Host Morocco have become the first team to book a place in the semifinals of the 2018 African Nations Championship after they defeated Namibia 2-0 at Stade Mohamed V in Casablanca on Saturday evening.
Goals either side of half time from Ayoub El Kaabi and Salaheddine Saidi saw the Atlas Lions to a deserved victory over the Brave Warriors, who can be proud of their underdog efforts at the Chan tournament.
Namibia had the first clear chance, with a seventh-minute free-kick from Absalom Limbondi handing Vitapi Ngaruka a great header chance from close range, but the defender completely missed the flight of the ball.
Morocco went on to dominate the remainder of the first half, though they struggled to create clear-cut scoring chances. Their only real opening in the first half hour fell to Achraf Bencharki, but the youngster hesitated and eventually sent a poor effort over the target.
Yet the Atlas Lions showed great initiative and quick-thinking in the 37th minute when playmaker Walid El Karti took a quick free-kick before Namibia’s defence could organise themselves, allowing striker Ayoub El Kaabi to go clean through and break the deadlock with a simple finish past goalkeeper Lloyd Kazapua.
And it took just 10 minutes into the second half for the North Africans to double their advantage: midfielder Salaheddine Saidi got on the end of Bencharki’s corner kick and scored with a glancing header to put Morocco firmly in control.
The Brave Warriors battled gamely to try and get back into the game and even had a goal disallowed with around 20 minutes to play, but they always looked likely to concede again, with Morocco’s Mohamed Nahiri striking the crossbar with an effort direct from a free kick on 78 minutes.
In the end 2-0 proved to be more than enough for the Atlas Lions, who will face either Libya or Congo in the first semifinal, set for Casablanca on Wednesday evening.
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