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Morocco 1-0 Ghana: Sofiane Boufal strikes late to settle heavyweight AFCON Group C clash

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Sofiane Boufal scored as Morocco began the Africa Cup of Nations with a hard-fought win over Ghana.

The former Southampton winger struck with only eight minutes to play on Monday to settle a cagey heavyweight contest in the Cameroonian capital of Yaounde.

1976 winners Morocco take early control of Group C, with Gabon - without Arsenal striker Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang and ex-Juventus midfielder Mario Lemina due to positive Covid-19 tests - due to face tournament debutants Comoros later this evening.

Boufal hammered home from close range after a mazy run into the penalty area from Zakaria Aboukhlal that saw him tease the Ghana defence, only to be checked by Arsenal midfielder Thomas Partey, with the ball then running perfectly for Boufal to score.

The goal came from a rare chance in a game where both sides showed defensive prowess but did little to impress in attack.

Both countries are looking to end a long wait for success in the continental championship but showed little early sign of making an impact at the tournament in Cameroon, admittedly after disrupted preparations.

Boufal’s goal did open up a cagey affair and Morocco had two more decent chances as captain Romain Saiss headed wide after an 87th minute free-kick and then in stoppage time Ghana goalkeeper Joe Wollacott stopped a blistering shot from close range.

Until then, there had only been two opportunities for Ghana, four-time AFCON winners who last triumphed in 1982.

Former Southampton winger Sofiane Boufal celebrates his winning goal for Morocco against Ghana (REUTERS)
Former Southampton winger Sofiane Boufal celebrates his winning goal for Morocco against Ghana (REUTERS)

Joseph Paintsil hit a goal-bound shot towards the top corner in the 70th minute only for Morocco goalkeeper Yassine Bounou to turn the effort around the post.

Ghana also had a good set-piece opportunity in the 31st minute but Partey fired his free-kick over the bar.

The victory extended to 10 matches Morocco’s winning streak, including all six World Cup qualifiers played between September and November.

In Monday’s other 4pm GMT contest, left-back Issiaga Sylla’s first-half goal was enough for Guinea to see off depleted Malawi in a Group B affair at the Kouekong Stadium in Bafoussam.

Guinea join Senegal at the top of the group after Sadio Mane’s last-gasp penalty secured a dramatic victory for the Lions of Teranga against Zimbabwe earlier in the day.

Additional reporting by Reuters.

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