Morocco crash out to Benin on penalties in Africa Cup of Nations last 16

Morocco's Hakim Ziyach. left, and M'brak Boussoufa leave pitch dejected after the African Cup of Nations round of 16 soccer match against Benin in Cairo. (AP)
Updated 06 July 2019
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Morocco crash out to Benin on penalties in Africa Cup of Nations last 16

CAIRO: Hakim Ziyech’s missed stoppage-time spot-kick proved extremely costly as 10-man Benin stunned Africa Cup of Nations title contenders Morocco in a penalty shootout Friday to reach the quarter-finals after a 1-1 draw in Cairo.
Moise Adilehou forced home at a corner early in the second half to put Benin on course for a shock win but Youssef En-Nesyri equalized for Morocco before Ajax star Ziyech blew the chance to snatch victory by striking the post from the spot in the 96th minute.
Benin were forced to play most of extra time a man down after Khaled Adenon received a second yellow card for dissent, but they prevailed 4-1 in the shootout following misses by Sofiane Boufal and En-Nesyri to set up a clash with Senegal or Uganda on July 10 for a spot in the semifinals.
“It’s not the right time to talk about anything,” said Morocco boss Herve Renard, after possibly his final game in charge. “I’m a bit ashamed in front of the (fans).”
Morocco suffered a troubled build-up to the tie at Al Salam Stadium with captain and key defender Medhi Benatia lost to injury while Benin were without forward Steve Mounie due to suspension.
The Atlas Lions had been clinical, determined and efficient so far in Egypt, mirroring the beliefs of Renard, the only coach to win the Cup of Nations with two countries.
Benin, winless in 12 previous matches in the competition, only scraped through to the knockout rounds on the back of three draws after holding both Ghana and reigning champions Cameroon.
En-Nesyri and Ziyech both produced saves in a dreary first half from Saturnin Allagbe, who kept his place in the Benin goal after replacing Fabien Farnolle for the final group game.
Younes Belhanda skewed wide for Morocco shortly after the restart but it was Benin who grabbed a surprise lead when Adilehou broke clear of his marker to turn in a corner on 54 minutes, the Squirrels’ first goal since their opening game in Egypt.
Substitute Boufal nearly levelled with his first touch after coming off the bench on the hour, meeting Nordin Amrabat’s cross with a downward header that skipped off the grass and flashed just over the top.
A mistake from Jordan Adeoti presented Morocco with the equalizer on 75 minutes, as he was caught in possession on the edge of his area by Mbark Boussoufa who squared for En-Nesyri to stroke beyond Allagbe.
Ziyech stung the palms of Allagbe with a free-kick while Boussoufa, who scored a last-gasp winner in the 1-0 victory over South Africa, also saw his set-piece superbly clawed away by the Benin ‘keeper.
After a quiet start to the tournament Ziyech looked destined to finally deliver when Benin captain Stephane Sessegnon upended Achraf Hakimi deep into stoppage time, but the winger smacked his spot-kick against the base of the post.
Adenon’s bizarre dismissal, ostensibly for brushing the referee away as he attempted to tend to a cramping team-mate, gave Morocco the numerical advantage but Ziyech again squandered an opportunity to send his side through as he blazed over a cutback from Boussoufa.
Morocco were left to count the cost of those misses as Boufal blazed over Morocco’s second attempt in the shootout before Allagbe tipped En-Neysri’s effort onto the bar, leaving Mama Seibou to fire Benin into the last eight.


Al-Hilal advance into AFC Champions League semifinals

Updated 18 September 2019

Al-Hilal advance into AFC Champions League semifinals

  • Riyadh-based team beat Al-Ittihad of Jeddah in the all-Saudi final eight showdown

JEDDAH: Al-Hilal battled from one goal down early to beat Al-Ittihad in the all-Saudi quarterfinal and advance to the AFC Champions League semifinals at the King Saud University Stadium in Riyadh.

After a goalless draw in the first leg in Jeddah, Ittihad looked to have the advantage of  the away goals rule after scoring in the 10th minute courtesy of Ziyad Al-Sahafi.

But the Riyadh-based Hilal regrouped and tallied three unanswered goals to qualify for the final four on 3-1 agregate victory in the two-leg final eight contest. Hilal meet Qatar’s Al-Sadd in the semifinals.

Andre Carrillo equalized for Hilal with a goal in the 44th minute. Salem Al-Dawsari  and Italian import Sebastian Giovinco then put Hilal on the way to victory with goals in minutes 48 and 78.

Earlier in Japan, captain fantastic Shinzo Koroki's powerful first-half header via crossbar and goalkeeper proved enough to squeeze Urawa Red Diamonds into the semifinals  at the expense of Shanghai SIPG on the away goals rule Tuesday.

Wang Shenchao equalized for the visitors with a cool volley on the hour, but the Japanese side comfortably held on for a 1-1 draw and a semifinal place courtesy of the goals scored by Tomoaki Makino and Koroki three weeks ago when the first leg was drawn 2-2 in Shanghai.

The prolific Koroki was, however, officially denied his seventh strike of the campaign on a technicality.

Gloveman Yan Junling was credited with an own goal after palming Koroki's 39th-minute header from Takahiro Sekine's cross onto the woodwork and watching helplessly as it cannoned back into his outstretched arm and over the line.

That was harsh on Yan, who had kept his toothless side — packed with expensive imports — in the tie with a string of saves as Urawa pressed for the cushion of a second goal on a sultry night in Saitama.

It was a poor performance by Vitor Pereira's SIPG side, who were devoid of penetration up front without suspended 55 million euro Brazilian striker Hulk, who had scored both first leg goals from the penalty spot as they came from 2-0 down.

Instead they started with Marko Arnautovic at centre forward, the big Austrian having been signed from English Premier League West Ham last month for 25 million euros.

But with playmaker Oscar — who cost 60 million euros from Chelsea — having an off night, chances remained few and far between.

SIPG had little fluency in the attacking third, a familiar trait that has seen them exit with a curious unbeaten streak of seven draws and one win in their last eight matches in this year's Champions League.

Arnautovic's best efforts were a wasteful header over from six yards out, which would not have counted anyway as the referee had blown for a push, and a tame shot easily deflected for a corner eight minutes from time.

After Shenchao's equalizer SIPG still needed another goal but it was Urawa who seconds later came closest, Daiki Hashioka thumping a shot against the crossbar and Tsuyoshi Otsuki's side continued to carry the more serious threat on the counter attack.

Urawa, the 2007 and 2017 AFC Champions League winners, progress to their fourth semi-final appearance where they will face either defending champions Kashima Antlers or Guangzhou Evergrande, who play Wednesday. Their first leg in China ended 0-0.