Jonty Mark

By Jonty Mark

Football Editor

Brilliant Bafana stun Morocco to reach AFCON quarterfinals

Teboho Mokoena's superb stoppage time free kick sealed an amazing win.

Evidence Makgopa answered his critics in the best possible fashion as Bafana Bafana stunned Morocco 2-0 to march into the Africa Cup of Nations quarterfinals at the Stade Laurent Pokou in San Pedro on Tuesday.

Makgopa struck the decisive goal in what was a fantastic rearguard action from Hugo Broos’ side, who fended off everything the Atlas Lions threw at them. The game was truly up when Sofyane Amrabat was sent off in stoppage time for a foul on the tireless Teboho Mokoena and the same player picked himself up to curl a brilliant free kick past Bono in the Morocco goal.

This was a result to match and even better Bafana’s last 16 win over Egypt in Cairo in 2019. Walid Regragui’s side, after all, came into this tournament as World Cup semifinalists and the number one side in Africa.

They were left to rue a missed penalty by Achraf Hakimi after Makgopa’s goal, but in truth, they didn’t test Bafana captain Ronwen Williams nearly enough. It was a heroic display from Bafana at the back, with Mothobi Mvala and Grant Kekana both brilliant in the heart of their defence.

Broos was able to name exactly the same starting XI for the third game in a row, with Khuliso Mudau recovering from a knock he picked up in the goalless draw with Tunisia that sealed Bafana’s passage to the last 16.

Morocco weren’t quite so fortunate with their injuries, Hakim Ziyech missing out on a place in the squad after limping off at half time against Zambia. That meant a chance for Amine Adli, a talented winger playing fot Bayer Leverkusen in the German Bundesliga.

And it was down the right wing that the Atlas Lions threatened the most in the first half, with Adli and Achraf Hakimi giving Aubrey Modiba plenty of problems.

In the 9th minute, Hakimi cut in from the right and got in a shot but Mvala was there to block, as he did again two minutes later as Adli fired at goal.

Bafana have shown a willingness to abandon a passing game for a more pragmatic long ball approach in this tournament and after just three minutes Makgopa looked like he might burst away from the Atlas Lions defence, but Nayef Aguerd got back to see off the danger.

In the 15th minute, Mokoena tested Bono in the Morocco goal with a fizzing long-range effort, which the Atlas Lions ‘keeper made a bit of a meal of turning behind for a corner.

Modiba was booked for a rash challenge on Hakimi, but Morocco’s players were showing some frustration, especially Hakimi who was lucky to escape a booking for taking his anger out on the assistant referee.

Bafana were generally defending superbly, snapping into challenges and giving Morocco little time on the ball. They did let Adli in on the stroke of half time as Modiba slipped over, but from a good position he ended up scuffing an effort wide.

Morocco came out fired up after the break, and Youssef En-Nesyri set up Azz-Eddine Ounahi, but he fired a good chance over the bar.

Bafana looked a laboured with their passing, but all of a sudden they cut through the Morocco defence. Makgopa burst onto a fine pass from Themba Zwane and drilled a finish past Bono. The goal stood after a VAR check showed the Pirates striker was inches onside.

Morocco laid siege to the Bafana goal for the rest of the game. Substitute Ayoub El Kaabi headed Sofyane Amrabat’s cross over the bar in the 74th minute, and the same player was involved in the penalty incident nine minutes from time, his shot striking Mvala on the arm, with the referee awarding a penalty after consulting a video replay.

Hakimi, however, struck the spot kick against the top of the crossbar.

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