Port Elizabeth - Ghana outclassed Niger 3-0 to reach the quarter-finals of the African Nations Cup as Group B winners on Monday to set up a last eight clash with Cape Verde Islands.
Ghana, chasing their fifth continental crown but their first for 31 years, took the lead through Asamoah Gyan after six minutes and although Niger had a goal disallowed for an infringement four minutes later, they rarely threatened again.
The Black Stars doubled their lead through Christian Atsu after 23 minutes and put the game beyond Niger's grasp when John Boye pounced on a mistake by goalkeeper Kassaly Daouda to make it 3-0 from a metre out four minutes into the second half.
Only some wayward shooting prevented Ghana winning by a far greater scoreline but they did enough to top the group with seven points, while Mali secured second spot on four points after their 1-1 draw against the Democratic Republic of Congo.
Ghana coach Kwesi Appiah was forced into making one change from the side that beat Mali 1-0 in their previous game because Mubarak Wakaso, who scored the winning penalty, was suspended as well as injured.
Atsu took his place at the Nelson Mandela Bay Stadium and had a major impact on the outcome, scoring a wonderfully taken goal when he trapped a cross on his chest, evaded a defender and dinked home a volley from four metres out.
Gyan had earlier put Ghana on top with a powerfully executed angled shot, while the forward also played his part in the third goal when Daouda failed to hold his powerful header and Boye was in the right place to tap in.
Niger, who lost all three games on their African Nations Cup debut last year and who picked up their first finals point here after drawing with Congo on Thursday, were pegged back for long periods and never looked like scoring on their rare breaks forwards.
Ghana are likely to find Cape Verde, who finished as runners-up to South Africa in Group A, a far more disciplined and organised opponent on Saturday but on this form they will start as favourites to win that game too. - Reuters