• The Atlas Lions of Morocco beat Mali 2-0 to become the first nation to win successive African Nations Championship titles.
By Beng Emmanuel
Defending champions Morocco scored two second half goals from corner-kicks to beat Mali and become the first nation to win successive African Nations Championship titles.
The Atlas Lions are now the second most successful team in the history of the competition with two CHAN trophies, a record previously held by the Democratic Republic of Congo until now. In 2018 they won the tournament on home soil.
Soufiane Bouftini opened the scoring with a towering header after he was left unmarked from a corner-kick before Ayoub El Kaabi sealed the win with his third goal in the competition.
But it wasn’t a win that came easy. Both teams couldn’t create any glaring goal scoring chance within the opening ten minutes of the first half although Morocco dominated possession forcing Mali to bury themselves in their own half.
Ayoub El Kaabi got the first chance of the game but he headed Abdelilah Hafidi cross wide. Morocco continued to mount pressure on their opponents and almost came close to scoring when Soufiane Rahimi bent his free-kick through Mali’s wall but Djigui Diarra produced a fine save to keep it out.
Mali came out of their shell and gained momentum in the game. Moussa Kone escaped an offside trap set-up by Morocco’s defence but couldn’t beat Anas Zniti on a face-to-face. They created panic each time they streamed upfront as the Atlas Lions seemingly began to yield to the pressure from the Eagles.
Moussa Kyabou was a continues threat to the Moroccans especially from the left side of their defence. He produced some rare moments of magic before he crossed a fine cutback for Moussa Ballo who was unable to fix a decent header to give his team the lead before the break.
Mali didn’t drop in intensity but Morocco were more daring than they ended the first half. They put up a lively and inspiring second half display but lacked precision in their finishes in some early attempts.
Both teams were determined to find a much desired breakthrough although they kept wasting the few chances available. At the 56th minute Mali’s Sadio Kanoute rose highest to head Issake Samake’s free-kick, unfortunately he failed to hit target.
Moussa Kone should have done much better when he got an excellent control of the ball within Morocco’s area but his low drive went straight at the keeper.
They will later regret not making good use of their previous attempt when Soufiane Bouftini headed home from Omar Namsaoui’s inch perfect corner kick to open the scoring at the 69th minute before Ayoub El Kaabi sealed the win with another header ten (10) minutes later.
Mali’s misfortunes continued when Issaka Samake was sent off with a red card after a review with the Video assistant referee deep into extra-time.
It is the second time that Mali have lost the final of the CHAN after 2016 when the lost to eventual winners the Democratic Republic of Congo
Morocco finished the tournament unbeaten in six games. They scored an incredible fifteen (15) goals conceding only three times. They will defend their title during the next edition in Algeria 2022.
They did not only retain the trophy but also won the best player and top scorer award for the second successive time as Soufiane Rahimi won both awards having scored five goals in the tournament.
Mali 0-2 Morocco