Morocco 0-1 Senegal: Konate’s lone goal tames Atlas Lions

Pape Moussa Konate was on target for a new-look Senegalese team captained by Papiss Cisse and led by caretaker coach Joseph Koto in Marrakech while Morocco were poor throughout

Pape Moussa Konate’s first half goal was enough to offer Senegal a much-needed win over stumbling Morocco in a convincing display at the Marrakech Stadium on Friday.

From the start, the Teranga Lions didn’t allow the hosts to settle into their typical possession-based passing game as Joseph Koto’s physical line-up effectively employed a high press that caused Morocco plenty of problems. The strategy nearly paid dividends just four minutes into the match when Papiss Cisse was found in space following an interception but his scuffed shot was easily saved Morocco goalkeeper Nadir Lamyaghri.

Shortly thereafter, the Atlas Lions keeper acrobatically parried a vicious long distance effort from Konate. The Maccabi Tel Aviv striker would get his reward just 11 minutes into the friendly though with a relatively simple tap-in after some excellent work on the left flank by Sadio Mane.

The visitors had a few more chances to double their lead but their poor finishing let them down as Eric Gerets’ disjoined looking squad tried to fight their way back into the game. Their best opportunity to equalize came on a corner from Mbark Boussoufa whose cross was met by Karim Salhi’s header that sent the ball over the crossbar.

The Anzhi playmaker had another chance on 37 minutes but his well-struck free kick went wide of Ousmane Mane’s goal. Him and Salhi would then connect on yet another set piece but this one was foiled by the Diambars shot-stopper. With that, the first half ended in favour of the visitors and a chorus of boos rang out in the Marrakech Stadium.

Gerets responded by making four changes to his line-up after the disappointing opening period, opting to include Ayoub El Khaliqi, Issam Adaoua,, Nordin Amrabat, and Karim Ait-Fana.

The latter nearly had a dream start to his international career but couldn’t find the net from an acute angle in his first touch. Despite this, Senegal remained the aggressors and arguably should have taken the lead just four minutes into the second half when they failed to take advantage of Morocco’s atrocious transition defence.

Ait-Fana’s determination to get a goal on his first cap was evident when he evaded some defenders on the side of the west Africans’ penalty area on 63 minutes and curled a shot just wide of his target.

The Teranga Lions continued to control the tempo for the rest of the game, with Chemseddine Chtaibi the only Moroccan player who looked somewhat dangerous when he received the ball. Hamza Abourrazzouk had a goal called off for a questionable offside in stoppage time but even an equaliser could not have hid the fact that the north Africans were unrecognisable.

The result has given Senegal a breath of fresh air amidst their recent instability while causing yet more headaches for the under-fire Gerets who leaves the match with more questions than answers with regards to who he can count on in impending 2014 World Cup qualifiers.