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2023 AFCONQ: Morocco spoil Bafana upset bid with comeback; Ivory Coast fail to break down Lesotho bunker

Morocco faced a stern challenge in Rabat from South Africa but the Atlas Lions overcame an early deficit to win 2-1 in their opening 2023 AFCON qualifying fixture. Lyle Foster put Bafana Bafana ahead inside the opening ten minutes but Youssef En-Nesyri equalized in the 51st minute before substitute Ayoub El Kaabi won it for the hosts with an excellent strike on the volley in the 87th minute. Elsewhere, heavy favorites Ivory Coast failed to score in Johannesburg against Lesotho and were forced to settle for a 0-0 draw.

South Africa got off to a dream start, scoring on their only shot attempt of the first half after a brilliant through pass from Sphephelo Sithole sent Foster in on goal. The Westerlo striker kept his composure and held off the challenge of Achraf Hakimi before firing past Yassine Bounou in the Moroccan goal. Morocco unleashed a barrage of shots to test Bafana Bafana keeper Ronwen Williams but the SuperSport United player did excellently to come up with several great saves to preserve South Africa’s lead until halftime.

However, it seemed a matter of time before a leveler came and Youssef En-Nesryi provided it for the home support after a 51st minute lofted ball from Sofyan Amrabat found Romain Saïss at the far post. Saïss nodded the ball across the six-yard box where the Sevilla striker headed home. The visitors had their moments where they were able to create chances as Morocco pressed high but in the end it was the Atlas Lions who found the winner. A giveaway in the midfield from South Africa’s Yusuf Maart led to a Moroccan counter-attack and Amine Harit’s cross found El Kaabi for a clean volley from eight yards out past Williams.

Elsewhere, in Group H a stubborn Lesotho side held 2023 AFCON hosts Ivory Coast to a 0-0 draw. Lesotho had only 14% possession throughout the match but made it incredibly difficult for Les Éléphants to find a breakthrough. Goalkeeper Sekhoane Moerane turned in an excellent performance along with with his defense with saves on a Max Gradel free kick as well as denying Serge Aurier’s header in the opening twenty minutes. Lesotho shut down the Ivorian attack even further in the second half and had their one chance to find a goal right after halftime but Sera Motebang blasted his shot off target.

Ivory Coast are top of Group H with four points, one ahead of Zambia and Comoros. Morocco will stay at home and make a short trip to Casablanca for their second match on Monday against Liberia, whose home fixture is in the country due to lacking a suitable stadium by CAF standards. South Africa will wait until September for back-to-back games against Liberia.

Highlights from both games are below.

Morocco 2-1 South Africa

Lesotho 0-0 Ivory Coast


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