A penalty kick goal from Espanyol midfielder Mubarak Wakaso ensured the four-time African champions got their first win of the continental showpiece in South Africa after drawing with DR Congo in their opening game on Sunday.
Wakaso put the Ghanaians in the lead in the 38th minute when his kick went past Malian goalkeeper Samassa Mamadou after Emmanuel Agyemang-Badu won a penalty off Adama Tamboura.
The game started quietly as both teams looked content to test the waters and keep things cool, but Ghana keeper Fatawu Dauda had an uncomfortable moment after a slip forced him to handle the ball outside the area. That led to a free kick on the edge of the penalty box from which Seydou Keita almost scored, hitting the ball just wide of the post.
The Black Stars finally started to find their rhythm soon after but seemed to be struggling to break through the Eagles’ back line as Harrison Afful and then Wakaso took shots from distance with none of them causing problems for Mamadou.
The goalkeeper, however, was fortunate a few minutes later when a glancing header from Agyemang-Badu had him completely beaten but hit the post. The Udinese midfielder was played through on goal a few minutes later only to be brought down by Tamboura for the penalty.
Ghana started the second half the hungrier team as they looked to add to their goal with Albert Adomah and Gyan coming close, though Mali managed to cause Dauda a couple of uncomfortable moments in between with some very good deliveries into the box.
An Isaac Vorsah mistake seemed to have handed Mali with a chance, but the Black Stars defenders quickly reorganized to spare their teammate’s blushes. Much of the game was concentrated in the middle of the field after that, with only a long range effort from Agyemang-Badu breaking the ice as he forced Samassa into a save.
Solomon Asante almost made a spectacular entrance into the game as his effort whizzed past the post just seconds after coming on for Adomah. Mali managed a couple of more forays forward but failed to find an equalizer.
Mali, which currently sits in second place in Group B with three points, awaits the result of the Niger-Congo matchup to determine what will be necessary in the final group game to progress to the knockout stage. Mali faces Congo in the final group game, while Ghana will play Niger.