Boufal strikes late to see off Ghana

Morocco kicked off their Africa Cup of Nations campaign on a winning note as they beat Ghana 1-0 at the Ahmadou Ahidjo Stadium on Monday.

The Group C encounter looked to be heading for a goalless draw when Sofiane Boufal popped up with the winner seven minutes from time following good work from Zakaria Aboukhlal to cause problems for the Black Stars inside the box.

Milovan Rajevac’s side bossed possession in the opening stages in Yaounde, although the first couple of chances came the way of the Atlas Lions.

Romain Saiss managed to get on the end of a seventh-minute corner from the right, but the Wolves defender could only steer his header well wide of the left post.

The Moroccans were having increasing success with the high press and Aboukhlal drew a routine save out of Joe Wollacott on 12 minutes after pouncing on a loose pass from Thomas Partey before trying his luck from a long way out.

The West Africans threatened for the first time on 32 minutes when Partey curled a powerful free-kick narrowly over the crossbar from the left, while Selim Amallah went close at the other end two minutes later as he created space for a shot with a sharp turn outside the box, only to drag his left-footed effort well wide of the right post.

The best opportunity of the first half fell to Saiss from a free-kick five minutes before the break, although the Morocco skipper got too much on his flicked header which flashed over the bar.

Joseph Paintsil then looked to give Ghana a halftime lead when he powered his way towards goal from the right flank and lashed the ball over the target from just outside the area on 43 minutes.

The second half was a more cagey affair as both teams struggled to stamp their authority on proceedings.

A counterattack from the North Africans presented Aboukhlal with a chance on 59 minutes, but the AZ Alkmaar striker fired an ambitious shot beyond the near post after being forced wide by Daniel Amartey.

Yassine Bounou came to their rescue on 72 minutes with a superb one-handed save to deny Paintsil from just outside area after the defence failed to clear Kamaldeen Sulemana’s cutback into the danger zone.

Saiss then made a timely intervention to prevent Andre Ayew from getting clean contact on his header from a 75th-minute free-kick on the right, which left the Al-Sadd forward requiring medical attention following a clash of heads.

It proved crucial as Vahid Halilhodzic’s men struck seven minutes from time. Aboukhlal made his way into the area from the right and Boufal reacted quickest to a ricochet off a Ghana player to beat Wollacott from just outside the small box.

Morocco (0) 1 (Boufal 83′)

Ghana (0)

Morocco: Bounou, Hakimi, Saiss, Aguerd, Masina, Mmaee, Ounahi (Amrabat 90′), Amallah, Louza (Tissoudali 78′), Boufal, Aboukhlal (Rahimi 90′).

Ghana: Wollacott, Yiadom, Amartey, Djiku, Rahman, Partey, Baba, Paintsil (Issahaku 86′), A. Ayew, Sulemana (Kyereh 86′), J. Ayew (Tetteh 86′).

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