Morocco will feel hard done by following a 1-0 Africa Cup of Nations defeat by Democratic Republic of Congo on Monday night, but ultimately have themselves to blame for not taking their chances.
The Atlas Lions were the dominant side for most of the game, and even played the final 10 minutes with a one-man advantage, but a lack of composure in front of goal – coupled with some fine saves from Ley Matampi – resulted in a first lost in 16 tournament games for coach Herve Renard.
The Leopards looked ragged from the start, but Junior Kabananga’s 55th-minute volley resulted in a spectacular smash-and-grab victory for Florent Ibenge’s men.
Morocco raced out of the blocks and almost netted after just two minutes when El Kaddouri smashed a curling effort onto the crossbar.
Half chances aplenty followed, with Aziz Bouhaddouz especially wasteful with a couple of headers.
DR Congo had to wait until the half-hour mark for their first shot at goal – Charles Mbemba flashing a shot on the turn just past the upright.
The Leopards were better after the break, and were helped in no small way for the only goal thanks to a glaring error from goalkeeper Munir Mohand, who allowed a left-wing cross to slip through his hands and fall to Kabananga, whose acrobatic left-footed volley nestled into the back of the net.
Morocco hit back strong and threatened a number of times, but the closest they came was a long-range effort from El-Nesyri which Matampi saved with his legs.
Even the dismissal of Lomalisa Mutambala with 10 minutes to go for a second bookable offence could help the Atlas Lions, who now need to regroup ahead of a must-win against Togo on Friday.
DR Congo XI: Matampi, Mpeko, Tisserand, Zakuani, N’Sakala, Kabananga, Mbemba, Mulumba, Mubele, Bope, Bakambu
Morocco XI: El Kajoui, Dirar, Benatia, DaCosta, Mendyl, El Ahmadi, Carcela, Boussoufa, Saiss, El Kaddouri, Bouhaddouz