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AFCON U-17: Morocco comes back to edge Mali in penalty kicks, advances to final

Mali had two penalty kick attempts on Sunday to snatch a spot in the final of the 2023 Africa U-17 Cup of Nations but Morocco goalkeeper Taha Benrhozil saved both spot kicks before Fouad Zahouani converted the winning kick in a 6-5 penalty kick shootout victory. The teams were left deadlocked after a 0-0 draw through ninety minutes but after defending for most of the match, Morocco kept their nerve in the penalty shootout and advanced courtesy of Benrhozil’s heroics. Morocco will face Senegal in the final on Friday while Mali clash with Burkina Faso in the third place match on Thursday.

There was little excitement in the ninety minutes preceding the penalty kick shootout. Mali kept the Moroccan team trapped in their own end for long stretches but Les Aiglonnets could not find a way past the well organized Atlas Lion Cubs. Set pieces were the closest both teams came to scoring in the first half with Mali midfielder Ange Martial Tia’s free kick hitting the crossbar in the 31st minute a few minutes after Morocco came close from a corner kick.

The trend continued in the second half. Mali captain Ibrahim Diarra sent a direct free kick off the post in the 49th minute and Morocco midfielder Adam Chakir volleyed a Mohamed Radouane free kick service off the cross bar close to the hour mark.

Penalty kicks were the only way to separate the teams and Mali got off to an excellent start after converting their first three spot kicks while Morocco failed to score on their second and third attempts. However, Ibrahim Kanate and Diarra saw their efforts saved by Benrhozil while Morocco converted to require extra penalties. After both teams scored on their sixth and seventh attempts it was Mali who blinked first when Gaoussou Koné was denied by Benrhozil, setting up Zahouani to win it for Morocco by firing just beyond Mali keeper Bourama Koné.

Highlights and the penalty shootout are below.

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