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Crestfallen, dejected and morose. Those are the best fits the Black Starlets as they failed to clinch the ultimate at the U-17 African Championship after a 1-0 defeat to Mali.
The Starlets were aiming to go one better than the class of 2005 in Gambia but the title proved elusive once again as an excellent Mali side controlled and dominated the final to ensure a successful defence.
Fabin’s side were uncharacteristically lethargic and powerless to resist defeat as their physically dominant West African rivals bullied their way through.
The game itself started on a frantic note with but sides declaring their intent to go for the title with rapid attacks. Captain Eric Ayiah continued his wastefulness in front of goal from the semifinal as he missed a clear opening to put Ghana ahead.
The decisive moment of the game came in the 22nd minute after defender Gideon Otu fouled Malian attacker Kone in the box. Keeper, Danlad Ibrahim, who was yet to concede in the tournament saved the initial kick but Samake followed the rebound to score what proved the tournament winning goal.
Ayiah had the clearest chance to level the game but dallied on the ball when played through for a Malian defender to put in a block. Prior to this, the Malians squandered a second penalty which could have put the result beyond doubt.
The second half was frustrating to watch from a Ghanaian perspective as the Starlets failed to carve any real openings with the Malians creating chance after chance to put gloss on the scoreline.
The result could have been worse for Ghana and Paa Kwesi Fabin who will leave the tournament with more questions than answers ahead of the World Cup. The team were brilliant for the first two games of the tournament but greatly declined in their last three outings failing to score in 270 minutes. A period of rest awaits these talented players before preparations begin for the World Cup in India.