Thursday Jun 09, 2022. 23:24
Morocco claimed a 2-1 win over South Africa in the opening Group K match of the 2023 Africa Cup of Nations qualifiers.
The Atlas Lions secured their victory at the Prince Moulay Abdellah Stadium in Rabat thanks to second-half goals from Youssef En-Nesyri and Ayoub El Kaabi, with Bafana Bafana having claimed an early lead through Lyle Foster.
Morocco started strongly and forced South Africa onto the back foot in the opening stages, but the visitors claimed the lead in the eighth minute against the run of play.
Debutant Sphephelo Sithole lofted a pass over the Morocco defence from midfield and allowed Lyle Foster to spring the offside trap – the Westerlo forward held off the attentions of Achraf Hamiki, before striking a low shot which beat goalkeeper Yassine Bounou at his near post.
Morocco’s Youssef En-Nesyri had two great chances, in quick succession, to level the game just after the quarter hour mark, but on both occasions he was denied by excellent saves from Bafana goalkeeper and captain Ronwen Williams.
The SuperSport United shot-stopper was in action again on 26 minutes, keeping out a low effort from the right of the penalty area by Aymane Barkok, as well as on 35 minutes, turning away an awkward, skidding attempt from Ilias Chair.
In the 37th minute the Atlas Lions really should have levelled the game, with Hakimi’s low cross from the right finding En-Nesyri, but the striker somehow directed an effort wide with the goal gaping just a few metres in front of him.
The hosts spurned another good chance a couple of minutes before the interval when Tarik Tissoudali’s knock down gave Selim Amallah a free volley inside the penalty area, but he blazed a shot high over the target.
Morocco’s final chance of the first half arrived in injury time when Hakimi had a sight of goal after a slip in the away side’s defence, but his shot – which looked destined for the bottom corner – was tipped away for a corner by the excellent Williams.
The North Africans picked up in the second stanza where they left off in the first, and should have been awarded a penalty in the early minutes when defender Taariq Fielies got away with blocking a goal-bound shot with his arm.
An equaliser seemed inevitable and duly arrived in the 51st minute: Sofyan Amrabat played a diagonal to pick out Romain Saiss, who headed back across the face of goal and En-Nesyri nodded home from close range for 1-1.
Morocco continued to dominate in the wake of their goal, and introduced the likes of Yahya Attiat-Allah, Ayoub El Kaabi, Amine Harit and Azzeddine Ounahi to bring fresh legs in attack.
El Kaabi almost put Morocco ahead on 77 minutes when he got on the end of a diagonal into the penalty area and placed a header on target, but Williams scrambled across to make a fine save and keep the scores level.
However, the ‘keeper was helpless to keep out Morocco’s winner on 88 minutes. Harit clipped in a waist-high cross from the left flank and El Kaabi got ahead of his marker to sweep home a crisp volley and earn a deserved victory for the Atlas Lions.
Morocco (0) 2 (En-Nesyri 51’, El Kaabi 88’)
South Africa (1) 1 (Foster 8’)
Morocco: Bounou, Barkok (Ounahi 60’), Saiss, Aguerd, Hakimi, Amrabat, Chair (Harit 68’), Masina (Attiat-Allah 68’), Amallah, Tissoudali (El Kaabi 60’), En-Nesyri (Fajr 90+1’)
SA: Williams, Kekana, Phete, Fielies, Mudau (Mobbie 90+1’), Mosele, Sithole (Makgopa 89’), Lakay, Lorch (Maart 62’), Foster (Nange 62’), Tau (Hlongwane 90+1’)