Afcon Roundup: Morocco, Gabon, Senegal and Guinea all Win
In the first titanic clash of the Africa Cup of Nations, Sofiane Boufal struck on 83 minutes to give Morocco a 1-0 triumph over Ghana in Yaounde.
The former Southampton midfielder, 28, spun in the goalmouth and shot a loose ball past goalkeeper Joseph Wollacott.
After being postponed twice last year due to the coronavirus outbreak, this was the first meeting of two top-10 nations.
Both past champions, Morocco second and Ghana ninth in Africa, are regarded probable winners of the 24-team competition.
Morocco won the Cup of Nations for the first time in 46 years, and the newest campaign began without its most famous player, Hakim Ziyech of Chelsea.
Last year, coach Vahid Halilhodzic dropped him from the national team because he had a “disruptive influence.”
Morocco started three Premier League players against Ghana: Wolves captain Romain Saiss and Watford’s Adam Masina and Imran Louza.
Ghana has won the African Cup of Nations four times, but the last triumph came 40 years ago in Libya, when Abedi ‘Pele’ Ayew rose to international notoriety.
Milovan Rajevac started six English players, including Premier League players Daniel Amartey, Jordan Ayew, and Thomas Partey.
The Atlas Lions and Black Stars met four times in the Cup of Nations, with each winning once and the other drawing.
Partey’s angled free-kick went just over the crossbar on 32 minutes following a cagey, foul-filled opening at a 42,500-seat stadium named for former Cameroon president Ahmadou Ahidjo.
In a packed goalmouth, Saiss got his head to a free-kick that flew over the target.
Joseph Paintsil’s single run shortly before half-time gave Ghanaians hope for an early goal, but his execution was poor, sending his shot wide.
Soon after, Paintsil threatened again, but his long dribble ended with a terrible ball on the edge of the box, allowing Morocco to breathe.
But Andre Ayew’s effort from a free-kick went wide.
When Paintsil fired goalward with 18 minutes left, Yassine Bounou saved it brilliantly with his one-handed save, avenging his previous two errors.
With a 35th-minute goal from Issiaga Sylla, Guinea clinched top place in Group B, alongside Senegal.
Left-back In the sixth minute, Sylla scored from close range after a long cross-field pass found Jose Kante.
A 97th-minute penalty by Liverpool’s Sadio Mane gave championship contender Senegal a 1-0 win against Zimbabwe in the first of two games.
Gabon spoiled the day
Aaron Boupendza scored in Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang’s absence to give Gabon a 1-0 win over Comoros on Monday.
They missed their team’s first Group C match in Yaounde after testing positive for the coronavirus last week.
Qatar-based Louis Ameka Autchanga fed Boupendza, who sent the ball high past Comoros goalkeeper Ali Ahamada on 16 minutes.
Moussa Djoumoi nearly equalised in the second half, but Gabon goalkeeper Jean-Noel Amonome saved it.
Along with the Gambia, the Indian Ocean islanders are the only newcomers to the continental event.
Since the turn of the century, only three entrants have made it through the first round, although Madagascar accomplished so in 2019.
Gabon takes part for the eighth time. They made the final eight in 1996 and 2012.
Patrice Neveu’s team drew level on three points with Morocco, who beat Ghana 1-0 earlier.