The goals may have come from Mbark Boussoufa and Youssef El Arabi but Abdelaziz Barrada was the true star in Marrakech on Wednesday
A goal on either side of halftime from Mbark Boussoufa and Youssef El Arabi were enough for Morocco to overcome Burkina Faso at Marrakech Stadium on Wednesday and ease some of the pressure off Eric Gerets.
The match began with the venue the emptiest it has ever been for a national team game since it’s inauguration last year, as many Moroccan fans were seemingly boycotting the match in protest over the Atlas Lions’ poor showing during the 2012 Africa Cup of Nations (Afcon). Those present subjected coach Gerets to a torrent of abuse before the start of the proceedings.
Curiously, Paulo Duarte was on the sidelines for Burkina Faso despite earlier reports indicating that he had been sacked for the Stallions’ first round elimination from the 2012 Afcon.
It took 18 minutes for Gerets’ new-look lineup to find an opener against the visitors. Boussoufa slotted away a rebound after Germain Sanou’s save on Youssef El Arabi, with the initial pass emanating from Abdelaziz Barrada.
Shortly before halftime, the impressive Getafe player was denied his first senior international goal when he followed up his own shot with a header and was wrongly adjudged to have fouled the Burkinabe goalkeeper.
At the outset of the second half, Jonathan Pitroipa nearly equalised for Burkina Faso but Nadir Lamyaghri blocked the close range shot with some difficulty. As they so often do, the Moroccans controlled the tempo and eventually added a second in the 63rd. Once again, Barrada was at the genesis of the move, creating an opening with a neat turn that El Arabi exploited.
After the second, Burkina Faso took more initiative and could have reduced the deficit a couple times but Lamyaghri denied Nii Adamah while Narcisse Yameogo’s powerful shot went just wide. The match ended on a 2-0 scoreline, allowing Gerets some temporary breathing room.
His main satisfactions will undoubtedly be Barrada’s man of the match performance as well Sami Zekroumi’s assurance in defence alongside Mehdi Benatia. However, one matter of concern is that Morocco’s wastefulness in front of goal has continued and, at times, were lucky not to concede against a Burkina Faso side that still has plenty of work ahead of it.