Morocco 1-1 DR Congo: Favourites held to surprise AFCON draw after feisty clash

Frustration: Morocco had been expected to beat DR Congo in AFCON Group F (AP)
Frustration: Morocco had been expected to beat DR Congo in AFCON Group F (AP)

Morocco were held to a surprise battling draw by DR Congo at the Africa Cup of Nations on Sunday.

The pre-tournament AFCON favourites - fairytale World Cup semi-finalists in Qatar in 2022 - looked on course for another comfortable victory in Group F following Wednesday's opening 3-0 triumph over Tanzania, with Youssef En-Nesyri's early header leading to a Hakim Ziyech corner that was volleyed in expertly by Achraf Hakimi with only seven minutes on the clock.

But the Atlas Lions failed to kick on thereafter, getting fortunate when Cedric Bakambu crashed a late first-half penalty against the base of the post and wide after Selim Amallah was eventually penalised for handling the ball at a corner after a lengthy VAR check.

DR Congo were much the better side after the interval and deservedly secured a share of the spoils with 13 minutes to go, when Stuttgart striker Silas coolly side-footed a Meschak Elia pass through the legs of Morocco goalkeeper Yassine Bounou.

A point was the least that the Leopards deserved after an impressive second-half display that saw them spurred on by a succession of smart attacking substitutions from French head coach Sebastien Desabre, including the introductions of goalscorer Silas plus the lively Elia and Fiston Mayele.

The draw - their second in a row after Wednesday's 1-1 tie with 2012 winners Zambia - keeps their hopes of qualifying for the last-16 very much alive ahead of their final group assignment against Tanzania on Wednesday evening.

It also means that Morocco have yet to seal their spot in the knockout stages and will need to ensure a positive result against Zambia to ensure that they are able to progress as expected as Group F winners.