Title holders Morocco laboured to a 1-0 victory over debutantes Togo in their TOTAL African Nations Championship clash in Daoula on Monday.
Defender Yahya Jabrane converted a first-half penalty at the second attempt to hand the Atlas Lions the win in their opening Group C at the tournament in Cameroon.
But the North Africans could have won the match by a wider margin but for the profligacy of their strikers and agility of goalkeeper Abdoul-Moubarak Aigba who made several saves.
Strikers Walid El Karti and star Ayoub El Kaabi were the chief culprits as they fluffed six scoring chances in the box to sum up a frustrating match for the holders.
They had defender Jabrane to thank for their winning start in the 2020 edition of the tournament which is being played this year because of the coronavirus pandemic.
The Wydad Casablanca centre-back in his second attempt gave Aigba no chance by sending him the opposite direction after 27 minutes at the Stade de la Reunification.
The Togolese goalkeeper had saved Jabrane’s first penalty attempt, but the referee called for a retake after Aigba initially moved before the ball was struck.
The Atlas Lions who are favourites on paper dominated from the start for long spells of the game, but failed to execute in the final third.
Karti, Soufiane Kahini and Kaabi all had chances to score for Morocco, but were not at their shooting best.
Togo, making their debut in the CHAN, returned more aggressive and charged after the interval and almost leveled the score. But Yendoutie Nane missed the target from close range for Togo after 46 minutes.
Morocco continued to dominate in terms of possession and creating scoring chances. El Kaabi, the 2018 CHAN top scorer with nine goals, had another open opportunity to score after 80 minutes, but his shot was blocked by Togo’s goalkeeper from close range.
After 83 minutes Togo’s Marouf Tchakel’s fierce shot was saved by Morocco’s goalkeeper Anas Zniti who was also part of the winning squad in 2018.
While the defending champions Morocco will be happy by starting the competition with a victory, they will have to rethink their attacking strategy after missing more than six scoring opportunities.
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