Morocco beat Mali 2-0 in a thrilling final at the Stade Ahmadou Ahidjo in Yaounde, Cameroon to retain the CHAN title and win a record, 3rd championship.

The Atlas Lions came into the final as overwhelming favourites but the game turned out to be much harder than everyone thought for the North African side. The Eagles of Mali made it extremely difficult for Morocco and played some terrific football by sitting deep in a low-block and defending well.

Mali aimed to catch the Moroccans on the counter and had more shot attempts in the game, surprisingly but they lacked the composure and quality in front of goal, only testing the keeper on 2 occasions. Morocco struggled to create much in the first hour of the game but were very patient in their approach and that was probably because the Malians looked like less of a threat to score.

Rahimi Morocco

Soufiane Rahimi with the Man of the Competition trophy. (Photo by DANIEL BELOUMOU OLOMO/AFP via Getty Images)

Mali’s captain and goalkeeper, Djigui Diarra made a fantastic save in the first half of the game to keep the score at 0-0 after golden boot winner, Soufiane Rahimi’s shot needed the Malian to produce a top-class save.

Moussa Kone had a golden opportunity on the other end a few minutes later, which was Mali’s best chance to score as he broke past the Moroccan defence only to be denied by keeper Anas Zniti.

Morocco goalkeeper

Moroccos’s goalkeeper Anas Zniti holds the trophy for best goalkeeper of the tournament after the African Nations Championship (CHAN) final football match between Morocco and Mali. (Photo by DANIEL BELOUMOU OLOMO/AFP via Getty Images)

Morocco looked pretty surprised at how Mali approached the game with fearless counter-attacking football and it took them some time to settle into the game.

Hussein Ammouta’s team talk definitely made a difference at half time as the Moroccans came out all guns blazing. They started securing the ball and dominating possession and were looking a threat to score. It seemed like the Moroccans had a penalty, which was ruled out by VAR later but it was a sign of things to come.

Mali, however, had another half-decent chance as Sadio Kanoute had a free header but missed the target. In the 63rd minute, Kone found himself one-on-one against Zniti again but the outcome was the same as the Moroccan keeper stayed big and produced a top save to keep his clean sheet intact.

6 minutes later, Mali rued its chances as Soufiane Bouftini broke the deadlock with a header from an inswinging corner by Omar Namsaoui to give Morocco the lead and put them one step closer to their 3rd CHAN title.

10 minutes later, the Eagles were unfortunate as Morocco was awarded a corner kick when it was actually a goal-kick. Ayoub El Kaabi found the back of the net eventually from the corner that settled the game and broke the hearts of the Malians.

Morocco became the first team to retain the championship at the CHAN and capped off a terrific display in the tournament. They will be a force to reckon with in the AFCON and FIFA World Cup qualifiers.