Quickfire goals from El Mehdi El Moubarik, Mohammed Amine Essahel and Ayoub Mouloua handed Morocco a 3-0 victory over Tanzania at the Olympic Stadium in Nouakchott on Monday to finish top of Group C and progress to the quarter finals of the Total Under-20 Africa Cup of Nations (AFCON).
The young Atlas Lions scored all their goals within the opening 13 minutes of the game as they affirmed a place in the last eight where they will take on Tunisia in a North African derby on Friday in Nouadhibou.
Tanzania’s Ngorongoro Heroes ended up with just a point from their draw with Gambia and exit the competition after finishing bottom of the group
They were second best to the Moroccans at the Olympic Stadium in a match which they played while still within the hope of qualifying for the last eight.
El Moubarik broke the deadlock after just four minutes, scoring from the penalty spot after Essahel was hacked down inside the box by Tanzanian centre half Laurent Laurent.
Four minutes later, they were 2-0 up when Essahel easily tapped into an empty net after Tanzanian keeper Daniel Mgore was drawn to the near post in an aim to cut out Tawfik Bentayeb’s cross from the left.
The Moroccans continued their emphatic start to the match and they were 3-0 up in the 13th minute when Mouloua strode into the box after being played through with a ball planted behind the defense to beat keeper Mgore one on one.
From then on, the Moroccans seemed to be taking it easy and slapped the ball around the park with comfort as Tanzania tried to fight for pride.
They had their chance in the 28th minute when Ben Starkie raced to a cross from Novatus Dismas, but his glancing header was kept out by a strong left hand from Moroccan keeper Alaa Bellarouch.
The Tanzanians kept knocking and playing the balls to the Moroccan half, but couldn’t get the key to unlock the backline and pinch one goal back.
In the second half, the CECAFA region representatives made changes to their personnel, Starkie and Rajab Athumani coming off for Kelvin John and Kassim Haruna.
They were more solid in midfield and had more chances moving forward, but still couldn’t provide much danger. Their closest chance was in the 57th minute when Nassor Hamoud glanced in a header from Pascal Msindo’s cross but it went just wide.
In the 66th minute, Morocco keeper Bellarouch made a full stretched diving save to pick out a well taken left footer from Hamoud.
The Tanzanians kept the pressure, but couldn’t grab one goal to salvage their pride.
What they said:
Man of the match Morocco striker Ayoub Mouloua
I feel happy to be named the man of the match but this award is for all the players and coaches because we did this as a team. We play each game differently and that is why we have good results from every match. Today we are happy to win and I promise the people of Morocco that we will try to go as far as possible in this competition.
Aboub Zakaria, Morocco head coach
It was a good win today and the players responded well technically, tactically and we were successful in the match. We are happy to go into the quarter finals and we are ready for it. We know we will play Tunisia in a Maghreb Derby but it is football an you have to be ready for everyone.
Jamhuri Kihwelo, Tanzania head coach
Today we came in determined to try and get something from the match because we knew we had a chance but unlucky that we couldn’t get a result. Our problem in this tournament has been that we concede early goals and as we saw today, it was very tough to come back from 3-0 down.
But we leave with our heads high because this was our very first time and we have played against teams which have been in this competition before and are experienced.