(Africanfootball.com) Morocco have moved to the verge of qualification for the 2019 Africa Cup of Nations after they defeated Cameroon 2-0 at the Stade Mohamed V in Casablanca on Friday night.
The result saw the Atlas Lions surge to the top of Group B on 10 points and avenge a 1-0 loss to the West African giants from the teams’ first meeting in Yaounde in June last year.
Hakim Ziyech was the match winner for Morocco, who will secure qualification if Malawi fail to defeat Comoros in Moroni on Saturday afternoon.
The Indomitable Lions, meanwhile, are guaranteed their berth at the finals due to the status as the host nation, but will be worried at another disappointing result under coach Clarence Seedorf.
Cameroon created the first opening to put Eric Choupo-Moting in shooting space in the seventh minute, but the French-based player was unable to find the target as Karim El Ahmadi closed him down quickly.
Morocco gradually gained control of the game and much of their play was directed through Hakim Ziyech. The Ajax attacking midfielder went close with a couple of efforts from long range, but wasn’t quite able to get the better of his club teammate, Cameroon goalkeeper Andre Onana.
At the other end of the field, the Atlas Lions needed gloves-man Yassibe Bounou to be sharp in keeping out an effort from Karl Toko Ekambi in the 28th minute. The West Africans saw less of the ball but were dangerous on the counter attack.
The best chance of the first half went the way of Ziyech in the 45th minute, but after being played in on goal by Younes Belhanda he only managed to shoot straight at Onana, leaving the game locked at 0-0 heading into the interval.
Morocco made a change at the start of the second half, sending on Sofiane Boufal for the injured Belhanda. The move paid dividends just seven minutes after the restart as the Celta Vigo player earned a penalty for a push in the back.
Ziyech duly dispatched the spot kick to give Herve Renard’s team a deserved lead in the 54th minute, and the 25-year-old was on hand again 12 minutes later as he sent a dipping, left-footed shot beyond Onana to double the hosts’ advantage.
The Indomitable Lions looked for a way back into the game and upped the pressure in attack, but they were controversially reduced to 10 men in the 79th minute when Toko Ekambi received a second yellow card.
His second caution was for diving, though it appeared as if there was contact with Moroccan defender Manuel da Costa. Regardless, it took the sting out of Cameroon’s intent and allowed the hosts to see out a relatively comfortable victory.
Morocco (0) 2 (Ziyech 54’ pen 66’)
Morocc: Bounou, Hakimi, Benatia, da Costa, Mazraoui, El Ahmadi, Amrabat, Ziyech (Ait Bennasser 90’), Belhanda (Boufal 46’), Fajr, Boutaib (En-Nesyri 65’)
Cameroon: Onana, Fai, Onguene, Bong, Kunde (Djoum 82’), Bassogog (Bahoken 70’), Zambo Anguissa, Ngadeu-Ngadjui, Madjeck (N’Jie 68’), Choupo-Moting, Toko Ekambi
The Morocco international extended his goalscoring run in the Dutch Eredivisie with an effort at the Van Donge & De Roo Stadion
Hakim Ziyech contributed a goal and an assist as Ajax thrashed Excelsior 7-1 on Sunday.
The 25-year-old maintained his fine form for the Johan Cruyff Arena outfit with his fifth goal in his last six league outings.
In the 79th minute, the Atlas Lions’ playmaker benefitted from Nicolas Tagliafico's assist to register his seventh league goal of the season before setting David Neres up for Ajax's last goal in the encounter.
Ziyech, Noussair Mazraoui and Andre Onana who made Goal Africa Team of the Month for October were on parade for Erik ten Hag's men as they help extend the unbeaten run to 11 games across all competitions.
Ajax, placed second in the Dutch top-flight standings, continue to pile pressure on leaders PSV.
Around 5 years ago, nobody would have expected Morocco to qualify for the world cup. Cameroon and Côte d'Ivoire were the powerhouses of African football, possessing the likes of Samuel Eto'o and Didier Drogba, but as time progressed the Moroccans have slowly established a competitive squad. Part of the reason for their recent success has been the emergence of young Moroccan players in Europe's top flight leagues.
Achraf Hakimi, born in Madrid, joined Real Madrid's youth set-up at the tender age of 8 and made his professional debut for the club 11 years later. Zinedine Zidane decided to call up the youngster to the Los Blancos squad as a backup for Dani Carvajal, and he quickly impressed all with his defensive skills when needed. The 20-year-old is currently on loan at Borussia Dortmund, where he already has 3 assists.
Hakim Ziyech, a more prominent Moroccan player, has graced the Eredivisie with his presence. The Dutch-Moroccan player rose through Heerenveen's youth academy before going on to be a vital player in the first team. Just 25 years old, Ziyech is already one of Ajax's star players, scoring 22 goals in just over 70 club appearances.
Another Moroccan rising through Ajax's first team set-up is Noussair Mazraoui. Born in Liederdrop, Mazraoui made over 50 appearances for Jong Ajax (Ajax's youth team) before breaking into the professional squad. This season, Mazraoui has become the club's starting right-back and has even gone on to score a goal against Benfica in the Champions League.
Although not very young in terms of a footballing career, the center-back duo of Romain Saïss and Medhi Benatia have been tearing it up in Europe. Saïss roamed around France, representing Le Havre and Angers SCO before becoming an integral part of Wolverhampton Wanderer's EFL Championship win and promotion to the Premier League.
Benatia, on the other hand, racked up just about 80 appearances for Udinese before spells at Roma, Bayern Munich, and Juventus established him as one of the world's best defenders.
Head coach Hervé Renard certainly has a lot of potential and experienced players at his disposal, and the Moroccan team should be strong contenders for next year's Africa Cup of Nation tournament in Cameroon.
(TheAtlasLions.com) Hakim Ziyech scores for Ajax Amsterdam as they beat Feyenoord on Sunday
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(Africanfootball.com) Moroccan star Hakim Ziyech is set to make his 100th official appearance for AFC Ajax when they take on Feyenoord in a crunch Eredivisie match on Sunday.
‘De Klassieker’ (The Classic) between Ajax and Feyenoord is one of the greatest rivalries in Dutch football and Ziyech will be honoured to bring up his century in a match of such prestige, especially in front of his home fans at the Johan Cruyff Stadium.
The Dutch-born 25-year-old joined Ajax from FC Twente in August 2016 and has become one of De Godenzonen’s key players.
His 99 competitive appearances have seen him rack up 26 goals and 42 assists – superb statistics for a player who is not an out-and-out forward.
Ziyech will be looking to help Ajax extend a six-match unbeaten run against Feyenoord which stretches back over three years.
The Amsterdam side is in cracking form, having won three matches on the bounce (which includes 10 unanswered goals).
Erik ten Hag’s team defeated Benfica 1-0 in midweek to go top of the UEFA Champions League group, while their last Eredivisie outing on October 20 saw them rack up a 4-0 away win over Heerenveen.
Feyenoord, after a stuttering start to their season, have found consistency and confidence under manager Giovanni van Bronckhorst. Last weekend they won 3-0 at home to PEC Zwolle to extend their unbeaten run across all competitions to 10 matches.
In head-to-head terms, Ajax and Feyenoord have clashed in 157 Eredivisie matches dating back to 1921. De Godenzonen have claimed 69 wins compared to 44 for De Stadionclub, while 44 games have been drawn.