Ayane proves a decisive distraction as Morocco reach Wafcon finals

Rosella Ayane. PHOTO/CAF

What you need to know:

  • Ayane, who has scored just once – against Uganda – at the tournament so far, was not done.

Forget captain Ghizlane Chebbak and inventive winger Fatima Tagnahout, Morocco’s most dangerous player is their striker Rosella Ayane.

The 26 year old wins the set-pieces that the former two execute to nearly devastating perfection.
Her movements cause panic in defenders and have proved decisive against Senegal and Burkina Faso previously. She won two penalties against Uganda, including one that led to Sumaya Komuntale’s red card, and forced another spot-kick off Botswana in the quarterfinals.  

Coming into Monday’s semi-finals at the Prince Moulay Abdellah Stadium in Rabat, Nigeria had worked out Morocco’s set-piece delivery and worked to neutralize it in the first half.

What they had not paid attention to is the initial source of the fouls that bring these dead-ball situations. The streetwise Ayane started to move deeper in the second half and in the 48th minute drew contact from Halimatou Ayinde, who was sent off after the intervention of the video assistant referee (Var) for a heavy reckless tackle on the Tottenham forward.

Nigeria stayed strong even with 10 players and scored against the run of play in the 62nd minute when Moroccan defender Yasmin Mrabet turned in Rasheedat Ajibade’s cross from the right wing.
Morocco’s all or nothing approach paid off when Sanaa Mssoudy picked up Ayane’s poorly cleared cross to make it 1-1.

Ayane, who has scored just once – against Uganda – at the tournament so far, was not done. She again went scavenging in regions she was not expected to and in the 71st minute got Ajibade sent off – again after Var’s intervention – for what Mauritian referee Maria Rivet had initially deemed a yellow card offence.

From there, it was one way traffic all through extra time but Nigeria held on to force a shootout.
But Moroccan goalkeeper Khadija Er-Rmici turned hero for stopping Ifeoma Onumonu’s attempt in the second round of the shootout. Morocco scored all their five with Ayane getting the last to sail through to their first ever Wafcon final 5-4.

Var to the rescue

Earlier in Casblanca, four-time Wafcon runners-up South Africa were also saved by Var as it awarded them a controversial stoppage-time penalty to knock out Zambia 1-0.

There had been a penalty scare for the Zambians at the hour mark when Banyana Banyana winger Noxolo Cesane went down under the challenge of Lushomo Mweemba. Var intervened to show contact had been outside the box and  Jermaine Seoposenwe  fired the resultant free-kick over the bar.

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