Morocco concede twice as Saiss is rested

Romain Saiss and Morocco have topped their Africa Cup of Nations group following a 2-2 draw with Gabon, which saw the defender rested from the start.

Having led his country out as captain in the opening two games of Group C, Saiss and the Atlas Lions were yet to concede with the Wolves centre-back at the helm, thanks to a 1-0 win over Ghana and a 2-0 scoreline versus Comoros, but Morocco faced Gabon without him in their starting line-up.

Morocco had already booked their place in the last 16 thanks to those previous victories but knew a heavy defeat to Gabon would see them give away top spot in the group standings.

Despite that, Saiss was left out of the starting 11 in place of Sofian Chakla, and it was the OH Leuven man who was at fault for Gabon opening the scoring after 21 minutes, as the defender slipped when attempting to head clear a long ball played through to Jim Allevinah, but the Gabon forward made no mistake with his low finish.

Gabon had the better of the chances as they looked to extend their lead, with Aaron Boupendza sliding an effort narrowly wide of the post, before Morocco goalkeeper Munir Mohamedi had to be at his best to tip over a 'James Ward-Prowse-esque' free-kick from 35 yards out which was struck sweetly by Guelor Kanga.

Morocco finally got on level terms on 74 minutes as former Southampton winger Sofiane Boufal netted from the penalty spot, but their lead lasted all of seven minutes, as Saiss’ regular defensive partner Nayef Aguerd inadvertently put the ball into his own net when trying to stop a cross reaching the boot of Boupendza.

For the second time in the match, Morocco were trying to fight from behind, and they managed to secure the point they needed just moments later, as Paris Saint-Germain’s Achraf Hakimi curled an unstoppable free-kick into the far top corner of the net.

With the game tied at 2-2 heading into added time, Saiss was brought off the bench to help his side see out the contest and keep their place at the top of Group C.

Saiss will be hoping to be back in the Morocco side for the round of 16 clash at 8pm on Tuesday 25th January, against an opponent which is yet to be decided, although it will be versus one of the third-placed sides from either Groups A, B or F (currently Cape Verde, Malawi and Tunisia).