Set-pieces did the trick for Morocco as two penalties and a free-kick helped them beat Uganda 3-1 to secure their ticket to the quarter-finals of the 2022 Women’s Africa Cup of Nations in Rabat, Morocco on Tuesday.
Tottenham Hotspur’s Rosella Ayane opened the scoring for the Atlas Lionesses with a fine penalty for her first and Morocco’s second goal of the tournament after 14 minutes.
Uganda were, however, undeterred and pressed on for an equaliser which arrived in the 32nd minute in some style.
Sumaya Komuntale stunned the home side and their fans with a goal of the tournament contender, an exquisite left-footed free-kick, that caught the Moroccan defence and their goalkeeper flatfooted.
Fauzia Najjemba had an opportunity to make it 2-1 for Uganda on the stroke of half-time after being put through on goal but missed from an acute angle.
The contest remained even after the break until the 68th minute when Morocco extended their lead via another set-piece. Ghizlane Chebbak lofted in her free-kick which was headed in by defender Elchad Nesryne to make it 2-1 for the hosts.
Morocco got their third 10 minutes from time through a penalty after Komuntale was adjudged to have fouled Ayane. After a VAR check, the Ugandan was sent off for a second bookable offence with Hanane Ait Ej Haj converting the penalty.
Victory saw Morocco join Senegal in the quarter-final with a match to spare and the two will square it out on Friday to determine who will top Group A.
Uganda have now conceded five goals while scoring one, after their 2-0 loss to Senegal on Sunday, and looked to have kissed the competition goodbye in what is their second appearance after 22 years.
Senegal became the first team to book their place in the quarter-finals when they made it two wins from as many games following a controversial 1-0 victory over Burkina Faso at the Prince Moulay Abdallah Stadium in Rabat.
With 10 minutes to go, Burkina Faso looked like they were holding the Senegalese to a barren draw when substitute teenage striker Habsatou Diallo was bumped off by Burkinabe defender Alimata Belem and the referee pointed to the spot.
It looked like a harsh call from the match official as the contact appeared soft and she was asked to review the incident. After a lengthy VAR check, she stuck to her earlier decision with Spanish-based midfielder Korka Fall tucking away the penalty.
The Senegalese will face Morocco in their final group game on Friday and can choose to rest their key players with an eye on the quarter-finals given the top four teams at the Wafcon will seal a direct ticket to the 2023 World Cup in New Zealand and Australia.
Meanwhile, Burkina Faso, who lost 1-0 to Morocco in the tournament opener on Saturday, will take on Uganda on the same day, seeking a big win that will see them qualify as one of the two best third-placed finishers.