An avalanche of goals from Mehdi Benatia, Marouane Chamakh, Youssouf Hadji, and Ousama Assaidi was more than enough for the Atlas Lions to claim a vital confidence boosting win against Algeria at the Stade de Marrakesh in 2012 African Cup of Nations qualifying this evening.
To say the least, the home team was visibly unnafected by the sudden departure of Adel Taarabt on the eve of the match.
The first threatening play of the match came in the third minute, when a Houcine Kharja free kick was nearly met by a Chamakh header at the far post. A similar move was produced mere minutes later, but Chamakh’s second attempt was blocked by Rais Mbolhi. Abdelhak Ben Chikha’s men countered with a cross of their own into the penalty box, but Nadir Lamyaghri was on hand to intercept the ball.
The deadlock was broken on 25 minutes when Benatia got on the end of a Younes Belhanda corner kick that had been deflected into his path by a failed Antar Yahia clearance. Morocco’s Hadji could have added a second less than 10 minutes later but his back-heel flick was aimed straight at the opposing goalkeeper.
The second did eventually come in minute 38 when Chamakh was put clear through on goal by a defense-splitting Benatia pass and made no mistake with a precise finish to beat Mbolhi and add to the Fennecs’ misery.
Algeria came close to reducing the deficit almost immediately thereafter, but Madjid Bougherra’s close rangerheader clanged against the post instead of finding the back of Lamyaghri’s net and the half ended with Morocco firmly in the lead.
The Atlas Lions picked up right where they left off at the start of the second period, threatening from the outset thanks to the elusive Assaidi who was proving to be a constant threat down the left flank. Rafik Djebbour had a rare chance for Algeria on 56 minutes, but his shot was well countered by Morocco’s swarming defenders.
The killer blow came just four minutes later though as Hadji took advantage of a defensive mistake following a Belhanda header to score a third for his country, to the delight of the packed Marrakesh stadium.
Things got truly out of hand for the visitors in minute 68 when Assaidi used some excellent close control to bamboozle his marker and slot the ball through Mbolhi’s legs for an incredible fourth. Unsatisfied, the Heerenveen player had a second denied by a last-ditch Yahia tackle while substitutes Youssef El-Arabi and Mbark Boussoufa almost got in on the scoring act in the late going.
If Eric Gerets’ job was ever in danger, it isn’t anymore as the Atlas Lions shot to the top of Group D. They still await the result of tomorrow’s encounter between the Central African Republic and Tanzania. On the other hand, Abdelhak Ben Chikha’s position is increasingly tenuous and Algeria’s 2012 African Cup of Nations qualifying campaign has suffered a huge setback.
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