Morocco 3-0 Tanzania: Atlas Lions get up and running at AFCON with routine win

Up and running Captain Romain Saiss opened the scoring (AP)
Up and running Captain Romain Saiss opened the scoring (AP)

Morocco made a winning start to the Africa Cup of Nations, brushing Tanzania aside 3-0.

The Atlas Lions are the highest-ranked African nation heading into the tournament, rising to 13 in the FIFA table after reaching the World Cup 2022 semi-finals.

But Morocco have not been crowned African champions since 1976, and have only once reached the final since where they lost 2-1 to Tunisia in 2004.

This year, they hope, will be different with the likes of Hakim Ziyech, Achraf Hakimi, Sofyan Amrabat and captain Romain Saiss maturing.

It was the skipper who secured the breakthough in a first half which started slowly but soon saw Morocco turn the screw.

Saiss was in the right place at the right time to slot home inside the area after the Tanzania goalkeeper fumbled Ziyech's speculative free kick. Ziyech then almost found himself on the scoresheet but Haji Mnoga was a match for his fierce effort towards the bottom corner.

Youssef En-Nesyri was twice guilty of missing chances as Tanzania held on for a respectful one-goal deficit at the break, and was on hand again soon after the restart to mistime a shot to let his opponents off the hook.

The Sevilla striker continued to underwhelm as the second half drew on, and his team-mates were little better beyond Ziyech and the lively Abdessamad Ezzalzouli. Azzedine Ounahi fancied his chances and looks to bend an effort towards the far top corner midway through the second half, but watched it sail high and wide.All faint hopes for Tanzania were extinguished with 20 minutes to go when Novatus Dismas was shown a second yellow card for another late challenge, reducing the minnows to 10 men.

A quickfire double then put the game to bed. Ounahi first exchanging a neat one-two on the edge of the area before firing home, and then setting up En-Nesyri to finally get his goal and tournament up and running.