African Nations Championship hosts Morocco beat Namibia 2-0 in Casablanca after goals from Ayoub El Kaabi and Salaheddine Saidi to reach their first CHAN semi final.
The Atlas Lions controlled the contest throughout against their more limited opponents, but needed a quickly taken free kick to break the deadlock in the 35th minute after Namibian resolve had held firm during the opening half an hour.
Saidi added a header in the 54th minute after meeting Achraf Bencharki’s corner while Namibia appeared to have a legitimate late goal chalked off by the referee.
Morocco can now look forward to a semi final back in Casablanca against either Congo-Brazzaville or Libya who meet in Agadir on Sunday to contest the fourth quarter final.
Morocco have been the outstanding team at this tournament, and the offensive class they showed during their group-stage campaign was evident again during the early stages as they dominated the Namibians.
Coach Jamal Sellami opted to shuffle his pack again after a much-changed XI drew with Sudan in their final group game, and it was the returning Ismail El Haddad who looked the most menacing down the hosts’ left flank early on.
Namibia received a sign of things to come in the eighth minute when – in a moment that foreshadowed their goal – they switched off for a throw in and El Haddad played in Bencharki, who appeared to hesitate with the goal at his mercy before scooping his shot over.
Brave Warriors stopper Loydt Kazapua was forced into a superb start after a quarter of an hour, while El Haddad struck an effort from distance ten minutes later as Morocco sought a less subtle approach to break the deadlock.
When the goal came, it was again due to a momentary lapse in an otherwise rigorous and disciplined first half from the Namibian defence.
The Lions quickly played a corner through the middle, with Walid El Karti playing in El Kaabi as Namibia protested the awarding of the set piece before the latter fired calmly past Kazapua for his sixth of the competition.
Morocco headed into the break with 68 percent of the possession, and maintained this superiority after the pause.
They were 2-0 up less than 10 minutes later when fit-again Saidi sent a fine header across goal and beyond Kazapua, and could have extended their lead when Bencharki – showing the kind of quality that had him tipped as a potential star of the tournament – mesmerised a cabal of Namibian defenders before firing wide.
There was consternation on the part of Namibia boss Ricardo Mannetti in the 69th minute when the Warriors had a goal ruled out for offside, while the visitors also missed the opportunity to pull a goal back in the 80th minute when Badr Boulhroude intercepted Absalom Imbondi’s pass ahead of Dynamo Fredericks.