By Sports Reporter/Doha
Defending champions Morocco lived up to the reputation of title favourites as they registered their second convincing victory to enter the quarter-finals of the FIFA Arab Cup Saturday.
At the Ahmad Bin Ali Stadium in Umm Al Afaei, Morocco outplayed Jordan 4-0 for their second win in Group C, following their opening success against Palestine by the same margin.
Yahya Jabran opened the scoring for Morocco in just the fourth minute, before Bader Benoun doubled the lead in the 24th minute. Mohamed al-Shaibi struck at the stroke of half-time, while Soufiane Rahimi completed the rout with a 88th minute.
Morocco coach Hassan Amota was delighted with the big win, but he played down the talk his side are hot favourites to win the title. “It is a big win for us, but it’s too early to think about the title. I am not getting carried away with the easy wins. I am only looking at the next fixtures. We will take it step by step,” Amota said.
He was surprised with Jordan’s poor show after the latter’s 1-0 win over Saudi Arabia in their first match. “We played a very good match, especially in the first half. We have our focused on details. We created many opportunities and scored early and never allowed Jordan to launch counterattacks, which are their weapon. I am surprised by the Jordanian team’s performance today as I was expecting a tough match. I do not know what happened with their players,” the 52-year-old said.
The North African side took just four minutes to score the opening goal through Yahya Jabran. Jordanian goalkeeper Yazeed Abulaila could only block a Mohamed Nahiri shot from the left and the rebound went straight to Jabran, who tapped in.
Benoun Morocco’s lead off a corner, in the 25th minute. From there on Morocco applied sustained pressure on the Jordanian defensive line, and overrunning its midfield to dictate the tempo of the game.
Morocco finished the first-half as Mohamed Chibi extended the lead with his first international goal in the second minute of added time. An Achraf Bencharki corner flew wide and straight to Mohamed Chibi, who superbly side-footed the ball into the net.
Morocco’s fourth goal came off a penalty in the 88th minute as Jordanian defender Mohamed Abuhasheesh handled the ball inside the box and Soufiane Rahimi, who came as a substitute in the closing stages of the match, made no mistake as the Atlas Lions completed another big win.
In the second-half Jordan regrouped themselves and a much-improved game, however, it all went in vain as goal remained elusive for them.
Jordan coach Adnan Hamad took the responsibility for the loss. “I think the coach is responsible for the result and therefore I take the responsibility for the loss. The loss was heavy, of course, but it was against a very strong team that includes players who are active in strong leagues and they are at the top of their ability and therefore the differences were clear between the two teams. I am not surprised by the level of the Moroccan team, but I was not expecting the heavy defeat,” Hamad said.
On his team’s chances of qualifying for the next round, the coach sounded optimistic. “Our chances to enter the quarter-finals are still strong. We have lost to one strong team and defeated one strong team. In our third game on Tuesday we are against Palestine and I hope to beat them to remain in the contention,” the 60-year-old Iraqi said.
With another impressive display and second morale-boosting clean sheet, Morocco will face Saudi Arabia on Tuesday, while Jordan take on Palestine on the same day.
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