Morocco's Noureddine Amrabat (L) in action against Cameroon's Gaetan Bong (R) during the Africa Cup of Nations (AFCON) 2019 qualifying soccer match between Morocco and Cameroon in Casablanca, Morocco, 16 November 2018. EPA/JALAL MORCHIDI
Friday Nov 16, 2018. 23:08
Morocco have moved to the verge of qualification for the 2019 Africa Cup of Nations after they defeated Cameroon 2-0 at the Stade Mohamed V in Casablanca on Friday night.
The result saw the Atlas Lions surge to the top of Group B on 10 points and avenge a 1-0 loss to the West African giants from the teams’ first meeting in Yaounde in June last year.
Hakim Ziyech was the match winner for Morocco, who will secure qualification if Malawi fail to defeat Comoros in Moroni on Saturday afternoon.
The Indomitable Lions, meanwhile, are guaranteed their berth at the finals due to the status as the host nation, but will be worried at another disappointing result under coach Clarence Seedorf.
Cameroon created the first opening to put Eric Choupo-Moting in shooting space in the seventh minute, but the French-based player was unable to find the target as Karim El Ahmadi closed him down quickly.
Morocco gradually gained control of the game and much of their play was directed through Hakim Ziyech. The Ajax attacking midfielder went close with a couple of efforts from long range, but wasn’t quite able to get the better of his club teammate, Cameroon goalkeeper Andre Onana.
At the other end of the field, the Atlas Lions needed gloves-man Yassibe Bounou to be sharp in keeping out an effort from Karl Toko Ekambi in the 28th minute. The West Africans saw less of the ball but were dangerous on the counter attack.
The best chance of the first half went the way of Ziyech in the 45th minute, but after being played in on goal by Younes Belhanda he only managed to shoot straight at Onana, leaving the game locked at 0-0 heading into the interval.
Morocco made a change at the start of the second half, sending on Sofiane Boufal for the injured Belhanda. The move paid dividends just seven minutes after the restart as the Celta Vigo player earned a penalty for a push in the back.
Ziyech duly dispatched the spot kick to give Herve Renard’s team a deserved lead in the 54th minute, and the 25-year-old was on hand again 12 minutes later as he sent a dipping, left-footed shot beyond Onana to double the hosts’ advantage.
The Indomitable Lions looked for a way back into the game and upped the pressure in attack, but they were controversially reduced to 10 men in the 79th minute when Toko Ekambi received a second yellow card.
His second caution was for diving, though it appeared as if there was contact with Moroccan defender Manuel da Costa. Regardless, it took the sting out of Cameroon’s intent and allowed the hosts to see out a relatively comfortable victory.
Morocco (0) 2 (Ziyech 54’ pen 66’)
Morocc: Bounou, Hakimi, Benatia, da Costa, Mazraoui, El Ahmadi, Amrabat, Ziyech (Ait Bennasser 90’), Belhanda (Boufal 46’), Fajr, Boutaib (En-Nesyri 65’)
Cameroon: Onana, Fai, Onguene, Bong, Kunde (Djoum 82’), Bassogog (Bahoken 70’), Zambo Anguissa, Ngadeu-Ngadjui, Madjeck (N’Jie 68’), Choupo-Moting, Toko Ekambi