Ayoub El Kaabi continued his superb form at the 2018 African Nations Championship, as his two goals helped Morocco overcome Libya 3-1 in the first semifinal on Wednesday evening.
The Atlas Lions have advanced into their first CHAN final, though they needed extra time to overcome a tough-to-beat Mediterranean Knights at Stade Mohamed V in Casablanca. The hosts will face either Sudan or Nigeria in Sunday’s championship decider.
Morocco created their first opening as early as the fifth minute, as Achraf Bencharki put Ismail Haddad in on goal and the winger chipped the ball over the on-rushing goalkeeper Muhammad Nashnoush, but Libyan defender Motasem Sabbou got back to clear from almost under his own crossbar.
And that same crossbar was rattled just past the midway point of the first half, with midfielder Salaheddine Saidi having a free header from a Bencharki free kick, but his effort rebounded off the woodwork.
The Atlas Lions also saw right-back Mohamed Nahiri send a shot on target direct from a free kick, but Nashnoush was able to punch the ball clear to ensure his side went to the break level at 0-0.
Libya offered little in attack for the first hour of the match, but on 63 minutes they nearly claimed the lead: striker Saleh Al Taher got on the end of a corner kick and powered a header on target, only for Moroccan left-back Abdeljalil Jbira to clear off his own goal line.
Yet in the 73rd minute it was Morocco who finally broke the deadlock. Substitute Zakaria Hadraf did some great work down the left flank before chipping in a cross from the by-line which was headed home by Ayoub El Kaabi.
If the hosts thought their prolific striker’s goal was going to be enough, they were sorely mistaken: in the 86th minute goalkeeper Anas Zniti was caught in possession, allowing Abdulrahman Khalleefa to score an equaliser and send the game into extra time.
Yet El Kaabi wasn’t finished, and in the seventh minute of the extra half hour he pounced again to complete his brace. A corner kick was poorly dealt with by Libya’s defence and El Kaabi was gifted a simple tap-in at the far post to make it 2-1 and net his eighth of the tournament.
And Morocco finally killed off Libya’s challenge in the 117th minute when Walid El Karti won a soft penalty and converted it himself to make the score 3-1 and seal a place in the final.
Morocco (0) (1) 3 (El Kaabi 73’ 97’, El Karti 117’ pen)
Libya (0) (1) 1 (Khalleefa 86’) - after extra time
Morocco: Zniti, Nahiri, El Yamiq, Banoun, Jbira, Saidi, Boulahroud, El Karti, Bencharki (Hadraf 54’), Haddad (Barrahma 80’), El Kaabi (Aguerd 105’)
Libya: Nashnoush, Almaghasi, El Trbi, Masaud, Sabbou, Ahmed, Khalleefa, Aleyat (Alaqoub 80’), Aribi (Taktak 53’), Ablo (Abushnaf 84’), Al Taher