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Boufal scores late to lift Morocco over Ghana, Gabon beat Comoros

Boufal Morocco scaled
Morocco celebrate

Soufiane Boufal scored with six minutes of regulation time left as Morocco and Gabon start of to winning their Africa Cup of Nations AFCON campaign with a 1-0 win over Ghana in a top of the bill Group C clash at the Stade Ahmadou Ahidjo in Yaoundé on Monday night.

In the early kickoff, Morocco and Ghana faced off in what was expected to be a high octane clash. However, the game had all the gremlins of an opening day fixture as both sides struggled to create much in either half.

It took a late goal from Sofiane Boufal to give the Atlas Lions maximum points as they started the quest for the African title on a positive note.

“We knew that we would be facing a strong team which would not make it easy for us to create many chances. But the most important thing is that we have achieved our goal of winning the match. This result motivates us and gives us confidence for the next game,” an excited Boufal, duly named man of the match said after the victory.

Ghana tactician Milovan Rajevac was distraught after the result but says his side will fight bravely in the remaining two matches of the group to try and progress to the next round.

“We still have two games to go and we will stay focused on them. It is true that we have created more scoring opportunities, but we have not been able to use that opportunity. We hope to score goals and win the next two games,” the Serbian tactician stated.

Ghana Maroc

Action from teh Ghana v Morocco game. PHOTO/GFA Communications

A cagy first half didn’t create much of scoring opportunities and the closest for any side was a Thomas Partey freekick that went just wide.

In the second half, the pace picked a bit and Morocco had the first sniff at goal seven minutes after the restart. Boufal sneaked in at the near post to try and flick home a cross from the right but his effort was blocked by Baba Rahman.

Ghana had a good chance in the 72nd minute when an intended cut back from the right by Kamal Sulemana was deflected to Joseph Paintsil’s path.

The defender took on a brilliant effort curled in to the top left corner, but a full flight save from Sevilla keeper Yassine Bounou pushed the ball just wide.

Ghana were on the offensive but were stunned in the 82nd minute when Boufal struck a sublime shot inside the box after picking up a loose ball off Partey’s intended clearance.

Despite Ghana’s pressure to try and get themselves back on track, Morocco safely guarded their lead.

Meanwhile in the late kick off, without their skipper Pierre Emerick Aubameyang, Gabon beat debutants Comoros by a solitary goal to move joint second in the group.

Morocco and Gabon off to winning in AFCON

Gabon players celebrate after Boupendza scored

Aaron Boupendza struck the solitary goal in the first half to hand the Gabonese three vital points and a huge chance to make it into the round of 16.

“We prepared for this match with a lot of pressure. We did all effort to start the competition calmly. The goal we scored helped us to free the team and proceed with confidence for the rest of this big competition. It’s important for us, but also for the fans,” Boupendza said after the victory.

The forward who was burdened with the weight of getting goals in Aubameyang’s absence scored the solitary goal in the 16th minute with an unstoppable rocket from a tight angle after running through to an Ameka Autchanga ball.

Comoros had done well to start the match with confidence, but were undone by poor finishing. They were more dominant in the second half, but still couldn’t get a goal.

Earlier on, Naby Keita inspired Guinea with a man of the match performance as they luckily saw off Malawi by a solitary goal. Left back Issiaga Sylla scored the lone goal in the 35th minute, but were lucky with Malawi wasting brilliant opportunities.

Sylla struck the goal off a swift counter attack, drifting into the box from his natural position to tap home a low cut back from Jose Kante.


Issiaga Sylla celebrates his goal against Malawi

Before the goal, Malawi should have had more than two goals with Chetser Yamikani losing chance after chance. The 27-year old had a good chance when he intercepted a back pass to storm into the box one on one with the Guinean keeper.

However, he shot his effort tamely, the custodian gathering with ease when he should have been more patient. Minutes later, he was the beneficiary of another good ball off a long clearance.

However, when he was away on goal one on one with the keeper once again, he stepped on the ball and fell.

After conceding, Malawi had more chances with Limbikani Mzava seeing his well taken freekick punched away by keeper Aly Keita. The Guinean keeper was a busy man as he was also at hand to make another good save off a Peter Banda shot.

On the other end, Guinea should have doubled their tally in added time when a cross from the left landed on Aguibou Camara unmarked on the right. However, keeper Ernest Kakhobwe made a sublime double save to keep the score tight.

In the second half, nothing could add on to the score as Guinea held on to pick the vital victory.

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