With the two teams only playing for pride it was the north Africans who came out on top to deny their opponents their first ever AFCON point

Morroco go home despite win

Morocco left it late to secure their first win of their Afcon campaign, triumphing over a respectable Niger side 1-0 in Libreville.

Eric Gerets made seven changes to his side following the Atlas Lions’ 3-2 loss to Tunisia, bringing in Marouane Chamakh and Mbark Boussoufa in an attempt to give his side more firepower.

However it was Younes Belhanda who proved to be the difference as his 79th minute strike ensured that Morocco finished the tournament with a positive.

Morocco enjoyed the better start and Boussoufa’s piercing runs led to the creation of his side’s first opportunity. Belhanda’s cross from the right flank was eventually knocked down for Houssine Kharja but he opted for placement over power and sliced his effort well off target.

The Atlas Lions remained on top for the rest of the half but lacked potency in the final third. Youssouf Hadji and Chamakh both saw their touch fail them when in goal scoring opportunities in the opening thirty minutes.

Morocco had played some slick passing football and when Boussoufa slipped in Badr El Kaddouri in the 34th minute it looked like he would score his first international goal. However, Kassaly Daouda rushed out and stayed big to save well.

Three minutes later Niger almost took a shock lead. Moussa Maazou cushioned a high ball down with his thigh and unleashed a swerving volley on the spin. Mohamed Amsif was rooted to the spot and would have been pleased to see the strike scrape off the top of his crossbar.

It was the Mena who came closest again next within two minutes of the restart. Abdoul Lancina’s wickedly struck free kick had Amsif scrambling across the goal, clawing the ball away and avoiding what would have been a superb goal.

The Atlas Lions slowly regained their dominance but did not test Daouda again until the 58th minute. Belhanda showed great skill before laying the ball on for Boussoufa but his effort was far too weak and was saved easily.

Belhanda had been Morocco’s best player and broke the deadlock with a controversial goal in the 79th minute.

The Nigeriens were convinced Chamakh was offside when he received the ball in the box. The Arsenal striker played on and supplied the ball for a sliding Belhanda to fire an emphatic finish into the roof of the net.

Niger did well to keep the difference to just a single goal as they thwarted Belhanda and Mehdi Carcela-Gonzalez in the final stages of the match.

Despite their win Morocco follow Niger out of the tournament and both sides will now turn their attention to challenging for qualification for the 2014 World Cup in Brazil.

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