Jonty Mark
Football Editor
3 minute read
9 Jun 2022
11:19 pm

Morocco finally break Bafana’s resistance to grab win in Afcon opener

Jonty Mark

Lyle Foster's early opener is not enough for South Africa.

Adam Masina of Morocco is challenged by Thibang Phete of South Africa during the 2023 Africa Cup of Nations qualifier on Thursday. Picture: Nour Akanja/BackpagePix.

Morocco knocked and knocked and eventually charged through Bafana Bafana’s defences on Thursday, coming from behind to win 2-1 in their opening Group K Africa Cup of Nations qualifier in Rabat.

Hugo Broos’ side took an early lead through Lyle Foster, but Morocco then showed their superiority, as they frequently scythed through an inexperienced South African side with ease.

Bafana captain Ronwen Williams was heroic, making several brilliant saves, but could do nothing to stop Youssef En-Nesyri’s effort five minutes into the second half.

And substitute Ayoub El Kaabi had the final say, volleying home with just a few minutes on the clock to give the Atlas Lions the victory.

Broos hasn’t been afraid to throw inexperienced players into the heat of thebattle in his time as Bafana coach, and the Belgian handed debuts in Rabat to Grant Kekana, Taariq Fielies and Sphephelo Sithole.

Fielies and Kekana formed part of a new-look central defensive trio with Thibang Phete, with Mamelodi Sundowns’ Lyle Lakay and Khuliso Mudau the wing backs.

Sithole partnered Orlando Pirates’ Goodman Mosele in the centre of midfield, and it was the former who jumped into the limelight in the eighth minute, sending a sublime ball into the path of Foster, who brushed of Ashraf Hakimi and drilled in a superb low finish.

After that, it was a basically a case of Williams against Morocco, the Bafana goalkeeper pulling off a string of saves to keep South Africa in front.

Sevilla striker En-Nesyri’s header was brilliantly stopped by the Bafana captain at his near post in the 15th minute and soon after that, he pulled off an even better save from the same player.

Hakimi was finding oceans of space down the right, and he fizzed in a cross that just evaded En-Nesyri’s boot.

Williams turned a shot from midfielder Ilias Chair around his post, before another cross from Hakimi was somehow turned away from goal by Phete.

In the last seconds of the first half, Hakimi himself had a chance to score, and he smashed in an effort that looked destined for the far corner of the net but Williams again produced a superb save.

The siege continued into the second half, and Morocco had a handball shout against Fielies turned down by the referee, before the Atlas Lions finally drew level.

Soufiane Amrabat, who was imperious in midfield for much of the match, sent a cross to the back post that was nodded across goal by Morocco captain Roman Saiss, and En-Nesyri this time applied a headed finish from close range.

Broos’ first changes came on the hour mark, with Yusuf Maart and Phathushedzo Nange coming on for Thembinkosi Lorch and Foster.

And the pair did bring a bit of fresh energy to the Bafana side, Maart in particular winning some good challenges.

Still, Morocco continued to pile on the pressure, and Williams produced another great save to keep out a header from substitute Faical Fajr with about 15 minutes left.

Bafana broke almost immediately and Percy Tau did well to set up Maart, but he blazed well over. Tau then also had a chance on counter, but like Maart, he couldn’t keep his effort on target.

It was El Kaabi who had the final say, however, volleying home brilliantly from Amine Harit’s cross.