U23 AFCON: Host Morocco Rally Late To Beat Guinea 2-1 In Group Opener

Hosts Morocco showcased their determination and fighting spirit as they rallied from a goal down to secure a hard-fought 2-1 victory over Guinea in the opening Group A match of the CAF U23 Africa Cup of Nations (AFCON) 2023.

Skipper Abdessamad Ezzalzouli converted two second-half penalties to hand the home side a perfect start at the Prince Moulay Abdellah Sports Complex in Rabat on Saturday evening.

In what promised to be an enthralling contest, debutants Guinea started the game on a strong note, displaying dominance and control over the proceedings.

With the clock ticking down and just two minutes remaining in the first half, it was Guinea who drew first blood. Algassime Bah capitalized on a free-kick opportunity from outside the box, striking the ball with precision and finding the back of the net despite Bellaarouch’s valiant effort to keep it out.

However, Morocco’s skipper Abdessamad Ezzalzouli came agonizingly close to breaking the deadlock midway through the first half, narrowly missing the target with his attempt.

The Moroccan team emerged from the halftime break with renewed determination and purpose as it continued to assert their dominance, creating several scoring opportunities.

However, Morocco’s relentless pressure eventually paid off in the 67th minute when Ezzalzouli was brought down inside the box, resulting in a penalty. The composed captain stepped up and coolly converted the spot-kick.

With the momentum firmly in their favour, the Moroccan side persistently attacked, while Guinea attempted to hold their ground defensively.

In the dying moments of the match, after extensive consultation with the VAR team, Guinea conceded another penalty in the fifth minute of added time. Ezzalzouli once again displayed nerves of steel as he confidently dispatched the penalty, securing a 2-1 lead for his team.

In a dramatic turn of events, Guinea’s Naby Youssouf Oulare momentarily believed he had salvaged a draw for his team in the final moments of the match. However, the goal was ultimately disallowed after consultation with the VAR team.

Action in the U23 AFCON continues on Sunday (today) with Ghana taking on Congo Brazzaville in a Group A clash.

Defending champions Egypt lock horns with Niger. Additionally, in Group B matches held in Tangier, Mali squares off against Gabon in what promises to be an exhilarating encounter.

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