Morocco proved too strong for Africa Cup of Nations debutants Comoros, winning 2-0 in Yaoundé to book their place in the last 16.
Selim Amallah put Morocco in front from close range after 16 minutes at the Ahmadou Ahidjo Stadium, and the Atlas Lions missed a number of chances to take control of the game. Their captain, Romain Saïss, headed a corner against the crossbar before Ayoub El Kaabi missed two good opportunities after the break.
Morocco forward Youssef En-Nesyri came off the bench on his comeback from injury but saw his late penalty saved by Salim Ben Boina. The Comoros keeper, who plays in the French regional leagues, produced an inspired display but could not keep out Zakaria Aboukhlal’s stoppage-time strike, initially disallowed for offside but awarded by the VAR.
Vahid Halilhodzic’s side have six points from two matches and will top Group C if they avoid defeat against Gabon in their next game. The Panthers sit second in the group after a 1-1 draw with Ghana that leaves their opponents at risk of an early exit.
Ghana took the lead through their captain, André Ayew, who blasted home a superb left-footed shot after after 18 minutes. The Black Stars appeared on course for victory but Gabon substitute Jim Allevinah levelled with two minutes to go, realistically leaving Ghana needing a victory against Comoros to escape the group.
Allevinah’s spectacular finish was also controversial, with Ghana angry that Gabon failed to return the ball after it had been put out following an injury. Tempers flared and Ghana’s Benjamin Tetteh was sent off for his part in the post-match scuffles. Gabon were without three players, including talisman Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang, after post-Covid medical tests.
In Group B, Orlando Pirates striker Frank ‘Gabadinho’ Mhango scored twice for Malawi as they stunned southern rivals Zimbabwe with a 2-1 victory, boosting their hopes of a first-ever appearance in the Afcon knockout stages.
Ishmael Wadi put Zimbabwe ahead in the first half, but Mhango levelled just before the break in Bafoussam, converting Francisco Madinga’s cross at the far post. Mhango struck again in the 58th minute as he took advantage of some hesitant defending and supplied a poacher’s finish.
Victory was the Flames’ second ever win at an Afcon finals, after beating Algeria in 2010. Elsewhere in Group B, pre-tournament favourites Senegal failed to sparkle as they were held to a 0-0 draw by Guinea in the early kick-off.
Senegal coach Aliou Cissé was without 10 players due to Covid-19, including centre-back Kalidou Koulibaly, first-choice goalkeeper Édouard Mendy and midfielder Idrissa Gueye. Guinea were missing four players for the derby game in Bafoussam.
The Senegal captain, Sadio Mané, had a chance from a close-range free kick early in the game, but struck the wall with his effort. Mané was largely overshadowed in the opening half by his Liverpool teammate Naby Keïta, who split the Senegal defence with a through ball. Seny Dieng did well to deny Ilaix Moriba before Morgan Guilavogui botched the rebound.
Bouna Sarr’s searching free kick was close to delivering the first goal as Senegal improved in the second half. Centre-back Abdou Diallo powered a header just over the crossbar before Sarr fired wide after being set up by Mané. The draw means both teams are likely to progress with four points from two games.
“It’s been very difficult for us with all of these missing players,” Cisse said after the match. Senegal face Malawi in their final group game on Tuesday, with Guinea taking on bottom side Zimbabwe in Yaoundé.