PORT ELIZABETH, South Africa (AP) — Ghana’s Mubarak Wakaso scored, was suspended and then carried off on a stretcher yet ultimately put the revived title contender in control of Group B at the African Cup of Nations on Thursday.
Wakaso buried a 38th-minute spot kick to beat Mali 1-0, lifting Ghana to the brink of the quarterfinals when the group’s two big teams were let off the hook by a 0-0 draw between Congo and Niger at Nelson Mandela Bay Stadium.
Young winger Wakaso was shown his second yellow of the group stage after lifting his shirt to reveal a religious slogan in his goal celebration, ruling him out of the final group game.
But by the time he was carried off with what didn’t appear to be a serious injury, Ghana had done enough to lead Mali by a point ahead of the final group games.
“There’s much more to offer,” Ghana coach Kwesi Appiah said as the Black Stars began to show their potential.
Congo missed the chance to put pressure on the top teams after its goalless draw with stubborn Niger, which was saved by goalkeeper Kassaly Daouda, who redeemed himself against Congo after his glaring error gifted Mali victory when the teams met in the first round.
Ghana’s relief contrasted with Congo’s frustration at not being able to take advantage of a defensive Niger approach despite two glorious chances for striker Dieumerci Mbokani.
“We didn’t play well. We have to be honest,” Congo coach Claude Le Roy said.