Jordan Ayew came off the bench to score a late winner as Ghana beat Mali 1-2 in the 2026 FIFA World Cup qualifiers at the Stade du 26 Mars in Bamako on Thursday evening.

The Black Stars labored for large spells and conceded first following Kamory Doumbia’s deflected effort, but Ernest Nuamah and Ayew scored in the second half to turn the game around.

Otto Addo opted for youth and exuberance by leaving Ayew out of his starting line-up for the game against Mali.

The 48-year-old opted for a 3-4-3 formation, with Lawrence Ati Zigi given the nod to be in the post, while the back three was made up of Alexander Djiku, Seidu Alidu, and Mohammed Salisu.

Thomas Partey and Abdul Salis Samed were chosen as a double pivot, with Gideon Mensah and Bright & Hove Albion’s Tariq Lamptey operating at wing-back.

In attack, in-form Bournemouth striker Antoine Semenyo was complemented by Mohammed Kudus and Ernest Nuamah on either flank.

Mali were the better side in the opening 20 minutes and came close to scoring twice but their efforts were thwarted by Ati Zigi on both occasions.

The St. Gallen goalkeeper was called into action after just four minutes but he was proactive enough to save Lassine Sinayoko’s goal-bound shot.

Ati Zigi produced another save six minutes later to deny Sinayoko, this time diving to his right to save the forward’s header from an in-swinging cross.

Ghana struggled to create any decent chances, with Kudus’ wayward shot in the 20th minute being their only notable contribution. However, the Black Stars gradually warmed themselves back into the game and ended the first half strongly.

Addo’s side’s first promising attack came after 36 minutes when Lamptey’s cutback found Kudus but the West Ham United star’s shot was blocked.

Two minutes later, Partey played Semenyo through but the Bournemouth man fired his shot across the face of goal. Ghana’s dominance continued but they couldn’t find a breakthrough and were stunned late in the first half when Doumbia’s deflected effort ended at the back of the net.

The Reims forward benefited from a cross from the right but saw his initial effort blocked by Djiku before ricocheting back off him to enter the net. The goal was protested by the visitors, who felt Mensah was fouled in the buildup but the referee allowed it to stand.

Ghana made a bright start to the second half, though, and nearly snatched the equaliser right after the restart when Lamptey threaded a low cross into the box but Semenyo couldn’t connect.

Luck would finally smile on Black Stars in the 57th minute when Salis delivered a pin-point cross to the far post which was met by a towering header from Nuamah to level the score.

Both sides had chances to win the game in the final 15 minutes but it was Ghana who emerged victorious after substitute Ayew scored the winner at the death.

The Crystal Palace forward replaced Semenyo with 10 minutes left and immediately made an impact. Having set up Partey one-on-one with the Mali goalkeeper only for the Arsenal midfielder to miss, the 32-year-old slammed home the winner deep into injury time to give Ghana a hard-fought 2-1 victory.

Meanwhile, Thursday’s result has moved Ghana level on six points with Comoros at the top of Group I in the CAF World Cup qualifiers, although the Island nation could move three points clear if they win against Madagascar on Friday.

The Black Stars will also be hosting the Central African Republic (CAR) in their next game in Kumasi on Monday, June 10.


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