Morocco qualify for last 16, Ghana hopes in peril

Published January 16, 2022
YAOUNDE: Morocco’s Zakaria Aboukhlal shoots during the African Cup of Nations match against Comoros at at Stade Ahmadou Ahidjo.—AFP
YAOUNDE: Morocco’s Zakaria Aboukhlal shoots during the African Cup of Nations match against Comoros at at Stade Ahmadou Ahidjo.—AFP

YAOUNDE: Morocco booked a place in the last 16 of the Africa Cup of Nations while Gabon, Guinea and Senegal are also likely through but four-time champions Ghana are in danger of early elimination after Friday’s four matches at the tournament in Cameroon.

Morocco beat the Comoros Islands 2-0 for a second win and top place in Group ‘C’ on six points followed by Gabon on four after they scored a late equaliser to hold Ghana 1-1 in the second game played at Yaounde’s Ahmadou Ahidjo Stadium.

Jim Allevinah’s 88th minute strike is almost sure to see Gabon through, if not as one of the top two in the group then as one of the four best third-placed finishers in the six groups.

But Ghana are in danger on one point and must beat Comoros in their final group game in Garoua on Tuesday to stand any chance of advancing as they seek their first title in 40 years.

The match ended in an unsavoury punch-up after being littered with niggling fouls with Ghana’s Benjamin Tetteh sent off for a wild punch thrown in the post-match fracas.

Ghana’s anger erupted at the end because they felt Gabon’s goal was against the spirit of the game. Ghana had intentionally put the ball out of play so one of its players could get attention from medical staff. Gabon didn’t give it back and instead started a move that ended with substitute Allevinah sweeping a shot across Ghana goalkeeper Jojo Wollacott and into the bottom right corner.

“It’s very small of them. Very small. I’m disappointed in them,” Ghana captain Andre Ayew said.

It started so well for Ayew when he unleashed one of the goals of the tournament in the 18th. He turned away from his marker and hit a shot from distance that rocketed into the bottom left corner.

Gabon’s point was wildly celebrated by their camp and made even sweeter by the Confederation of African Football’s refusal before the match to let their captain Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang take part, even though he was training on the eve of the clash after being released from Covid-19 quarantine.

According to the CAF medical commission, the players Aubameyang, Axel Meye and Mario Lemina, “barely out of Covid isolation, cannot take part in this match.”

“Medical examinations show cardiac lesions and CAF did not want to take any risks,” the Gabon Football Federation tweeted.

Earlier, Selim Amallah gave 1976 champions Morocco an early lead and then set up substitute Zakaria Aboukhlal to seal the win a minute from time.

Morocco need just a draw against Gabon to finish as group winners while the Comoros, the Indian Ocean island nation, are still looking for their first goal and point at their first ever Cup of Nations.

SENEGAL HELD

Senegal continued to struggle at the start of its African Cup and drew 0-0 with Guinea in Group ‘B’, although that result left both teams in good shape to qualify.

The battle of Liverpool stars Sadio Mane of Senegal and Naby Keita of Guinea never really materialised at Kouekong Stadium in Cameroon’s western city of Bafoussam. Keita did get yellow-carded for a foul on Mane, though.

Guinea and Senegal stay neck-and-neck at the top on four points.

Senegal coach Aliou Cisse said afterwards he had to remove midfielder Papa Gueye from the starting lineup on FIFA orders.

“Pape Gueye had an administrative problem just before the match kicked off. Five minutes before, we were notified that FIFA suspended him over a transfer between his club, Marseille, and Watford,” Cisse told reporters.

His lawyer informed us this morning around 11 am, but just before the meeting we had the confirmation. That’s why we removed him from the match sheet.”

Senegal were already without 10 players in COVID-19 isolation and their depleted resources showed in an underwhelming performance.

Malawi beat Zimbabwe 2-1, coming from 1-0 down with a brace by Frank Mhango in the other Group ‘B’ game and also put themselves in line for a place in the last 16.

Published in Dawn, January 16th, 2022

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