Angola, Morocco end with a stalemate

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AngolaMorocco Angola's Geraldo (18) and Morocco's Karim El Ahmadi fight for the ball during the group A match of the Africa Cup of Nations soccer tournament in Soweto January 19, 2013.

An unexciting opening day of the 2013 Africa Cup of Nations ended goalless as Angola and Morocco drew 0-0 in the first meeting between the countries at the tournament.

With South Africa and Cape Verde producing a similar scoreline earlier, all four Group A teams have one point with two mini-league rounds to go and two quarter-finals places up for grabs.

Lanky Angola striker Manucho from Spanish La Liga club Real Valladolid almost snatched a winner in the dying minutes when his low header off a cross flew just wide of the far post.

“We played after the game between South Africa and Cape Verde and that gave us motivation to win,” said Morocco coach Rachid Taoussi. “We virtually monopolised the first half, we created lots of chances but lacked success.

“We were not up against a phantom side - they have got strong strikers and woke up in the second half. It's a positive result for us, and we'll be trying to get a better one in our second outing and be sharper in front of goal.”

Angola coach Gustavo Ferrin said: “Before the tournament we were the (second) weakest team in the group according to FIFA's rankings. Now we've all come away with 0-0 draws and we keep the same chances as before.”

Much of the 80,000 crowd that witnessed the lacklustre goalless draw between Bafana Bafana (The Boys) and the Blue Sharks had gone home by the time the second half of the double-header kicked off in damp, cool conditions.

A fast, adventurous approach by both sides suggested more excitement than in the virtually chance-less tournament opener, but half-time arrived without any goals.

Morocco goalkeeper and captain Nadir Lamyaghri failed to hold a relatively harmless shot straight at him by Mingo Bille, but as he failed to grasp the ball and it ran loose, there was no Angolan to take advantage.

The Atlas Lions from North Africa came closer on 10 minutes as lone striker Mounir El Hamdaoui unleashed a drive from outside the box that stung the fingers of goalkeeper Lama as he pushed the ball away at the expense of a corner.

Very occasional Liverpool starter Oussama Assaidi threatened to score soon after, skipping past Lunguinha and Bastos inside the area before unleashing a fierce angled shot that was too high.

Uruguay-born Angola coach Gustavo Ferrin introduced ex-Switzerland under-21 striker Guilherme Afonso at half-time and he almost scored two minutes into the second half.

Lamyaghri, rated among the best goalkeepers on the continent, looked anything but a star as he dropped a cross under little pressure and a stab at the ball by Afonso trickled just the wrong side of the far post.

Moroccan playmaker Younes Belhanda, a top-five finisher in the 2012 BBC African Footballer of the Year poll, was injured in training and stayed on the bench for 64 minutes, when the need for his creativity was glaringly obvious.

Coach Rachid Taoussi also sent on Youssef El Arabi for El Hamdaoui as time ticked away with few hints of the goal that would break the deadlock and send the winners to the top of the table. - Sapa-AFP

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