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U-23 AFCON: Ezzalzouli double gives hosts Morocco a winning start

The 2023 U-23 Africa Cup of Nations kicked off in Rabat on Saturday evening with a thrilling 2-2 draw between hosts Morocco and Guinea to begin play in Group A. Algassime Bah put Guinea into the lead with the final touch of the first half before the hosts equalized in the second half through a penalty kick from FC Barcelona attacker Ade Ezzalzouli, who completed the comeback with a second penalty in second half stoppage time. Morocco will clash with Ghana in their second match on Tuesday while Guinea face Republic of Congo.

Morocco featured a talented side led by Ezzalzouli and Belgian-based playmaker Bilal El Khannous but it was a slow start for the hosts against a Guinea team who proved themselves as a formidable opponent. A dreary first half ended in delight for the Guinean team who took the lead with the final touch of the half when Bah’s free kick snuck under Morocco goalkeeper Alaa Bellaarouch.

The hosts settled into the match and took control in the second half. Ezzalzouli set up the equalizer with a dribbling run down the left flank before being tripped by Guinea defender Bangali Cissé for a penalty kick. Ezzalzouli, who enjoyed a fruitful loan spell with Osasuna in the recently completed La Liga season, fired past keeper Mory Keïta from the spot.

An eventful period of second half stoppage time saw the match end with on a dramatic note. The Video Assistant Referee identified a handball committed by a Guinean defender at the edge of the penalty area, resulting in Ezzalzouli’s second penalty to put Morocco ahead in the eighth minute of time added on. It appeared Naby Oularé had snatched a stunning equalizer soon after for Guinea but VAR intervened again to rule the goal out for a foul committed on Bellaarouch to spare the blushes of the hosts.

Highlights from the opening match are below.

Morocco 2-1 Guinea: Highlights

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