A howler from Morocco goalkeeper Munir Mohand gifted DR Congo victory in Group C of the Africa Cup of Nations.
Junior Kabananga was on hand to slot home after the stopper strangely used his feet instead of his hands to stop a cross early in the second half.
Morocco were given a ray of hope when Joyce Lomalisa was sent off for a second bookable offence just 16 minutes after coming on as a substitute, but were unable to capitalise.
The Atlas Lions’ coach Herve Renard has won two of the last three tournaments, and is looking to become first coach to win three Nations Cups with three different nations. He has been tasked with reaching at the quarter-finals at least this time around, but his new side will have to improve markedly if the Frenchman is to have any chance of achieving that after this opener.
Mbark Boussoufa looked like he had set the tone for the match early on, curling an effort from distance against the crossbar as Renard’s men dominated the opening exchanges.
Democratic Republic of the Congo’s midfielder Merveille Bokadi (R) heads the ball with Morocco’s forward Aziz Bouhaddouz during the 2017 Africa Cup of Nations group C football match between DR Congo and Morocco in Oyem on January 16, 2017.AFP
The goal didn’t come, however, and Morocco were punished for their lack of potency, as Kabananga finished superbly ten minutes into the second half, with the chance stemming from a woeful piece of goalkeeping from Munir.
Lomalisa’s late red card and an injury to Congo captain Gabriel Zakuani effectively meant Morocco only had to find a way past nine men in the dying moments, but they offered little threat even then, and prop up Group C after the opening round of matches as a result, with the Leopards sitting top of the pile.
Why did Renard take so long to introduce El-Arabi? Having scored almost three times more goals than anyone else in the Morocco squad, why was Youssef El-Arabi the last man to be introduced by Renard, when Morocco looked so inept going forward? The service into the strikers was the main problem, but El-Arabi picked up better positions than Aziz Bouhaddouz, and offered more of an outlet in his 12 minute cameo than any other man in green all match. Had he been introduced earlier, the Atlas Lions might not have got off to such a disappointing start.
MAN OF THE MATCH
Gabriel Zakuani (DR Congo): Even though Morocco rarely threatened, they still had to be marshalled well, and that is exactly what the Leopard’s skipper did all match. Aziz Bouhaddouz is an imposing figure, but was kept quiet all match by Zakuani, who even hobbled back on to ensure his side held on at the end.
DR Congo: Matampi 7, N’Sakala 6, Zakuani 8, Tisserand 7, Mpeko 7, Mulumbu 7, Bope 7, Mbemba 7, Mubele 6, Bakambu 5, Kabananga 7. Subs: Mbokani 7, Maghoma 6, Lomalisa 4.
Democratic Republic of the Congo’s defender Chancel Mbemba (L) heads the ball with Morocco’s midfielder Nabil Dirar during the 2017 Africa Cup of Nations group C football match between DR Congo and Morocco in Oyem on January 16, 2017.AFP
Morocco: Munir 4, Benatia 6, Da Costa 7, Saïss 6, Dirar 6, El Ahmadi 6, Boussoufa 7, Mendyl 5, El Kaddouri 5, Bouhaddouz 4, Carcela 5. Subs: El-Arabi 6, En-Ensyri 5, Fajr 5.