Morocco got their 2021 AFCON campaign off to a perfect start as they narrowly defeated Ghana 1-0 in their Group C opener at the Ahmadou Ahidjo Stadium in Yaounde.
The Atlas Lions were without a couple of stars, including Chelsea’s Hakim Ziyech and Ajax’s Noussair Mazraoui after the duo were left out of the squad to the 2021 AFCON by veteran coach Vahid Halilhodzic.
Ghana lost 3-0 to another North African side, Algeria, in a pre-tournament friendly encounter only days ago, and they were facing off against one of the favourites for the tournament.
The Atlas Lions controlled proceedings against their West African opponents, but found themselves unable to breach the Black Stars’ backline in the absence of their injured striker Youssef En-Nesyri.
Morocco had the lion share of possession and displayed some crisp passing and deft touches, leaving their opponents chasing shadows at times in the encounter. With the game seemingly looking to end in a deadlock, Morocco struck with seven minutes left on the clock.
In a bid to defend against a Moroccan attack down the right flank, an attempted clearance saw the ball ricochet off Ghanaian midfielder Thomas Partey and into the path of former Southampton winger Sofiane Boufal, who duly lashed home the shot from inside the box in the 83rd minute to give Morocco a narrow win over their main rivals in Group C at the 2021 AFCON.
At the same time, Guinea defeated Malawi 1-0 in their Group B opener at the 2021 AFCON to move level on points with Senegal at the top of the group. Toulouse FC defender Issiaga Sylla scored the lone goal for the Syli Nationale after 33 minutes of the encounter.
The Guineans had majority of possession, but were lucky to emerge unscathed from the encounter after a barrage of attempts from the Malawi national team was kept out by goalkeeper Aly Keita.