Ayoub El Kaabi scored a hat-trick as Morocco beat Guinea 3-1 in a 2018 African Nations Championship (Chan) showdown on Wednesday evening.
The Moroccan forward followed his brace in the country’s 4-0 thumping of Mauritania, with a man-of-the match display as the Atlas Lions moved three points clear atop Group A.
Saidouba Bissiri netted what proved a mere consolation for the West African nation.
The hosts made their intentions clear from the onset and should’ve opened the scoring with three minutes on the clock, but Moroccan captain Badr Benoun could only succeed in skying his effort with the goal at his mercy.
Pressure finally told for the hosts as the Atlas Lions hit the front in the 27th minute of the match, El Kaabi with a thunderous header that cannoned off the inside of the crossbar and into the back of the net. Despite protests from their opponents, the goal stood, much to the delight of the home fans.
Guinea, though, hit back straight from the ensuing kick-off as Bissiri darted into the area before chipping the ball over the on-rushing Anas Zniti.
The goal sparked the visitors into life, but the Syli Nationale were not able to add to their equaliser with the scores deadlocked at the break.
Following a rather cagey start to the second stanza, Morocco regained their lead as El Kaabi pounced on a defensive blunder before firing a left-footed shot into the back of the net in the 64th minute of the clash.
The forward completed his hat-trick four minutes later with the easiest of finishes following a blistering counter-attack. Ismail El Haddad unselfishly teed up his fellow attacker, who prodded home into an empty net.
Guinea tried their level best to fight their way back into the encounter in the closing stages of the match, but Morocco held firm to claim all three points.
The two teams will be in action again on 21 January, with Morocco set to lock horns with Sudan at the same venue. Guinea will travel to Marrakech to take on Mauritania at the same time in the final round of Group A fixtures.
Morocco: Zniti; Jbira, Aguerd, Benoun, Nahiri – El Haddad, Barrahma, Saidi/56’ Boulhroude, Hadraf – Hafidi/18’ El Karti – El Kaabi/77’ Bencharki
Guinea: Kante; I.Sylla, Gal Camara/72’ Landel, Ancamara, A.Bangoura – M.N’Diaye/48’ D.Camara, D.Bangoura, I.S.Sankhon – A.Camara, Sekou, Bissiri/75’ S.Keita
Watch highlights below: