AFCON 2021African FootballCompetitionNEWS

Hakimi stunner sends Morocco into quarterfinals of AFCON 2021

Atlas Lions to face Teranga Lions in last eight

Morocco booked their passage into the quarterfinals of AFCON 2021 after a hard-fought 2-1 win over the Flames of Malawi at the Ahmadou Ahidjo Stadium in Yaounde.

After coming through the group stage as one of the best third-place teams for the first time in their history, Malawi looked to try and create more history by defeating the Atlas Lions of Morocco.

After observing a minute’s silence for the departed souls of the victims of the stampede at the Paul Biya Stadium last night, Malawi started the match brightly and were soon in front through Orlando Pirates forward Gabadinho Mhango, who scored what was arguably the goal of the tournament in the seventh minute. The forward lined up a strike from almost 40 yards and saw his rasping shot nestle into the top corner of the net, beating Morocco goalkeeper Yacine Bounou. It was the forward’s third goal of the tournament.

Morocco dominated affairs from the time Malawi scored their goal, and when it looked like they would end the half behind on the scoreboard, Sevilla striker Youssef En-Nesyri stepped up in the second minute of first half added time to draw the Atlas Lions level in the clash. The striker rose highest at the back post to power home a header and equalise for his side.

Morocco maintained control of the game upon the resumption of hostilities in the second half, managing to keep Malawi’s Flames at an arm’s length.

The Atlas Lions thought they should have been awarded a penalty as PSG right-back Achraf Hakimi saw his attempted cross strike the arm of a retreating Malawi defender in the box, but the referee after consulting VAR decided against awarding the penalty.

The winner would eventually come in style for Morocco as Hakimi struck a picture perfect free-kick into the top left corner of the net in the 70th minute. It was the defender’s second goal from a direct free-kick in this year’s AFCON.

Morocco will now face the continent’s highest ranked team Senegal in the quarterfinals after the Teranga Lions defeated Cape Verde 2-0 in an eventful match.

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