Africa-Press – Lesotho. Achraf Hakimi curled in a long-range free kick as Morocco came from behind to beat Malawi 2-1 in the last-16 of the Africa Cup of Nations on Tuesday and stay on course for their first African title in over 45 years.
This came after a previously lacklustre Senegal pulled off a 2-0 win over Cape Verde to also reach the quarter-finals. Fullback Hakimi’s precise strike completed the turn around at the Ahmadou Ahidjou Stadium after Youssef En-Nesyri had equalised on the stroke of halftime.
Malawi went ahead early after a world-class goal from Frank Mhango, who hit a speculative left-footed effort from some 40 metres out and watched in delight as the swerving ball caught out Morocco goalkeeper Yassine Bounou and crashed into the top of the net.
Morocco will meet either Ivory Coast or Egypt in their quarter-final in Yaoundé. After a tournament littered with upsets, Malawi threatened to cause another as Mhango produced an astonishing effort in the seventh minute.
He then had another chance from a quick counter attack in the 23rd minute to double the lead as the lowly ranked Malawi, participating in only their third Cup of Nations finals and getting past the first round for the first time, looked to shake up their heavily fancied opponents.
However, they quickly retreated after that and defended tenaciously, with goalkeeper Charles Thom producing several unorthodox saves to keep his side’s lead intact.
Yet Thom let a header from En-Nesyri slip through his hands for Morocco’s equaliser two minutes into first-half stoppage time and there was little he could do about the rocket-like free kick from Hakimi. In between there were several close shaves as Sofiane Boufal missed an easy chance and substitute Ryan Mmaee struck wide from close range.
Senegal beat 9-man Cape Verde
Earlier the same evening, Senegal’s Sadio Mane scored but then went off with a head injury as they beat nine-man Cape Verde Islands 2-0 in the last 16 of the Africa Cup of Nations at the Kouekong Stadium in Bafoussam on Tuesday.
Mane fired home from a set-piece after 62 minutes but had been hurt earlier in a nasty clash of heads with Cape Verde goalkeeper Vozinha, who was sent off for the incident.
Liverpool forward Mane then left the field shortly afterwards complaining of a headache and could be a doubt for the quarter-final in Limbe on Sunday.
Substitute Bamba Dieng scored the second goal deep in stoppage time against a gallant Cape Verde side, who also had Patrick Andrade sent off after 20 minutes.
“It was a difficult game because Cape Verde were very organised,” said Senegal captain Kalidou Koulibaly.
“It was even more difficult after the first red card as they really ran around a bit but we can be happy we did the job.
” Senegal’s next opponents are either Mali or Equatorial Guinea, who play on Wednesday.
Mane had struck the woodwork in the opening minutes but it proved a false dawn as Senegal laboured through the first half, as they had done in the group phase where they finished top of the standings despite scoring once.
But their task was made easier when Andrade was dismissed for a studs-up challenge on Pape Gueye that continued a spate of similar punishments for dangerous tackles in the tournament.
It left Cape Verde down to 10 men for the final 70 minutes but they were reduced to nine when Vozinha was sent off. He came out to challenge for a long ball against Mane with the two clashing heads.
Vozinha was badly concussed and stumbled around the field for several minutes before being persuaded to go off by his team mates. In the interim, the referee was asked to look at the incident by the VAR and determined that Vozinha was reckless in his challenge on Mane, who was left with a swollen cheekbone.
It seemed a harsh decision for the islanders, who quickly conceded. A corner was half cleared to an unmarked Mane who hit the ball into the net off the underside of the crossbar. But he then looked uncomfortable almost immediately afterwards and sat down before walking off to be substituted.
Replacement Dieng got his first international goal on the counter attack in stoppage time as Cape Verde threw caution to the wind in their bid to try and force an unlikely equaliser.
(FRANCE 24 with REUTERS)