Morocco proved too strong for the Comoros Islands at the Africa Cup of Nations on Friday, winning 2-0 to stay top of Group C and ensure progress to the last 16 of the finals in Cameroon.
Selim Amallah scored after 16 minutes and Zakaria Aboukhlal struck at the final whistle to ensure the win after Youssef En-Nesyri had an 82nd-minute penalty saved.
The score would have been significantly more one-sided had Morocco taken all their chances as they overwhelmed the tournament debutants at the Ahmadou Ahidjo Stadium.
Morocco now have six points while Comoros have yet to open their account. Gabon, who have three points, and Ghana, on none, play their second group match at the stadium later on Friday.
Amallah opened the scoring by blasting home from close range after picking up a rebound following some frenetic defending to give Morocco a deserved lead.
Their captain Romain Saiss headed a corner against the crossbar in the 37th minute and there were two more good chances for Ayoub El Kaabi after the break.
Morocco picked up the pace in the second half and at times laid siege to the goal but found Comoros goalkeeper Salim Ben Boina hard to beat, while also missing some glaring chances.
El Kaabi was again guilty of wasting opportunities while the Comoros defenders tackled desperately to keep their star-studded opponents at bay.
En-Nesyri, whose participation at the tournament had been in doubt because of injury with his Spanish club Sevilla, came on in the second half for his first run out in a boost for Morocco but had his spot-kick saved.
But former Dutch youth international Aboukhlal finally doubled the lead for Morocco as he tucked away a goal in the last minute. He was initially flagged offside but the decision overturned after consultation with VAR.
Malawi stun Zimbabwe
Malawi’s Frank Mhango scored twice as they stunned southern African rivals Zimbabwe with a 2-1 victory in Group B at the Africa Cup of Nations to keep their second round hopes alive at the Kouekong Stadium in Bafoussam on Friday.
Ishmael Wadi put Zimbabwe ahead in the first half, but Mhango levelled just before the break and then added the second after 58 minutes as he took advantage of some hesitant defending and supplied a poacher’s finish.
Malawi have three points from two games and lie third in the group behind Senegal and Guinea, who each have four. Zimbabwe have lost both of their matches to date.
Malawi, whose only other win at the Cup of Nations was a 3-0 success over Algeria in 2010, play Senegal in their final Group B game at the same venue on Tuesday, while Zimbabwe will meet Guinea in Yaounde.
Senegal fail to sparkle against Guinea
Pre-tournament favourites Senegal failed to impress again as they were held to a 0-0 draw by Guinea at the Africa Cup of Nations on Friday, with the result all but ensuring both teams’ progress to the knockout stages.
Senegal, heavily impacted by COVID-19 infections, share top spot in Group B on four points with West African rivals Guinea after both teams won their respective opening games on Monday.
With the top two in each group, plus the four best third-placed finishers to advance, four points is expected to be enough for a place in the last 16.
Senegal, however, have done little to live up to their tag as the team to beat at the tournament as they feel the impact of 10 absentees.
Senegal captain Sadio Mane had a chance from a close-range free-kick early in the game at the Kouekong Stadium, but struck the wall with his effort.
He was largely overshadowed in the opening half by his Liverpool teammate Naby Keita, who drove his Guinea team forward on frequent occasions with probing runs at the opposing defence.
It was Keita’s clever through ball that split the Senegal defence and set two Guinea strikers free on goal. Yet Ilaix Moriba had his initial effort saved by Seny Dieng and then Morgan Guilavogui botched the rebound.
Senegal were a much-improved outfit after the break and Bouna Sarr’s searching 52nd-minute free-kick was close to delivering the first goal, needing just a touch to guide it in.
Four minutes later centre back Abdou Diallo powered a header just over the crossbar from a free kick and in the 67th minute Mane’s run straight down the middle from the centre circle set up Sarr with a golden chance but he snatched the ball wide.
Senegal’s 10 missing players, all out because of COVID-19 infections, included captain Kalidou Koulibaly and first choice goalkeeper Edouard Mendy, who also missed their opening game on Monday, as well as Idrissa Gana Gueye and Fode Ballo Toure, who tested positive following the narrow 1-0 win over Zimbabwe in their opening match.
“It’s been very difficult for us with all of these missing players,” Senegal coach Aliou Cisse said.
Guinea had four players missing, who were in quarantine after testing positive.