Youssef El Arabi of Morocco
Saturday Mar 26, 2016. 21:21
Youssef El Arabi's solitary strike earned Morocco a 1-0 win over Cape Verde in the 2017 Africa Cup of Nations (AFCON) qualifier at the Estádio Nacional de Cabo Verde in Praia on Saturday night.
The win took the Atlas Lions of Morocco to the top of Group F standings - three points ahead of second-placed Cape Verde's Blue Sharks.
The Atlas Lions started the game like a house on fire pressing the Blue Sharks in the opening stages of the game - in search of an early goal.
Just twelve minutes into the game, Mbark Boussoufa nearly gave the visitors the lead, but his effort hit the goal-post with Cape Verde goalkeeper Vozinha beaten.
The 31-year-old Gent midfielder was then brought down inside the Cape Verde box and the match referee awarded a penalty.
Morocco's talisman Youssef El Arabi then stepped up and converted from the spot-kick to make it 1-0 to the Atlas Lions in the 26th minute.
The Blue Sharks then pressed for the equalising goal. But Morocco managed to hold onto their slender lead until the referee blew the half-time break.
With his side trailing 1-0, new Cape Verde head coach Felisberto Cardoso decided to introduce influential forward Ryan Mendes on the hour-mark.
The home side were now doing most of the attacking in the second-half, while Morocco were holding onto their slender lead.
In the 77th minute, Atlas Lions head coach Herve Renard pulled out a striker Nordine Amrabat for a midfielder Soufiane Boufal.
Cape Verde's late attacks proved futile as Morocco stood firm at the back in the remaining minutes and the match ended 1-0 in favour of the Atlas Lions.
The return leg is scheduled to be played at the Stade de Marrakech in Morocco's fourth largest City, Marrakesh, on Tuesday night.
Cape Verde (0) 0
Morocco (1) 1 (El Arabi 26')
Cape Verde XI: Vozinha, Carlitos, Kay, Varela, Stopira, Calu, Marco Soares, Babanco, Heldon, Kuca, Ze Luis.
Morocco XI: Munir, Dirar, Saïss, Da Costa, El Kaoutari, El Ahmadi, Obbadi, Boussoufa, Tannane, Boufal, El Arabi.