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Favourites Morocco make winning start at Cup of Nations

MOROCCO underlined their status as pre-tournament favourites by beating 10-man Tanzania 3-0 to make a winning start to their Africa Cup of Nations campaign as Group F got underway at the Laurent Pokou Stadium on Wednesday.

Captain Romain Saiss scored a rare goal to put the World Cup semi-finalists ahead at halftime with Azzedine Ounahi and Youssef En-Nesyri adding two more in the space of three second-half minutes to emphasise their dominance, especially after Tanzania had Novatus Miroshi sent off after a second caution.

The convincing scoreline matched the three-goal victory for holders Senegal over the Gambia on Monday, as the continent’s top-ranked sides showed why they are the teams most fancied for success at the tournament in the Ivory Coast.

Saiss reacted quickest after Hakim Ziyech’s free-kick had been parried away to score his third goal in 80 caps. Goalkeeper Aishi Manula was caught by the swerving effort, moving the wrong way before recovering to stop it with Saiss following up for a simple finish.

Morocco’s second in the 77th minute came with all the confidence and aplomb earned from their achievements over the last 14 months, including reaching the last four in Qatar and then beating Brazil in a friendly.

After a series of clever short passes to the edge of the Tanzania penalty area, Ounahi played a one-two with Amine Adli before placing the ball into the corner of the net.

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Ziyech set up En-Nesyri for the third in the 80th minute but it was initially ruled offside. While VAR checked the goal, En-Nesyri was substituted and seated on the bench when the decision was reversed and his celebrating teammates swamped him.

“It was no easy game with the heat and humidity but we did it in a calm and unhurried manner with the players applying themselves with patience. They played well and I’m happy with the result,” said Morocco coach Walid Regragui.

Left-back Miroshi, who played in the Champions League for Shakhtar Donetsk earlier in the season, was sent off for a second caution in the 70th minute. He was also red-carded in November when Morocco beat Tanzania 2-0 in Dar-es-Salaam in a 2026 World Cup qualifier.

Morocco’s lineup on Wednesday was dominated by the regulars who had helped them become the first African side to reach the World Cup semis in late 2022 while Tanzania fielded two non-league players from England in their side. Left-sided attacker Tarryn Allarakhia from Wealdstone was taken off exhausted after 38 minutes.

The Democratic Republic of Congo and their southern neighbour Zambia were playing later on Wednesday in the other Group F game in San Pedro.

By MARK GLEESON

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