Morocco have retained the African Nations Championship trophy after defeating Mali two night on Sunday night during the final played at the Ahmadou Ahidjo stadium.
Two second half goals from Sofiane Bouftini and Ayoub El Kaabi retained the trophy for the Atlas who had to sweat it out in front of a spirited Malian side.
Holders Morocco came into the game buoyed by their four nil annihilation of Cameroon in the semi final and were tipped as favourite going into the final.
But there was little to separate between both teams in the first 45 minutes as Mali put up a resistant performance to deny the Moroccans any joy in the final third.
For all their possession they had during the opening stages of the game, Morocco could not penetrate a Malian defence that had conceded just one goal going into the final. But the Atlas Lions came close to opening the scores when Noah Sadaoui struck from a free kick at the edge of the box but Mali goalkeeper Djigui Diarra had a strong hand to punch the ball for a corner.
The Eagles best chance of the game came on 20 minutes when striker Moussa Kone beat the offside trap but was slow to bring the ball within his strides as Moroccan goalkeeper, Anas Zniti swept in to collect the ball albeit with some discomfort that threatened to end his game.
Mali came out with some intention during the second half and Kanoute nearly gave them the breakthrough when he rose above the Moroccan defence to connect to a set piece from Issaka Samake but his header just went wide.
The momentum was with the Eagles and just after the hour mark, striker Moussa Kone was through on goal from a teasing ball floated over the top but Moroccan goalkeeper Anas Zniti made himself big to deny the striker.
However, on 69 minutes, Morocco sniffed out any momentum that Mali was trying to build and finally got the breakthrough from a corner when defender Sofiane Bouftini rose above the Mali defence to head the Atlas Lions ahead.
Ten minutes later, the Atlas Lions cushioned their score when skipper and 2018 top scorer Ayoub El Kaabi on the second ball from a Moroccan corner directed his header on goal to trigger scenes of celebration in the stands for the Moroccan fans.
Mali’s woes were compounded when full back Issaka Samake was given his marching orders for a second bookable offence as Morocco saw off the game to retain their crown.