Title holders Morocco were held to a goalless draw by a stubborn Rwanda side in Group C of the TOTAL African Nations Championship (CHAN) match in Cameroon on Friday.
The Atlas Lions, who won their opening match 1-0 against Togo, failed to show their prowess and effectiveness as they were frustrated by a defensive-minded Rwanda side at the Reunification Stadium in Douala.
Striker Walid El Karti and Ayoud El Kaabi spurned some decent scoring chances for the Atlas Lions in both halves of the game, destroying their chances of winning the game.
Rwanda’s only effort at goal came when playmaker Muhadjiri Hakizimana’s long range effort was tipped over by the agile Moroccan goalkeeper Anas Zniti who was virtually on holiday.
The Atlas Lions struggled in their quest to impose their style on the Amavubi who packed a lot of players in the midfield making it impossible for the North African to find opportunities by the half hour mark.
Yahya Jabrane and Abdel Karim Baadi had their shots blocked early in the game for Morocco which served as a wakeup call for the Amavubi to re-organise their defence.
The brightest chance of the first-half fell to the Rwandans when against the run play playmaker Muhadjiri Hakizimana found some opening in midfield and fired from 40 yards in the 34th minute.
Morocco goalkeeper Anas Zniti produced a fantastic one-hand save by tipping the ball over to prevent Amavubi from opening the scoring after Atlas Lions dominated the exchanges in the early parts of the game.
The best chance for the North Africans came moments later when Walid El Karti found some space at the edge of the box but was robbed of the ball by the alert Rwanda defender Rashid Kalisa as the striker prepared to pull the trigger.
The defending champions came back strongly after the break determined to push forward to create more opportunities.
Morocco skipper El Kaabi had his shot blocked by Rwanda’s goalkeeper Olivier Kwizera after 52 minutes as the Lions pilled pressure on the East Africans.
Rwanda’s technical bench later replaced the less effective striker Ernest Sugira bringing on Bertrand Irahukunda yet the Amavubi were unable to create any opportunities in attack.
The 2016 quarter finalists Rwanda continued to hold the Morocco team, restricting them to few chances at goal.
El Karti failed to finish for Morocco from close range, while frustrated striker El Kaabi was booked for a bad foul. Rwanda also had Oliver Nyonzima booked.
The draw keeps Morocco top of the group with four points, while Rwanda who drew with Uganda 0-0 in their previous game, are second on two points.
The second game in the group will be played later on Friday between Uganda and Togo.
Morocco will play Uganda in their final group game at the Stade de la Réunification in Douala on Tuesday while Rwanda travel to Limbe to face Togo in the matches that will be played simultaneously.
Houcine Ammouta (Coach, Morocco)
We dominated possession but we accept the result. Rwanda has a quality and tactically disciplined team. There is no easy game To score, you have to have the ball and create space. Regarding Ayoub El Kaabi, I have no worries, he has not scored but he works for the team, we will give him confidence so that he finds his normal performance again.
Vincent Mashami (Coach, Rwanda)
I'm happy with the result, we had the means to win this match, and my young players were heroic. We missed a lot of chances, it shows that we are progressing slowly but surely. We're not going to calculate what to do to qualify. We have to win the next, qualification is now within our reach. We must not have any regrets so let’s be conquerors.