Ghana’s Black Stars kicked off the 2021 Africa Cup of Nations (AFCON) in defeat after losing to Morocco in their opening Group C game on Monday in Cameroon.
The Black Stars were largely passive and were punished for their profligacy in the second half when Sofiane Boufal took advantage of a defensive lapse to score what proved to be the winner.
Milovan Rajevac named a very strong line-up but also picked five debutants for the game against the Atlas Lions.
Joojo Wollacot, Alexander Djiku, Joseph Paintsil, Baba Iddrisu and Kamaldeen Sulemana all started their first AFCON game, with brothers Andre and Jordan Ayew as well as Thomas Partey bringing experience to the team.
And the Black Stars made a quick start to the game, with their early pressure earning them three corner-kicks in succession.
However, Ghana couldn’t produce anything meaningful from their attempts, which allowed Morocco to grow into the game.
The North Africans proved dangerous on set-pieces, with Roman Saiss using his height to terrorize the Black Stars defense.
The first real chance of the game came in the 32nd minute when Partey’s 35-yard free-kick flew just inches wide.
Morocco responded with an effort of their own, with Selim Amallah displacing his marker before firing his effort over the bar. Paintsil had Ghana’s best chance of the first when he dribbled past two players to open up space but his shot was way off target.
The second half started pretty much like the first, with Morocco dominating possession and the Black Stars sitting deep.
And it didn’t take long for the Atlas Lions to launch their first attack, as Sofiane Boufal tried his luck from the outside of the box but his effort couldn’t find the back of the net.
A few minutes later, Paintsil nearly put Ghana in front but his curling effort was tipped over for a corner-kick by goalkeeper Yassine Bounou.
Andre Ayew was the next to test the Moroccan goal but his header was too feeble to trouble the goalkeeper.
Morocco finally found the breakthrough in the 83rd minute when Boufal took advantage of a defensive mix-up to score the opening goal.
Rajevac left it late to effect his changes, bringing on Fatawu Issahaku, Daniel Kyere and Benjamin Tetteh in the final 10 minutes but the substitutes had very little effect as the game ended 1-0 in favour of the Atlas Lions.
The Black Stars will face Gabon in their second Group C game on Thursday.
Black Stars head coach, Milovan Rajevac admitted that the team’s opening Group C match against the Atlas Lions of Morocco was demanding and he knew it would be so.
Ghana lost 1-0 to the North Africans on Monday thanks to an 83rd minute goal from Sofiane Boufal following an error from Thomas Partey in the penalty area.
The match seemed destined for a draw until the goal came and for Rajevac, the close nature of the match was something he envisaged looking at the quality of the opposition.
“It was a tough match and we were expecting that because Morocco is one of the best teams on the continent and it was also the opening match of the group.
We did not take our chances in the game and I think the Moroccans were lucky in the end. We were expecting the game to end in a draw.
I was to congratulate the Moroccans on their win and my boys for fighting really hard. We have two matches left in the group so we have to concentrate on them so we can progress to the next stage.”
Ghana takes on Gabon and Comoros in their final Group C matches in the tournament.
Gabon without Captain Abuemayang who is struck with the Covid Virus managed to beat debutant Comoros Island who did not behave at all as coming to a continental party for the first time with a lone goal scored by Salem Boupenza in the 16th minute from a Louis Ameka Autchanga assist.
Group C Table:
Team P GD Pts
1. Gabon 1 1 3
2. Morocco 1 1 3
3. Comoros 1 -1 0
4. Ghana 1 -1 0