Atlas Lions down Liberia to take control of Group K

Atlas Lions down Liberia to take control of Group K
Morocco celebrate a goal during the 2023 Africa Cup of Nations qualifying football match between Liberia and Morocco held at the Mohamed V Stadium in Casablanca, Morocco on 13 June 2022 ©Nour Akanja/BackpagePix

by Graeme Jackson

Monday Jun 13, 2022. 23:29

Morocco took full control of Group K in the 2023 Africa Cup of Nations after they defeated Liberia 2-0 at Stade Mohammed V in Casablanca on Monday night.

The result – secured by goals from Faycal Fajr and Youssef En-Nesyri – sees the Atlas Lions top of Group K with six points. Given that the pool has just three teams (after Zimbabwe’s disqualification), the North Africans have already all but ensured that they will finish in the top two and secure passage to the finals in Ivory Coast in a year’s time.

Morocco dominated possession from the early stages and pushed their ‘hosts’ onto the back foot, though they were unable to test out Liberia goalkeeper Tommy Songo in the opening 20 minutes.

The North Africans finally carved out a good chance on the half-hour mark when a corner kick found its way to Romain Saiss, but the defender was unable to direct a header on target.

Liberia took their time to settle into the match, but they offered some promising moments later in the first half, with Allen Njie picking out some fine passes to put the likes of Kpah Sherman and Joachim Adukor into space – though Atlas Lions goalkeeper Yassine Bounou was not called into major action.

The final significant chance of the first half arrived just a couple of minutes before the end of regulation time, as Saiss took on a shot direct from a free kick and sent an effort just over the crossbar, leaving the game 0-0 at the interval.

Ten minutes into the second half Morocco were finally rewarded for their persistence in attack, with substitute defender Moussa Sanoh guilty of tripping up Amine Harit to concede a penalty. Faycal Fajr struck home a low drive from the spot to make it 1-0 in the 56th minute.

Just two minutes later Youssef En-Nesyri made it 2-0, with Morocco capitalising on a mistake and seizing possession high up field – Azzedine Ounahi played in the striker, who then finished confidently with his left foot.

Having established a strong lead, Morocco eased off the throttle and saw out the remainder of the game playing with less intensity, while also allowing the likes of Selim Amallah, Zakaria Aboukhlal, Soufiane Rahimi and Tarik Tissoudali to come off the bench and relieve the starters.

Liberia will return to AFCON qualification action in September with a double-header against South Africa.

Morocco will not play in Group K again until March 2023 due to Zimbabwe’s disqualification – but they could qualify before then, depending on the results of September’s matches in the group.

Liberia 0

Morocco (0) 2 (Fajr 56’ pen, En-Nesyri 58’)

Liberia: Songo, Dweh, Balde, Jamal, Pabai (Sanoh 53’), Soumaoro (Karpeh 70’), Njie, Dorley, Macauley (Salmon 53’), Adukor, Sherman

Morocco: Bounou, Hakimi, Mmaee, Saiss (Dari 46’), Fajr, Ounahi (Amallah 66’), Attiat-Allal, Jabrane, Harit (Rahimi 75’), En-Nesyri (Aboukhlal 66’), El Kaabi (Tissoudali 85’)

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