AFCON 2021: Morocco qualifies for knockout stage, Ghana in danger of elimination

Zakaria Aboukhlal of Morocco celebrates scoring their second goal during Morocco against Comoros, African Cup of Nations, at Ahmadou Ahidjo Stadium on January 14, 2022. (Photo by Ulrik Pedersen/NurPhoto via Getty Images)

Morocco booked their place in the last 16 of the 2021 Africa Cup of Nations following a 2-0 victory against Comoros Islands in their Group C encounter at the Ahmadou Ahidjo Stadium on Friday.

Goals from Selim Amallah and Zakaria Aboukhlal in either half gave the Atlas Lions a win despite forward Youssef En Nesyri missing a penalty eight minutes from the end of normal time.

Zakaria Aboukhlal of Morocco celebrates scoring their second goal during Morocco against Comoros at the Africa Cup of Nations, at Ahmadou Ahidjo Stadium. /Getty Images

The score would have been greater for Morocco but a failure to convert their chances and an inspired performance from Comoros goalkeeper Salim Ben Boina saw Morocco’s margin of victory remain lower.

Meanwhile, four-time champions Ghana’s hopes of qualifying for the last 16 hang in the balance, after a late equalizer saw Gabon hold them to a 1-1 draw in an ill-tempered match at the same venue later on Friday.

Gabon were missing the services of three players, including captain Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang, who were not allowed to play by the Confederation of African Football (CAF) despite coming out of COVID-19 isolation.

“Medical examinations show cardiac lesions and CAF did not want to take any risks,” the Gabon Football Federation said.

Ghanaian captain Andre Ayew gave the Black Stars the lead in the 18th minute after he turned exquisitely and fired a low left-footed shot from outside the box.

However, despite not posing a serious threat for most of the game, Gabon leveled the tie in the 88th minute through Jim Allevinah’s angled finish.

The tensions between the two sides during the match, which was marked by some robust tackles, reached their boiling point after a scuffle ensued after the whistle.

Ghana’s Benjamin Tetteh was shown a red card for throwing a punch in the scuffle, though he had already run off to the changing rooms.

Morocco leads Group C with six points from two matches, followed by Gabon with four points. Ghana has one point while Comoros are pointless.

Ghana needs to win their last game against Comoros on Tuesday and hope Gabon lose heavily against Morocco in order to secure second place. If not, a win could still see them through as one of the four best third-placed finishers.

(Story compiled with assistance from wire reports)