Morocco defeated Belgium 2-0 to move to the top of Group F and leave their opponents fighting for a place in the World Cup..
While the entire 90 minutes at Al Thumama Stadium were competitive, Morocco overcame a slow start to create the better moments in the final third, and goals from Abdelhamid Sabiri and Zakaria Aboukhial earned the Atlas Lions their third victory in this tournament’s history.
While Morocco now leads the group with four points, Belgium still has work to do to make the last 16, with their fate only in their own hands if Croatia fails to defeat Canada..
Belgium also misses out on a record-tying 16th consecutive match without defeat in the group stages of this competition, their first defeat since the 1994 edition.
Unlike in their previous match against Canada, Belgium showed off their talent early on, with Michy Batshuayi completing a free-flowing team move with a shot that Munir Mohamedi diverted behind.
Belgium’s dominance was maintained despite the Red Devils failing to create clear-cut chances, though Amadou Onana should have done better with a header after beating Mohamedi to a corner.
Morocco finally got the better of their opponents shortly after the 20-minute mark, with Hakim Ziyech sending a swerving effort from distance just over the crossbar..
Morocco became the more dangerous team as the first half progressed, despite Achraf Hakimi’s failure to capitalize on finding space in the penalty area by lashing a shot well off target.
Walid Regragui’s side thought they had taken the lead when Ziyech’s free kick evaded everyone and was diverted into the net by Thibaut Courtois with the final action of the first 45 minutes.
Despite not touching the ball, Romain Saiss was marginally offside and impacted the situation by running across Courtois’ line of sight, resulting in the goal being chalked off..
After the restart, both teams showed intent, with Ziyech forcing a routine save from Courtois before Eden Hazard created a chance for himself on the right side of the penalty area before forcing Mohamedi into a save at his near post.
Back on the other end, Sofiane Boufal was the next to go close, just missing the far corner with a curling effort, while Dries Mertens should have done better with a shot from 20 yards shortly after coming on as a substitute..
With 16 minutes remaining, the deadlock was finally broken, and in similar circumstances to the earlier disallowed goal. Saiss stayed onside this time before moving across Courtois, and Abdelhamid Sabiri’s cross-cum-shot was able to beat him..
In response, Roberto Martinez brought in Romelu Lukaku ahead of his previously scheduled return date from injury, but it was Jan Vertonghen’s header that almost brought Belgium level, the ball bouncing narrowly wide of the far post.
As Belgium pushed men forward, more space opened up at the other end of the field, which the African nation took advantage of with a game-winning second in added time.
Ziyech worked tirelessly to create space for himself inside the area, and after pulling the ball back for Zakaria Aboukhlal, the substitute did the rest with a first-time finish into the roof of Courtois’ net, sparking jubilant scenes on the pitch and in the stands.
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