defeat Cameroun on Friday and hope for a favourable result in the tie between Mali and Algeria to have a chance of progressing.
In the other group game on Tuesday, Cameroun made it two wins out of two after defeating Algeria 3-0 at the Accra stadium.