Afcon Update: Morocco Cruise Into The Last 8 After Beating Malawi 2-1
Morocco advanced to the final eight of the Africa Cup of Nations with a 2-1 win against tenacious Malawi at Yaounde’s Ahmadou Ahidjo Stadium.
Malawi took an early lead thanks to an incredible goal from Gabadinho Mhango.
However, Youssef En-Nesyri of Sevilla equalized in the conclusion of the first half, and Achraf Hakimi of Paris St-Germain secured the Atlas Lions’ victory.
Morocco will face either Egypt or Ivory Coast in the quarter-finals, which will be held in Douala on Wednesday.
Prior to kick-off, a respectful silence was observed in remembrance of those slain Monday night at Yaounde’s Olembe Stadium.
The players donned black armbands, and on the advertising hoardings, expressions of grief were posted.
Morocco were unquestionably the favourites, but Malawi opened the scoring in the seventh minute with Mhango’s spectacular strike.
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The Orlando Pirates striker, who was closer to the halfway line than to the goal, saw Morocco goalkeeper Yassine Bounou off his line and sent a powerful shot into the top corner.
A reversal Bounou, who returned to the line-up after his absence from Morocco’s last group game, got a hand to it but was unable to prevent a spectacular goal.
After 24 minutes, Mhango had an excellent chance to extend the Flames’ lead when he broke clear and shot just wide.
Morocco completely controlled possession despite Mhango’s attempts.
Sofiane Boufal and En-Nesyri came close, while Wolves defender Romain Saiss hit the crossbar from close range.
Charles Thomu, Malawi’s goalkeeper, produced many excellent saves, including one to deny Hakimi.
However, he was unable to prevent En-Nesyri from scoring in stoppage time at the conclusion of the first period.
Morocco made a good start to the second half but failed to capitalise on their lead.
They believed they should have been awarded a penalty after the ball touched Malawi defender Dennis Chembezi’s trailing hand, but it was denied following a VAR review.
In the 70th minute, they took the lead when Hakimi curled a superb free-kick over the wall and into the near top corner.
Morocco deserved no more, and they will believe the margin of victory should have been much larger.
Malawi qualified for the last 16 as one of the tournament’s top third-place teams and was playing in their first Nations Cup finals knockout game.
Despite having less than 20% possession, they ensured the North Africans never relaxed and attempted to strike Morocco on the break until the last whistle.