An early brace from Abdelaziz Barrada and a second half goal from Younes Mokhtar proved just enough for Morocco to overcome a spirited comeback attempt from their Egyptian visitors and book their tickets to the 2012 Olympics in London.
With the game barely underway, Sofiane Bidaoui cut into the penalty box from his position on the left-flank, erasing two Egyptian defenders before finding a wide-open Abdelaziz Barrada who slotted the ball home with ease.
Egypt responded with a half-chance when a throw in provoked some confusion in the Moroccan defence and the opportunity emboldened the visitors who pushed forward for an equaliser. However, their eagerness to level the score as quickly as possible led to more questionable defending, culminating in a second simple finish for Barrada with merely eight minutes played.
The Getafe midfielder would continue to hound the Egyptians for the rest of the first half but the Atlas Lions also began to show some shakiness, beginning with Mohamed Abarhoun almost deflecting a cross into his own net with mistimed clearance.
Despite having played second fiddle for much of the opening period, Hany Ramzy’s side did create some impressive chances, particularly through their number 10, Mohamad Salah Ghaly, who managed to miss two excellent opportunities before finding success on his third a little before halftime.
The already fast tempo was raised in the second period, with the Moroccans looking just as composed as they were at the beginning of the first. Once again, the danger would come from the left flank as El Shenawi was forced to make an incredible reaction save off Bidaoui’s close range volley. A few minutes later, Pim Verbeek’s youngsters re-established their two-goal advantage when Bidaoui assisted on Mokhtar’s left footed finish.
Just as the Marrakech stadium fans were gearing up for a comfortable victory, their opponents came alive. Substitute Abd El Baseet had a header clang against Younes Itri’s left post before later scoring to reduce the deficit.
It was a nervous finish for the Atlas Lions who held on to make it to the final of the Caf U23 Olympic qualifying tournament and, more importantly, seal their place at London 2012. The Atlas Lions will face Gabon in the final while their Egyptian counterparts have an all important third place game that could send them to the same destination should they best Senegal.