Benin knocks out Morocco on penalties at African Cup

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Benin began the African Cup of Nations knockout stages with a major upset, beating Morocco in a penalty shootout on Friday to reach the quarterfinals and eliminate one of the tournament’s top teams.

It was the first match Benin had ever won at the African Cup, and it came in its debut appearance in the knockouts.

Sofiane Boufal and Youssef En-Nesyri missed their spot kicks for Morocco, and Seibou Mama buried the decisive penalty as Benin won the shootout 4-1.

The opening game of the last 16 in Egypt finished 1-1 after extra time. Morocco was 3-0 in group play, while Benin earned draws in all three group matches.

Moise Adilehou gave Benin the surprise lead in the 53rd minute when he stuck out a foot to volley home from a corner.

En-Nesyri equalized for Morocco in the 76th, and the Moroccans should have won it when they were awarded a penalty deep in injury time at the end of the 90.

Hakim Ziyach smacked the penalty off the post and Benin survived.

The underdogs also survived losing a man when Abdou Adenon was shown a second yellow card and sent off early in extra time for showing dissent to the referee.

It was a strange sending off. Adenon was helping a teammate who had cramps. Referee Helder de Carvalho of Angola walked over and tried to pull Adenon away. The Benin player shrugged off the ref’s arm, and that was ruled dissent and earned him the red card.

Adenon stayed on the field for minutes afterward protesting the decision, and then got into a heated argument with Morocco team officials as he left.

Benin threatened to self-destruct.

Jordan Adeoti had given away the equalizer for Morocco with a foolish decision to try and dribble his way out of trouble at the back. He lost possession and En-Nesyri fired home to punish the error.

Rattled, Benin gave away a penalty three minutes into injury time when captain Stephane Sessegnon hacked down Achraf Hakimi.

With victory and a place in the quarterfinals up for grabs, Ziyach hit his penalty low and hard but it thundered off the bottom of the right post. That was the last act of normal time.

Benin held out under pressure through extra time, with Ziyach missing another chance to settle the game when he blazed a shot over with three minutes to go.

Boufal hit his penalty over in the shootout for Morocco’s first miss. Benin goalkeeper Owolabi Kassifa saved En-Nesyri’s by pushing it onto the crossbar.

Mama kept his cool and Benin will play the winner of the Senegal-Uganda game in the quarters.

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