Morocco eases to 3-0 win over Tanzania in Africa Cup opener

Morocco’s Romain Saiss, centre, celebrates with teammates after scoring his side’s opening goal during the African Cup of Nations Group F soccer match
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By AP

Morocco

Youssef En-Nesyri had to wait until he was on the substitutes’ bench before celebrating a goal that helped Morocco seal a 3-0 win over Tanzania in their opening Africa Cup of Nations game on Wednesday.

En-Nesyri’s celebrations were initially cut short by the offside flag after he scored his team’s third goal in the 80th minute. He had already made way for substitute Amine Harit to go on in his place before a VAR check confirmed he had been onside for Achraf Hakimi’s cross.

It prompted En-Nesyri’s teammates to rush to the Moroccan bench to congratulate the Sevilla forward.

“We’re happy because you always have to start well,” Morocco coach Walid Regragui said.

In the end, it was a comfortable win for the “Atlas Lions,” one of the pre-tournament favorites after reaching the World Cup semifinals in Qatar.

Romain Saïss opened the scoring in the 30th minute when he was quickest to the rebound after Aishi Manula saved Hakim Ziyech’s free kick from just outside the penalty area.

Morocco initially met stiff resistance from the “Taifa Stars,” who failed to have a single effort at goal in the first half. They managed two in the second half.

But any Tanzanian hopes of an upset were dealt a blow in the 70th, when Novatus Miroshi was sent off with his second yellow card for a foul. He became the third player to be shown a red card at the tournament.

Azzedine Ounahi sealed the win seven minutes later after playing a one-two with Amine Adli and striking a low shot inside the left post, three minutes before En-Nesyri had the final say.

“The players applied what we wanted,” Regragui said. “We’re capable of attacking, we’re capable of waiting. We have several weapons, several strings to our bow. It’s good. We have people on the bench. Now we have to grow during the competition.”

An opening win will settle any nerves among Regragui’s players, with the pressure now on other big teams like Ghana, Egypt, Nigeria, Cameroon and Algeria after failing to win their first games. Only the first two teams in each group are assured of reaching the knockout stage.

“You can see that temperature and humidity will play an important role in this competition,” Regragui said of the playing conditions so far in Ivory Coast. “We’re learning how to play with this temperature, we know that there will be strong periods, weak periods. We’ll have to accept not having possession from time to time, to be able to manage the efforts.”

Congo was to play Zambia in the other Group F game in San Pedro later.

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