The Atlas Lions of Morocco got off to a bright start in Group C of the 2021 Africa Cup of Nations (AFCON) as they edged four-time champions Ghana 1-0 in Yaoundé, Cameroon, on Monday evening.
The game began at a slow pace with each side trying to study the other until Ghanaian winger Kamaldeen Sulemana paced on a solo run on the left flank. The PSG teenager beat two players before he was brought down by Adam Masina for the first infringement of the game in the fifth minute.
The Moroccans, noticing how skilful and quick the Ghanaian players on the flanks were, decided to deploy more men to the midfield and hold the ball there. It worked to perfection and nearly earned them the opener in the 11th minute as Zakaria Aboukal’s 25-yard drive had to be dealt with twice by Ghana keeper Joseph Wollacott.
It was a ding dong affair as Ghana decided to resort to long balls in an effort to utilize the pace of Jordan Ayew but the Moroccan defenders policed him anytime he got the ball and had little room to move freely.
Central defender Romain Saiss came close in the 39th minute as he flicked a header from a free-kick around the penalty area, but narrowly missed the target, offering another relief for the Ghana Black Stars.
Ghana came strongly into the game again in the dying embers of the first half as Joseph Painstill saw an effort sail over the bar after going past two Moroccan defenders. Skipper Andre Ayew was also brought down in the vital area but Botswana referee Joshua Bondo waved play on.
The Black Stars finished the first half with the lion’s share of possession as both sides went into recess goalless.
The second-half started with the North Africans bombarding the Ghana penalty area but the back-line of Baba Rahman, Daniel Amartey and others thwarted most of their efforts.
Against the run of play, Ghana embarked on a swift counter attack but Paintsil saw his pass to Kamaleen Sulemana cut off by Romain Saiss in the 52nd minute.
Joseph Paintsil, who was looking lively in the Ghana set up, outwitted his marker and went for a delicate chip which was going into the far corner of the net in the 70th minute but goalkeeper Bouno pulled off a superb save.
Morocco reorganized and dominated the final ten minutes, and their efforts were rewarded in the 83rd minute when Soufiane Boufal fired past goalie Wollacott to hand the Atlas Lions a late lead and, eventually, the lone goal.
The Moroccans could have made it 2-0 in the 89th minute but Wollacott made a fantastic save as the game ended 1-0.
Ghana face Gabon in their next fixture on Friday, whereas Morocco will be up against Comoros.