Sofiane Boufal’s late strike was enough to earn Morocco a win in the opening game in Group C as they beat Ghana 1-0 in Yaounde.
Both teams were among the pre-tournament favourites to lift the title on February 6, but their final ball from crossing situations was poor and as a result neither could create many chances in a cagey opening 45 minutes.
The second half was somewhat more lively though, and Ghana nearly took the lead when Joseph Paintsil’s brilliant curling effort from 25 yards was superbly tipped around the post by Yassine Bounou.
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That paved the way for Morocco to score the opener as the ball fell kindly for Boufal in the area, and he whipped a vicious shot in at the far corner, leaving Joseph Wollacott with no chance.
The keeper was on hand to make a spectacular save as the lead was nearly doubled in injury time, denying Tarik Tissoudali’s point-blank effort as Morocco comfortably held on to the three points.

TALKING POINT - Boufal steps up

There is no doubting what the key moment of the match was. The game was heading for a draw until Boufal found the back of the net deep into the second half.
Apart from Paintsil’s earlier chance, neither team had particularly looked like scoring, with Morocco goalkeeper Yassine Bounou in particular a passenger through most of the game. There had been a few chances, largely from around the edge of the area, that had been fired well off target.
But when the ball bobbled fortuitously to Boufal 10 yards out off a Ghana defender, there was only one thing on his mind, and he instinctively lashed into the far corner to get his side off to a winning start at the 2021 Africa Cup of Nations.

MAN OF THE MATCH - Sofiane Boufal (Morocco)

The former Southampton man won the game with one of the only real moments of brilliance from an attacking point of view. If he had not popped up in the box, the game would have almost certainly ended 0-0, but as it was, he earned his side a valuable three points.

Fans during Ghana v Morocco

Image credit: Getty Images

PLAYER RATINGS

Morocco: Bounou 7, Mmaee 6, Masina 6, Aguerd 6, Hakimi 7, Saiss 6, Ounahi 6, Amallah 7, Boufal 6, Aboukhlah 6, Louza 6. Subs: Tarik Tissoudali 6, Soufiane Rahimi N/A, Sofyan Amrabat N/A.
Ghana: Wollacott 6, Yiadom 6, Amartey 7, Djiku 6, Rahman Baba 6, Sulemana 6, Partey 6, Baba 6, Painstil 7, Andre Ayew 5, Jordan Ayew 5. Subs: Fatawu Issahku N/A, Benjamin Tetteh N/A, Daniel-Kofi Kyereh N/A, Richmond Boakye N/A.

MATCH HIGHLIGHTS

39' CLOSE! Morocco have a free-kick in a dangerous position that Boufal swings in and Saiss flicks over. Best chance yet.
72' SAVED! Terrific effort from Paintsil, who forces a terrific save out of Bounou with a 22-yard strike that is curling towards the top corner before being acrobatically tipped wide.
83' GOAL! Morocco 1-0 Ghana (Boufal): Boufal brilliantly opens the scoring with a snap shot from close range that whips into the far corner after the ball fell nicely for him in the area.
90+2’ ALMOST TWO! Tissoudali nearly doubles the lead with a fierce shot that Wollacott does well to save.

KEY STATS

  • Ghana have now one only one of their last five opening group games at the African Cup of Nations
  • That was only Sofiane Boufal’s second international goal - his first came in a 4-1 win over Guinea in World Cup qualifying last year
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