The surface shows a match that looks similar to the Cup of Nations’ opener, but as opposed to the 0-0 South Africa played out with Cape Verde, Saturday’s second match continually teased goals. From Morocco’s strong start to the last chance generated by Angola, Group A’s second game could have had multiple goals. But with neither team able to convert, Angola and Morocco ended scoreless, both teams entering into the four-way tie at the top of their group.
It was the first time the Cup of Nations has opened with two scoreless draws, surprising consider the quality of play. This wasn’t the stodgy match many saw take place between South Africa and Cape Verde. A flowing game that saw each team able to take shots at the other’s defense never produced that final piece of execution needed to break through.
At the onset, the game looked set to play out like the opener, with Morocco’s early energy leading to a period of control. Dominant play using the Lions’ speed advantage on the flanks allowed Morocco to continuously get into the final third, with an early chance for Mounir El Hamdaoui nearly giving them an early lead.
But Morocco could never crafted a quality final ball, leading all their attacks to lose steam in front of goal. After their defense adjusted and Angola started winning more midfield battles, the Antelopes came into the match. By the end of the period, Angola was controlling the game, generating a number of set piece chances before the halftime whistle.
After Moroccan star Younès Belhanda came on in the second half (a lack of fitness confining the Montpellier midfielder to the bench at the opening kickoff), the Lions seemed to have the midfield maestro that could take utilized their attackers. But just as in the first half, the end product never arrived.
A late ball overhit for forward Youssef El-Arabi was emblematic Belhanda’s half. What could have been a chance that took three crucial points for Morocco turned into an easy scoop for Angolan keeper Lama, El-Arabi left to cut of his run as a through ball ends for naught.
The Antelopes had their own late chance when Mateus targeted Manucho with a near post cross from the byline. Or perhaps the ball was trying to find substitute Guilherme. Both made the same run, both arrived at the same time, and while the cross seemed destined for Manucho, Angola was left with nothing as the two attackers threw each other off.
While for much of the second half each side seemed capable of scoring, the final whistle left Morocco wondering how their effort never found a goal. From the opening whistle they outran the Antelopes, but their fluidity through the middle third became bogged down as they approached goal. Even after Angola came into the game, their speed out of their half meant they were one well-executed counter away from taking full points.
Perhaps that’s why Angola showed signs of relief after the match, their players quickly turning the to crowd to clap to their fans as multiple Moroccans sat on the field. For a team that has ambitions to go far in the tournament, the Angolans came precariously close to giving another team full points.
Because they had their own chances at the end, Gustavo Ferrin’s players may convince themselves they outplayed Morocco, but Angola should not feel comfortable with how close they came to letting Morocco control this match.