History was made yet on Sunday at the Total U-17 African Cup of Nations Gabon 2017 when Mali became the first country to retain the title following a 1-0 win against the Black Starlets of Ghana.
In the final played at the Stade d’Angondjé otherwise known as Stade de l’Amitie, Seme Camara scored the only goal from the spot kick in a hotly contested match.
Sunday’s victory was the first time a defending champion successfully secured the title and the Aiglonnets joined the rank of countries like Nigeria, Ghana and the Gambia that have won the title twice since the championship was launched in 1995.
As widely predicted by the coaches, this match has all the trappings of a cup final and it started in an offensive manner in front of an enthusiastic crowd.But it was Mali that constantly troubled Ghana for much of the early minutes of play with the striking pair of Seme Camara and Hadji Drame tormenting the Ghanaian defence.
In an attacking raid, Ghana conceded the penalty and Mamadou Samake was twice lucky as he followed up the rebound to give Mali the lead in the 20th minute.
Some ten minutes after, the Black Starlets conceded yet another foul in the box but goalkeeper Danlad Ibrahim punched the ball away to keep the Black Starlets in the game.
Ghana came strongly towards the first half and were unlucky to get an equaliser after Eric Ayiah with only the goalkeeper to beat, tamely shot on the body of Youssouf Koita and the lurking Malian defender cleared away to keep the score line at 1-0.
Meanwhile , Mali did not remove their legs from the pedal and could have added the second goal barely five minutes after the restart but Seme Camara in front of an empty post ballooned the ball over the bar.
Thereafter, the game see-sawed but Mali have the duo of captain Mohammed Camara and Mamadi Fofana to thank as they stoutly defended their area down to the very end.
Mali as champions will lead the continent’s quartet including Ghana, Guinea and Niger to the forthcoming FIFA U-17 World Cup to be hosted in India in October.