Morocco closes out ACN with victory

Morocco scored a second-half goal to beat Niger 1-0 in the African Cup of Nations on Tuesday in an uninspiring match between two teams already eliminated from Group C.

Younes Belhanda fired into the roof of the net from Marouane Chamakh’s pass in the 79th minute to seal the win for Morocco and avoid the ignominy of finishing last in the group.

Niger was looking for its first point in its debut at the African Cup of Nations but sank to a third straight defeat after earlier losses to Gabon and Tunisia.

Co-host Gabon sealed top spot in the group with a 1-0 win against Tunisia, which qualified in second place.

Morocco coach Eric Gerets made seven changes from the 3-2 loss to co-host Gabon that sealed his team’s early elimination, with Chamakh among the players back in the starting lineup after a stomach illness.

Niger stuck with the team that conceded a late goal in the 2-1 loss to Tunisia.

Morocco made the first chance when Chamakh knocked the ball back to top-scorer Houssine Kharja, but the captain failed to add to his three goals in the tournament by scooping his shot over the crossbar in the third minute.

The best chance of the first half fell to Niger striker Moussa Maazou, who controlled a cross on his thigh before volleying an effort that scraped the top of the bar in the 37th.

Morocco threatened again when Younes Belhanda dribbled past two defenders and slipped a pass to Mbark Boussoufa in the 58th, but his shot was blocked by goalkeeper Kassaly Daouda.

The deadlock was finally broken when Chamakh collected the ball in the box and laid off a pass for Belhand to strike a rising shot into the net.