Mokhtari leads Morocco rout

Morocco 4 Mali 0
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The Independent Football

Youssef Mokhtari scored two goals as Morocco crushed Mali 4-0 and reached their first final in the African Nations Cup since they won it in 1976.

Mokhtari curled in a brilliant first-half free-kick and added a stunning strike in the second half. Youssef Hadji scored Morocco's third with 10 minutes remaining after a sweeping move involving Mokhtari and Marouane Chamakh. The substitute Nabil Baha added the fourth in injury time as the Atlas Lions cruised into the final against the hosts, Tunisia, on Saturday. Mali will play Nigeria for third place on Friday.

Some 4,000 noisy Moroccan supporters packed one side of this 25,000 capacity stadium, with about 500 Mali fans making up the numbers on a windy night.

Morocco, who were missing the defender Talal El Karkouri because of a hamstring injury, dominated the opening exchanges and were rewarded in the 14th minute when Mokhtari struck a free-kick into the top corner after the defender Sammy Traoré had fouled Chamakh.

Mali's Tottenham forward Frédéric Kanouté was kept quiet in the first half but his strike partner, Dramane Traoré, managed an instinctive turn and shot which provided the only test for the goalkeeper, Khalid Fouhami, before the interval.

But slick approach play saw Morocco's forward line slip past a static Mali rearguard on more than one occasion, though the Atlas Lions could not add any more goals before the interval.

In the second half, Mali pressed hard for an equaliser but were caught napping at the back in the 58th minute as Mokhtari collected a loose ball, bypassed a weak challenge and fired into the bottom left corner with the goalkeeper, Mahamadou Sidibe, well beaten from 25 yards.

Sidibe was powerless to stop the third goal as Mokhtari broke up a Mali attack and then swept a long pass over to Chamakh on the right. The Bordeaux striker's perfectly weighted pass enabled Hadji to time his run and score with a deft flick. Then Baha completed the rout with a powerful shot from the edge of the area.

MALI (4-4-2): M Sidibe; S Traoré, Diawara (M Traoré, 71), Thiam, A Coulibaly; S Coulibaly, D Sidibe (Keita, 59), Diarra, D Coulibaly (Touré, 46); D Traore, Kanouté.

MOROCCO (4-4-2): Fouhami; Regragui (Hdiouad, 68), Ouaddou, Naybet, Roumani; Mokhtari, Kissi, Safri, El Yaagoubi (Chihab, 59); Hadji (Baha, 86), Chamakh.

Referee: S Aboubacar (Ivory Coast).

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