Malawi were huge underdogs, sitting 101 places beneath Morocco in the FIFA World Rankings. With all the pressure on the ‘Atlas Lions’, Malawi raced into an early lead with one of the best goals you’re ever likely to see. Gabadinho Mhango held off the challenges of Hakimi and unleashed a shot from all of 45 yards, finding the top corner with an absolute rocket. Yassine Bounou was no further than 12 yards off his line but was lobbed perfectly by Mhango in a perfect start for Mario Marinică’s men.
Stunned by the early goal, Morocco set about finding a way back into the game and immediately applied the pressure. Adam Masina’s powerful effort was beaten away by Charles Thomu, before the shot-stopper brilliantly kept out Hakimi’s free-kick. Romain Saïss squandered his side’s best chance of the half, somehow hitting the bar from extremely close range. Thomu was becoming increasingly busy, producing a world-class save to tip Hakimi’s low effort against the post, before Sofiane Boufal’s strike was denied by the goalkeeper’s feet. Their stubborn resistance was finally broken in first half stoppage time when Youssef En-Nesyri rose highest to head home, giving Morocco the goal they deserved for their efforts before the interval.
The break came at a good time for Malawi, and they were able to stem the tide of Moroccan attacks after the restart. Boufal looked the most pertinent attacking threat, but his dangerous effort in the early stages of the second period drifted wide. Indeed, Malawi themselves had an early sighter, but Francisco Madinga failed to hit the target from range. Eventually, the quality the ‘Atlas Lions’ possessed was on full display as Hakimi completed their comeback. The Paris Saint-Germain full-back scored another free kick, firing his effort perfectly into the top corner, leaving the despairing Thomu with absolutely no chance.
Vahid Halilhodžić’s men were able to hold on and advance to just their second AFCON quarter-final since 2004, where they’ll meet Ivory Coast or Egypt. Malawi fought valiantly, but were undone by a moment of genius, depriving them of a first-ever venture into the last eight.