Morocco pay the penalty as Benin fairytale continues

Benin players celebrate a goal scored by Moise Adilehou of Benin during the 2019 Africa Cup of Nations Finals last 16 match between Morocco and Benin at the Al Salam Stadium in Cairo, Egypt on 05 July 2019 © Ryan Wilkisky/BackpagePix

Benin qualified for the quarter finals of the Africa Cup of Nations (AFCON) for the first time in their history after shocking favourites Morocco 4-1 on post-match penalties after a 1-1 stalemate in regulation time at the Al Salam Stadium in Cairo on Friday evening.

Les Écureuils scored their penalties through Olivier Verdon, David Djilga, Anane Tidjani and Seibeou Mama. The Atlas Lions on their end scored only one of their penalties through Oussama Idrissi.

The team’s most dependable players in attack Sofiane Boufal and Youssef En-Nessyri both missed as Morocco paid the penalty for their complacency.

Benin only qualified to the round of 16 after a final day 0-0 draw with defending champions Cameroon squeezed them through as one of the best four third placed teams.

Morocco Head coach Herve Renard’s hope of making history by becoming the first coach to win the AFCON title with three different teams came up in smoke as his Moroccan outfit came short of expectation.

The North Africans should have themselves to blame after they won a penalty in the final minute of regulation time, but star winger Hakim Ziyech saw his kick come off the outside of the post. A rush challenge from skipper Stephane Sessegnon on En-Nessyri saw the referee point straight to the spot.

Benin had broken the deadlock early in the second half, shocking the former champions when Moise Adilehou found the target. Benin had pressed Morocco in their own half for most of the first half and in the second 45, when they had a chance to punish, they did it with ease.

However, Morocco turned the pressure on Benin to get a goal that would tilt them back in contention and they were rewarded in the 76th minute when Jordan Adeoti was dispossessed of the ball at the edge of the box by skipper M’bark Boussoufa.

The skipper played a one time pass to En-Nessyri who made no mistake from the edge of the box to shoot low past keeper Owolabi Kassifa. With the game level, Morocoo pressured Benin and forced them to play on the back foot.

They would have avoided all the pressure of extra time penalties had Ziyech converted with virtually the last kick of the game.

Morocco were handed more advantage with 13 minutes left to play in added time when Benin’s Abdou Adenon was sent off for a second bookable offence, but they couldn’t break a strong defensive line set up by Les Écureuils.

What they said

Stephane Sessegnon (Total Man of the Match)

We are very proud with that feat. We knew we were going to suffer against Morocco today but at the end we won despite playing for long time with 10 players.

Michel Dussuyer (Coach, Benin)

I’m very proud with my team. We had a difficult challenge. Morocco is a very strong team but we prepared well mentally and luck was on our side tonight. Playing with a man less was difficult, and we will try to make amends for Khaled Adenon who will miss next game. I try to teach my players winning philosophy to go further. I thank my boys for the great efforts they did tonight and also thank those who came to support us. We dream of victories every day and I believe we can continue this beautiful dream.

Herve Renard (Coach, Morocco)

I’m responsible for this defeat. I salute Benin for winning. They played according to a specific strategy and it worked, meanwhile we didn’t find solutions. We could have won but we failed. We had great expectations but always had difficulties against those who adopted defensive style. I believe all the players did their best and I cannot blame them. I was in Morocco for three and half years but now we have to go back home and think of the coming period. I thank the supporters who stood behind us from day one and we have to move forward and remember the positive things.