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AFCON U-17: Late comeback sees Senegal overtake Morocco for first U-17 title

Morocco took a one-goal lead into the final ten minutes but a remarkable final surge from Senegal saw Les Lionceaux score two goals to snatch the trophy in Friday’s 2023 Africa U-17 Cup of Nations final in Algiers. Morocco captain Abdelhamid Ait Boudlal nodded in the opening goal before fifteen minutes elapsed but a penalty kick from Serigne Fallou Diouf was soon followed by a header from Mamadou Sawané to complete a stunning comeback from the Senegalese. With their first ever AFCON U-17 trophy, Senegal continue their dominance of African men’s football at all levels and are now the reigning champions of the U-17, U-20 and senior levels as well as the African Nations Championship (CHAN).

Senegal were flying high heading into Friday’s showdown but it was the Moroccan team who looked prepared for the occasion. The Atlas Cubs attacked early and were rewarded for their assertive approach in the 14th minute. A corner kick service from Abdelhamid Maali was directed to the six-yard box and Ait Boudlal leaped to head into the goal while Senegal goalkeeper Serigne Diouf grasped at air.

From then on it appeared that Ait Boudlal’s goal would be all Morocco and their strong defense needed. Senegal hardly threatened and playmaker Amara Diouf was marked out of the match for long stretches. However in the final twenty minutes Les Lionceaux finally came to life and a moment of fortune fell their way in the 76th minute when a header flicked into the Moroccan penalty area came off the hand of Ait Boudlal. The Video Assistant Referee confirmed a penalty kick and Amara Diouf notably passed the ball to central defender Fallou Diouf who sent Morocco keeper Taha Benrhozil the wrong way on his spot kick to equalize.

With momentum on their side, Senegal pushed forward and won a corner kick in the 83rd minute that brought the decisive moment. In a moment similar to Ait Boudlal’s opening goal, Sawané beat an onrushing Benrhozil to the service from Amara Diouf and powered his header into the goal to complete a dramatic comeback and a victory for Senegal in their first ever appearance in the AFCON U-17 final.

Highlights from the final are below.

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