Morocco won the TOTAL African Nations Championship (CHAN) for the second time by defeating Mali’s 2-0 in the tournament finale in Yaounde on Sunday night.
Moussa Kone fluffed a great chance to put Mali in front midway through the opening half when he found himself one-on-one with goalkeeper Anas Zniti, one of two survivors from the 2018 CHAN-winning team.
But Zniti blocked a shot with his right foot and then grasped the ball to the relief of his defenders, who had been caught cold by a quick lofted pass.
Lone forward Kone came close again when his header off a cross flew narrowly wide at the 40,0000-seat Stade Ahmadou Ahidjo, where the crowd was restricted to 10,000 because of the coronavirus pandemic.
As the first half ended 0-0, Mali coach Nouhoum Diane would have been happier than Moroccan counterpart Houcine Ammouta as the west Africans had largely nullified the threat of Rahimi and his teammates.
A long VAR delay 10 minutes into the second half ended with Moroccan appeals for a penalty being denied and almost immediately Malian Sadio Kanoute nodded just wide off a free-kick.
Kone had another chance to break the deadlock midway through the second half but fired straight at Zniti from close range.
Two second-half headers by Moroccan player Abdelmouna Boutouil and captain Ayoub El Kaabi sealed the victory for the Atlas Lions.
Bouftini scored at the 69th minute. Ten minutes later, Ayoub El Kaabi netted in another header.
Morocco is now the first team to retain the title and also joins the Democratic Republic of Congo in winning the cup twice.
“First of all, I will congratulate Mali and coach Diane Nouhoum for their run in the competition,” said Morocco coach Houcine Ammouta. “Reaching the final is a feat. For us, we came here with a changed team by 65% and a new staff. So it was about writing our own story and winning for ourselves. Today’s final was difficult but we did the essential, won and I believe we meritted victory plus the trophy”.
Morocco went into the title decider as favorites having scored 12 goals against Uganda, Zambia and hosts Cameroon in their previous three matches.