MOROCCO bagged their first U-23 Africa Cup of Nations title last night with a hard-fought 2-1 win in the final over Egypt in Rabat.
The hosts required extra-time to overcome the defending champions, who ended the tense final at the Prince Moulay Abdellah Stadium with 10 men.
Egypt took an early lead when Mahmoud Saber fired home a brilliant curling strike in the ninth minute.
The young Pharaohs then gave their opponents numerical advantage eight minutes later as Saber was sent off for a reckless challenge on Abdessamad Ezzalzouli.
Despite being reduced to 10 men, Egypt held on until eight minutes to half-time when Yanis Begraoui pulled the young Atlas Lions level.
The Egyptians then fought valiantly and refused to concede again in regulation time despite Morocco’s incessant pressure.
The fierce encounter went into extra-time but Egypt’s 10 men eventually succumbed and saw their hopes of taking it to a penalty shootout dashed.
In the first half of extra-time, Morocco struck the winner, substitute Oussamna Targhalline securing victory for his side with a powerful effort.
Egypt were forced to come out of their defensive shape in search of a late equaliser, but Morocco easily held them off to earn their first-ever U-23 AFCON trophy.
Both Morocco and Egypt have earned their spots in next year’s Olympic Games in Paris, France alongside Mali, who secured their qualification after defeating Guinea in the third-place play-off earlier.
Guinea (who eliminated Nigeria in the U-23 AFCON qualifiers) can still join them as the fourth African team at the Olympic Games in Paris but they have to win a play-off tie against yet-to-be-decided Asian opponents.