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3-2. A goal in the 8th minute of the additional time, a sensational comeback with 2 goals in 2 minutes, another comeback with the equalizer in the last minute of the normal time, the elimination of a favorite, an underdog who went through and a lot of passion and desire to win: the match between Gabon and Morocco showed everything why people all around the world love football so much. It has undoubtedly been the most dramatic of wins at the CAF 2012 so far, perhaps even of the last few years.
After their 2-1 defeat against Tunisia, Morocco’s manager Eric Gerets had to make some changes. Marouane Chamakh, the striker from Arsenal London and only Moroccan player who acts on a high level with his club, was among the 4 players being replaced by the Belgian head coach. One of the reason was surely his ineffectivity and his unfitness whereas he wasn’t the only unfit player in Morocco’s squad. The Gabonese team was backed by almost 40,000 fervent and vociferous fans and their manager didn’t have to make much changes since his team had already been successful in the first game against Niger.
From the very beginning, Morocco put the Gabonese under pressure with their do-or-die tactics. Youssouf Hadji (31-year-old striker at Stade Rennes, France) and Mickaël Chrétien (27-year-old right full-back at Bursaspor, Turkey) actually had some opportunities in the first minutes but in the end they were way to imprecise to convert them into a real threat for the Gabonese defense who kept it tight.
Gabon was defending pretty well and trying to counter attack cleverly. Morocco was struggling when Gabon’s wingers Stéphane N’Guema (27-year-old, US Bitam, Gabon) and Eric Mouloungui (28-year-old, Nice, France) were in possession of the ball. But they were still rarely successful in those first minutes. So they were taking a physical approach and André Poko (19-year-old central midfielder from Bordeaux, France) got booked because of a strong two-footed tackle.
After 25 minutes, the “Atlas Lions” scored the richly-deserved go-ahead goal. Houssine Kharja (31, red circle on the drawing) was taking advantage of one of the few mistakes of the Gabonese defense. They were standing to far from each other so there was too much space for the defensive midfielder from Fiorentina (Italy) who scored after a great one-eighty into the bottom left corner. Younes Belhanda (21-year-old midfielder from Montpellier, France, red circle) who had given the assist (blue on the drawing) had engaged the attention of 3 Gabonese players (green line on the drawing) so that only 3 Gabonese had to defend against 2 Moroccan strikers. As we all know, they failed.
The “Panthers” hit back immediately. They didn’t seem to be shocked at all – to the contrary! -, they were even stronger now and more offensively-minded. Morocco was only defending anymore and was under pressure for the rest of the first 45 minutes. The wingers were very active and the Moroccan defense was in great trouble. Especially Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang (22-year-old striker, St-Etienne, France) was on fire. The Gabonese forward line is actually really fast and is harmonizing amazingly well. But they couldn’t score anymore in the first half.
In the second half, both teams made changes. Nordin Amrabat (24-year-old left winger, Kayserispor, Turkey) came in for Youssef El Arabi (24-year-old secunda punta, a deeper playing striker, Al-Hilal Riad, Saudi Arabia) and on the Gabonese side N’Guema was replaced by Daniel Cousin (34-year-old, no club). So both teams were willing to play even more offensively-minded in the second half.
Actually Gabon was still dominating and Morocco couldn’t do anything but defending. Gabon wasn’t only playing anymore over the wings but also played high and long balls to Daniel Cousin who could maintain those very well until his team mates had moved up. But until the 77th minute when they started an amazing comeback. After a throw-in, Morocco’s defense was really unorganized and Aubameyang was free in the back of the defense and scored with a powerful and unstoppable volley.
The supporters went nuts and some of them even invaded the athletics track of the stadium in Libreville. Only 2 minutes after the equalizer, Cousin scored from the same position from which Kharja had scored in the beginning of the game. Aubameyang had served him. Morocco had been punished for their awful second half in only 2 minutes but they didn’t lose hope and did play forward again. Finally, in the 90th minute, Charly Moussono (27-year-old defender, no club) was accused to have handled the ball in the box and Morocco was given a penalty. Houssine Kharja scored in the bottom left corner again. He has actually scored every Moroccan goal in this continental tournament (3).
Morocco was convinced to have saved that one point and was only defending in the upcoming 8 minutes of additional time. Gabon was attacking amazingly, especially Aubameyang was still top fit and too fast for the Moroccan defenders. In the 98th minute Mehdi Benatia (24-year-old defender, Udinese Calcio, Italy) fouled Bruno Zita Mbanangoye who scored with an amazingly beautiful curling free-kick into the net to progress into the quarter-finals.
History had been written and Gabon celebrated itself and their heroes. Some of the even cried with joy and were dancing on the pitch while Morocco stole into the dressing rooms as soon as possible. The man of the match was Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang who definitely appears on my players-to-watch list of this CAF. He scored once, gave one assist and was unstoppable. He doesn’t even look like Neymar, he even plays like him! Player to watch!!!
Thank you a lot for reading my match review of this absolutely amazing game! I hope you enjoyed and will rate and comment it! 🙂