Second half surge enough for Morocco to take top spot in group A

youngster Nesryne El Chad impressed for the hosts against Uganda. Photo from CAF/WAFCON

Two penalties won by Rosella Ayane either side of another goal following a Ghizlane Chebbak freekick was enough to see Morocco past a plucky Uganda side. The victory puts Morocco into their first-ever Women’s Africa Cup of Nations knockout phase and top of group A.

Stuttering Morocco rely on penalties

For the second successive game, the Atlas Lionesses struggled to impose themselves on much smaller opposition and were unable to score from open play.

Reynold Pedros is really disappointed with the team’s performance in the first half. Their only shot came when Ayane won and scored a penalty. But aside from that play they were toothless and Uganda created the better chances.

After another excellent goal from a Chebbak freekick, the Moroccans won the game thanks to a very contentious penalty decision.

Goal scorer Sumaya Komuntale is chased by Ayane. The left-back’s stray arm caught Ayane who went down and won her team the penalty which killed the game. Adding insult to injury, Komuntale was sent off for a second booking.

The hosts were certainly improved in the second half, but it is hard to say whether the difference was quality or simply that they can call upon a deep team full of professionals, unlike their opponents.

Their play was not fluid, with the wide players really struggling to get involved in the play. But the real issue facing the Atlas Lionesses is the lack of a proper holding midfielder. All three of their midfielders prefer to be higher up the pitch, and so they struggle to impose themselves on a match and move the ball from back to front.

The positives for the Moroccans lie still in their set-pieces. Chebbak’s freekick put the ball on a plate for Nesryne El Chad to glance home the winner.

Alongside that, Rosella Ayane’s willing running and tenacity will always bring the Atlas Lionesses chances. She still hasn’t quite found her goal scoring touch and has come very close to scoring on multiple occasions, but her movement has repeatedly caused both Burkina Faso and Uganda problems.

More positive play from Uganda but same result

Uganda will feel hard done by the result. Once again they probably played the better football, but come away from the match as losers.

George Lutalo’s side play good football and in particular, move the ball very well in the transition. Shamirah Nalugya once again was superb in midfield. The 18-year-old dominated the middle of the park against much more experienced opponents.

They created more chances than the home side for the majority of the match, but once again were found out by a more physically dominant team. They conceded one penalty when unable to track Ayane’s movement and conceded a header from a freekick.

If the Crested Cranes can keep their heads high. and play with a bit more maturity, they will back themselves to beat their final day opponents Burkina Faso.

Both sides need positive results in two days time

The final group game will be a much tougher test for Morocco before the quarter-final. But getting a positive result is imperative. The difference between first and second is a knockout match against a third-place side or the winners of group B.

They are top of the group thanks to that final penalty goal, and so will be happy to take a draw in their final match against Senegal. With the hectic schedule, Pedros are no doubt conflicted about resting some key players while also recognising the importance of not losing.

For Lutalo, there is no question, his team need a win, and ideally a win with a big goal margin. The Ugandans sit on minus four-goal difference and are looking to catch Botswana who are currently on positive two.

However, with the Botswanans going to face Nigeria and South Africa, it is expected that their goal difference will be dropping to something that Uganda can catch. The Crested Cranes no longer have qualification out of the group in their own hands, but will still back themselves to get out of the group stage.

Line ups

Uganda – Aturo (gk, c), Nakibuuka, Namirimu, Nabbumba, Komuntale, Nabirye, Naluga, Nabweteme, Ikwaput, Najjemba, Kivumbi

Substitutes: Nambi, Ainembabazi

Senegal – Er Rmichi (gk), Reduani, Mrabet, El Chad, El Haj, Nakkach, Amani, Chebbak, Hassani, Tagnaout, Ayane

Substitutes: Mssoudy, Saoud, Jraidi

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