The Atlas Lions of Morocco have stopped Ghana 1-0 in their opening Group C match at the on-going TotalEnergies Africa Cup of Nations 2021.
Sofiane Boufal netted the lone goal after 83 minutes at the Ahmadou Ahidjo Stadium.
It was a mix-up in the Black Stars’ defending line that gave Boufal a chance to strike the ball past Ghana’s goalkeeper Joseph Luke Wollacot.
The game started with the two teams matching each other well, but Morocco’s veteran captain Ghanem Saiss had the first good chance when he headed the ball off target after 7 minutes. Zakaria Aboukhlal later had his long shot saved by the Black Stars goalkeeper after 14 minutes.
Ghana’s defending line marshaled by Alexander Djiru and Andrew Kyere-Yiadom remained tight, closing out the Moroccans. Ghana also had Thomas Teye Partey fire his free kick off target after 33 minutes.
Towards the interval Morocco failed to make use of a freekick taken from close range after Partey had pulled down Sofiane Boufal. But it was Joseph Paintsil’s last effort in the first half when he ran past two Moroccan defenders, but shot wide off target.
After recess the two teams stepped up in attack, but Ghana’s skipper Andre Ayew came close after 65 minutes but missed the target. The Black Stars again came close when Morocco’s goalkeeper punched for a corner a well taken Joseph Paintsil shot after 72 minutes.
But it was the more organized Morocco team that took advantage in the 83rd minute and netted the lone goal. The Atlas Lions continued to push forward and had another chance after 87 minutes, but they failed to connect from a well taken free kick.
Morocco who reached the group of 16 in the AFCON 2019 now top Group C before Comoros later face Gabon.
What they said
Sofiane Boufal (Man of the Match)
“We had a lot of chances to score the goal and we were happy in that shot. We knew that we would have a strong team forward and that we would not create facilities for us. The most important thing is that we have achieved our goal. This result motivates us and gives us confidence to face the next game. We will continue to work and stay focused on our objectives”
Vahid Halilhodzic (Morroco Coach)
“It was a great road and I’m proud of my team. As you know, we ended up playing without five top players on the team. I’m happy because these young players showed determination and knew how to represent their country’s jersey. We had a tough game with a respectable opponent of African football. We had already tuff a match with Ghana and we ended up tied, but we knew today we would have a tough battle. I was happy with the performance presented by my players. We will continue to capitalize on this determination and confidence shown by the players for the next game.”
Milovan Rajevac (Ghana Coach)
“It was a difficult game for us, after all were on the pitch two great teams of African football. Morocco scored on the first opportunity it had. I take this opportunity to congratulate Morocco and my players on the commitment shown on the pitch. We still have two games to go and we will stay focused on them. It is true that we have created more scoring opportunities, but we have not been able to materialise that opportunity. We were unhappy in that respect. We hope to score goals and win the next two games. I will calmly analyze the goal shot conceded and see where the team lost control of the game. Right now we will keep our focus on the match.”