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Feb 2, 2013

Ghana holds off Cape Verde to advance

Ghana booked its place in the semifinals of the African Nations Cup with a 2-0 win over Cape Verde in Port Elizabeth on Saturday.

Substitute Mubarak Wakaso bagged both goals in the second half, the first from the penalty spot and the second a finish into an empty net after Cape Verde goalkeeper Josimar Vozinha had gone up for a corner in the fifth minute of stoppage time.

Ghana was indebted to eccentric goalkeeper Fatau Dauda for a wonderful save in the final 10 minutes that preserved its lead as Cape Verde's impressive debut in the finals of the continental competition came to an end.

Next up for the Black Stars is a meeting with Burkina Faso or Togo in the last four.

The first half at the Nelson Mandela Bay Stadium was a dismal affair, with both sets of players going to ground far too easily and the flow of the contest suffered as a consequence.

Matters improved after the break and with 54 minutes gone the match finally sparked into life as Ghana captain Asamoah Gyan was brought down by Carlitos as the pair battled for possession in the area and the referee pointed for a penalty.

Wakaso had only been on the pitch for a few minutes after being brought on for the ineffective Albert Adomah but was handed the responsibility from 12 yards and duly delivered a confident finish straight down the middle of the goal.

Cape Verde pushed for an equalizer and forced Dauda to make a couple of decent saves that the showman stopper made look as spectacular as possible.

But there was nothing exaggerated about the fantastic save he produced in the 82nd minute to deny Heldon's fierce strike, which appeared destined for the top corner -- only for Dauda to bring his left hand across to claw the ball away.

Dauda celebrated the save as if he had just won the cup for his country, but at very least it was a moment that appeared to break the resolve of Cape Verde, which was much improved after the break.

Dauda was called into action again to save from Elvis Babanco's free kick in the third of five minutes of stoppage time.

And with seconds remaining Ghana killed the game off as Vozinha went forward for a corner that came to nothing, and Ghana broke quickly to present Wakaso with the chance to slot into the unguarded net.

South Africa 1, Mali 1 (Mali wins 3-1 on penalties)

Soumaila Diakite was the hero for Mali after saving two penalties in a 3-1 shootout win over host South Africa.

Tokelo Rantie had given South Africa the lead on 31 minutes at the Moses Mabhida Stadium before Seydou Keita equalized 12 minutes into the second period.

Neither side could create any more meaningful opportunities in the 90 minutes and following a dull 30 minutes of extra time, the game went to spot kicks.

Mali converted all its penalties, while Diakite saved from Dean Furman and May Mahlangu before Lehlohonolo Majoro shot woefully wide as Gordon Igesund's side crashed out.

It was Mali who had the first shot of the game, but from 25 yards out Keita could not find the target.

South Africa came back and after 12 minutes Adama Coulibaly had to block Bernard Parker's goalbound effort, with the resulting cross headed wide by Mahlangu.

Eight minutes later and Diakite was forced into his first save of the match, parrying Tokelo Rantie's effort to safety. However, he could not keep out Rantie just after the half-hour mark as he converted Thuso Phala's cross from six yards.

Mali had a decent chance to level immediately, but from the edge of the area Modibo Maiga's weak effort was easily gathered by goalkeeper Itumeleng Khune.

On the stroke of halftime Mali had an excellent chance to level, but Keita's corner was headed wide by Molla Wague from just six yards out.

They did however get their leveller 12 minutes after the restart and it came from talisman Keita, who headed Mahamadou Samassa's cross home from close range.

Full of confidence, Mali looked for a second and just after the hour mark almost took the lead with Khune again coming to the hosts' rescue, pushing Samassa's effort round the post.

It was as close as either side got in the second period, forcing the game into extra time.

Neither side showed any attacking intent and seemed happy enough for the game to go to penalties.

Siphiwe Tshabalala converted South Africa's first spot kick, but after Cheick Diabate scored for Mali it started to fall apart for the hosts.

Furman and then Mahlangu's weak efforts were saved and after Adama Tamboura and Mahamane Traore had scored for Mali it was left to Majoro to keep his side in the competition.

Sadly for South Africa, his effort flew way wide of the post and Mali went through.

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