Nigeria’s quest for a first CHAN title were cruelly dashed, as hosts Morocco whipped the CHAN Eagles 4-0 in the final played at the Mohammed V stadium in Casablanca.
A brace from Zakaria Hadraf and a goal each from Walid El Karti and Ayoub El Kaabi was all the Moroccans needed to win their first major continental title since the 1976 Africa Cup of Nations.
The hosts were by far the better side as they tore apart a hapless Nigeria team who ended the game with a man less after Eneji Moses was given the marching off orders early in the second half.
Truth be told, the Atlas Lions dominated the contest from start to finish, dishing out crisp passes, keeping possession, and taking the game to Nigeria’s full-backs, who simply had no answer to the swift attacking moves of the Moroccans.
Osas Okoro, who prior to the final had a productive tournament, was at the receiving end of torture dished out by left-winger Ismmail Haddad, who ghosted past the shell-shocked full-back time without number.
Coach Salisu Yusuf sprung a surprise by starting with Eneji Moses ahead of marksman Anthony Okpotu.
If that was meant to rattle the Moroccans, it did not work, as the nippy North Africans pinned the Nigerian team in their own half till the close of the first forty-five minutes when the inevitable first goal came.
A slick move put Abdeljalil Jbira free down the left flank, with his pullback from the by-line picking out Zakaria Hadraf.
The winger fired a low shot into the back of the net, beating goalkeeper Dele Ajiboye low to his right.
Nigeria’s night was well and truly over as the disappointing Eneji bagged a second yellow card, leaving the CHAN Eagles with a mountain to climb – a man down, a goal down, and a bouncing Casablanca crowd baying for more goals.
And it was no surprise therefore the request was granted, as the Lions of Morocco tore the Eagles defence apart.
Walid El Karti doubled their lead on the hour mark, after he headed home on the rebound from Ajiboye saved shot; before Hadraf added his second a few minutes later to make it 3-0.
A Morocco win at this tournament would not be complete without a strike from El Kaabi.
The forward duly notched his ninth of the 2018 CHAN when he redirected a shot from Nahiri in the 73rd minute to complete the scoring, taking his goal tally to nine.
But for the heroics of keeper Dele Ajiboye, it would have been a lot worse.
It was a bitter end for the Nigerian team, who were expected to make the match an even contest.
Alas, it was not to be.
Not even close!
The Atlas Lions joined DR Congo, Tunisia and Libya on the CHAN honours board.
The 4-0 thrashing of Nigeria means no West African team has yet won the CHAN tournament, with Ghana and Mali also failing in previous editions.