Hakim Ziyech sends Morocco through at Africa Cup of Nations

By Sports Desk January 24, 2024

Hakim Ziyech fired Morocco into the last 16 of the Africa Cup of Nations as Group F winners after a 1-0 victory over Zambia.

The Chelsea midfielder, currently on loan at Turkish club Galatasaray, scored the game’s only goal at Stade Laurent Pokou in San Pedro with an emphatic finish seven minutes before the break.

That was enough to clinch the three points and top place with DR Congo claiming runners-up spot following a 0-0 draw with Tanzania, meaning Zambia’s involvement is over.

In a tight start to the game, Morocco defender Achraf Hakimi and Zambia striker Patson Daka both took aim, but could not hit the target, and genuine chances were few and far between despite enterprising play from both sides.

Sofiane Boufal twice and Azzedine Ounahi were similarly inaccurate as the beaten World Cup semi-finalists attempted to impose themselves as the half wore on.

Kennedy Musonda tested Morocco keeper Yassine Bounou’s concentration with a 30th-minute strike from distance, but it took a vital touch from defender Frankie Musonda at the other end seconds later to prevent Ismael Saibari from reaching skipper Ziyech’s cross in front of goal.

Zambia were fortunate not to concede 10 minutes before the break when defender Nayef Aguerd headed wide from Ziyech’s cross, but the 30-year-old rammed home the opener within three minutes after keeper Lawrence Mulenga had spilled a low cross.

Mulenga parried Ayoub El Kaabi’s header as Morocco looked to kill the game off, but they headed for the dressing room just a single goal to the good.

Half-time substitute Amine Adli twice forced saves as Walid Regragui’s men continued their search for a second goal after the break, although Lameck Banda came close to an equaliser with 59 minutes gone.

Zambia redoubled their efforts as Morocco tired with Lubambo Musonda shooting just too high and Emmanuel Banda forcing a save with substitute Fashion Sakala causing problems, but there was no way back.

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