14 October 2012

Morocco/Mozambique: Atlas Lions Reach Afcon Finals After a Dramatic Come Back

Photo: CAF
Morocco's Atlas Lions defeated Mozambique in a dramatic comeback

The dramatic Saturday of action in the final qualifiers for 2013 Orange Africa Cup of Nations ended with Morocco overturning a 2-0 deficit to oust Mozambique and leave the Atlas Lions heading to the finals in South Africa.

After defending champions Zambia, Ghana, Mali, Nigeria and Tunisia secured places on Saturday with another eight spots up for grabs later Sunday, Morocco won 4-0 to go through on a 4-2 aggregate score.

Morocco scored twice in the closing minutes through Youssef El Arabi and Nordin Amrabat before a sell-out 45,000 Marrakech crowd to thrash 10-man Mozambique 4-0 and banish memories of a shock two-goal first-leg loss.

Highly promising Spain-based midfielder Abdelaziz Berrada broke the deadlock before half-time and Mozambique had Almiro Lobo red carded after conceding a penalty, which Hocine Kharja converted to draw the teams level on aggregate.

It took a 20-penalty Kampala shootout to separate Zambia and Uganda with the visitors winning it 9-8 when Patrick Ochan missed. The home team won the return match 1-0 through a Geoffrey Massa goal. Ghana travelled to Malawi sitting on a two-goal cushion and snatched the lone goal in Lilongwe after just three minutes when late call-up Afriyie Acquah scored his first international goal in his first start for the Black Stars.

Nigeria, one of several shock absentees from the 2012 Cup of Nations, booked a ticket to Johannesburg in style by whipping Liberia 6-1 in Calabar with Chelsea teammates Victor Moses (two) and John Obi Mikel (one) among the goals. Mali were equally impressive as a severely weakened team triumphed 4-1 in Botswana thanks to goals from Cheick Tidiane Diabate, Modibo Maiga, Mamadou Samassa and Abdou Traore to complete a 7-1 overall victory.

But Tunisia needed the away-goal rule to secure a place after being held 0-0 in Monastir by Sierra Leone, who played more than half the match a man short because Djibril Sonko was sent off.

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