Moise Adilehou put Benin ahead early in the second half before Youssef En-Nesyri equalised, but Hakim Ziyech blew the chance to seal the victory for Morocco by striking the post with a 96th-minute penalty.
Sofiane Boufal and En-Nesyri both missed in the shootout as Benin, who reached the last 16 on the back of three draws, triumphed 4-1 on spot-kicks.
Captain Steph Houghton set England on their way to the quarter-finals of the women’s World Cup on Sunday with a 3-0 win over a Cameroon side who were left furious with several refereeing decisions and at one point appeared ready to walk off the pitch.
Houghton, Ellen White and Alex Greenwood scored the goals for England in a bad-tempered encounter watched by more than 20,000 fans in Valenciennes, and Phil Neville’s side go through to a quarter-final against Norway on Thursday.
However, this match will be best remembered for Cameroon’s protests to the Chinese referee as they went out in the last 16 for the second successive World Cup, and African interest in France came to an end.
They were left with a sense of injustice at the manner in which England’s opening goal came about in the 14th minute, and their anger reached boiling point when White’s goal to make it 2-0 in first-half stoppage time was initially disallowed for offside before being awarded after referee Qin Liang consulted with the Video Assistant Referee.
Their players surrounded the referee, pointing to the big screen replays of the goal and seemingly threatening to walk off the pitch.
‘What is this?!’
Coach Alain Djeumfa persuaded them to carry on, but expressed his rage as he turned to the television cameras and appeared to shout: “It’s a shame, what is this?!”
Further confusion came just three minutes after the restart when Cameroon thought they had pulled a goal back to make it 2-1, but Ajara Nchout’s effort was eventually disallowed for offside after the referee had again consulted with the VAR.
The Indomitable Lionesses carried on but were outclassed by an England side who will nevertheless need to improve considerably from this performance if they are to win the World Cup.
Their early opener on a sticky evening at the Stade du Hainaut came after Cameroon goalkeeper Annette Ngo Ndom picked up what was adjudged to have been a backpass by Augustine Ejangue, although it looked to be nothing more than a poor piece of control from the defender.
Toni Duggan laid off the free-kick barely six yards out for Houghton to fire in, despite Cameroon placing every single player behind the ball.
England were laborious but increased their advantage through that controversial second goal right on half-time, with Lucy Bronze doing excellently to set up White, who fired in on her left foot for her fourth goal of the World Cup.
White was in line with the last defender when the pass was played, and the decision to let the goal stand was the correct one.
The next flashpoint came just after the restart as Nchout scored from Gabrielle Aboudi Onguene’s low ball into the box, but again VAR overturned the decision, this time disallowing the goal for offside.
Again it was the right decision, but again the Cameroon players protested vehemently. Neville approached Djeumfa to try to help calm his opposite number down, and play again eventually resumed.
England then wrapped up their victory when Duggan’s low corner from the left was swept home first-time by Greenwood in the 58th minute.
That ended any doubt about the final outcome, and the referee then opted not to give England a penalty after coming to review a possible foul on Fran Kirby in the box by Ysis Sonkeng, thereby avoiding the further wrath of the Cameroon players.
However, it is Juventus — for whom substitute Douglas Costa struck a post late on — who hold the upper hand heading into next Tuesday’s return in Turin, with the winners of this tie facing Manchester City or Tottenham Hotspur in the last four.
Ronaldo was back for his first appearance since suffering a thigh injury playing for Portugal last month — it was his first game for Juventus since netting the hat-trick that dumped out Atletico Madrid in the last 16.
The 34-year-old is aiming to win the trophy for the fourth year running, while Ajax are appearing at this stage of the competition for the first time since 2003.
They had set up this tie by ending Real Madrid’s European hegemony in the previous round after a thrilling 4-1 victory in Spain.
Erik ten Hag’s brilliant young side is likely to be broken up at the end of this campaign, so this may be the Amsterdam club’s best chance in a long time to win a fifth European Cup.
De Jong runs the show
Frenkie de Jong is leaving for Barcelona, and the 21-year-old’s eagerness to get on the ball and start moves here underlined why the Catalans were prepared to pay an initial 75 million euros ($84.5 million) in January to secure his signature.
However, it was the Moroccan international, Hakim Ziyech, who was the most prominent going forward in the first half — one curling effort in the 18th minute was heading for the top corner before being tipped over by Wojciech Szczesny.
Ajax certainly should have scored in the 25th minute when Dusan Tadic set up Donny van de Beek inside the box, but his shot went agonisingly wide.
Juventus only displayed their attacking threat in patches, with Federico Bernardeschi lively and Ronaldo hooking one chance wide.
The latter had been kept largely quiet, but he was afforded too much time and space by the Ajax defence as he opened the scoring with the last act of the first half.
Ronaldo collected a pass from the elegant Rodrigo Bentancur, spread the play to Joao Cancelo and then ran unhindered in a straight line into the box to head home his compatriot’s perfectly flighted cross.
Andre Onana got a touch, but could not deny Ronaldo his 25th of the season — he has now scored six Champions League goals at the Johan Cruyff Arena, as many as ex-Ajax star Zlatan Ibrahimovic.
The Ajax fans greeted their team’s return for the second half with a rendition of Bob Marley’s Three Little Birds, and they were still belting out the words to their adopted hymn when they equalised within a minute of the restart.
Neres robbed Cancelo by the left touchline just inside the Juventus half and advanced before curling a shot beyond Szczesny and into the far corner.
However, despite exerted pressure after that, Ajax could not get a winner, and Costa nearly delivered a late sucker punch when he struck the woodwork.
Having come back from losing 2-1 at home to Madrid in the first leg of the last 16, Ajax will head to Turin full of hope, although left-back Nicolas Tagliafico will be suspended for the return after being booked here.
Manchester United will face Barcelona in the Champions League quarter-finals while Manchester City and Tottenham Hotspur clash in an all-Premier League tie following Friday’s draw.
Liverpool were drawn to play FC Porto in the knockout rounds for the second year in succession, as Ajax’s reward for eliminating the holders Real Madrid is a two-legged tie against Cristiano Ronaldo and Juventus.
English hopes are high that this could be their year in Europe’s elite club competition after all four of their representatives made it through to the last eight.
However, Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s United will have their work cut out if they are to go any further as they take on the Barcelona of Lionel Messi in the headline tie.
For Solskjaer, the second leg will bring back memories of 1999 final, when the Norwegian came off the bench to score a stoppage-time winner for United against Bayern Munich at Barcelona’s Camp Nou stadium.
With City and United not allowed to play their home leg in the same week, United will entertain the leaders of La Liga at Old Trafford on April 9 or 10, with the return a week later.
The last time the Premier League had four teams in the quarter-finals, in 2008/09, Barcelona beat the Old Trafford side 2-0 in the final in Rome. The clubs clashed again in the final at Wembley in 2011, with Barca winning 3-1 on that occasion.
The repeat of ’96 final
UEFA also drew the semi-finals on Friday, meaning the winners of the Barcelona v United will face either Liverpool or Porto in the last four.
Jurgen Klopp’s side, fresh from knocking out Bayern Munich in the last 16, will be confident of beating the Portuguese champions after defeating them 5-0 on aggregate in the last 16 on their way to the final last season.
Liverpool will host two-time European Cup winners Porto at Anfield in the first leg before heading to the Estadio do Dragao in the return on April 16 or 17.
There is guaranteed to be one English team in the semi-finals after Tottenham and City were paired together, with the first leg to be played in London.
With Pep Guardiola’s team top of the Premier League, 13 points ahead of Spurs in third, City will be the favourites to advance to their first semi-final since 2016. City have also won their last three meetings with Mauricio Pochettino’s team.
The draw means there will be three clashes between the sides in 10 days — they are also due to meet in the Premier League at the Etihad Stadium on April 20.
The winner of that tie will host either Ajax or Juventus in the first leg of the semi-finals.
The latter tie is a repeat of 1996 final, which the Italian club won on penalties against an Ajax team who had won the trophy the previous year.
Juventus have lost five finals since then but are hoping Ronaldo can fire them to glory this season after his hat-trick knocked out Atletico Madrid on Tuesday.
That result ended Atletico’s dreams of reaching the final, which will be played at their Wanda Metropolitano stadium on Saturday, June 1.
Ahead of the Africa Cup of Nations AFCON 2015 final match that is to hold at the Bata Stadium on Sunday, the Ghanaian team are optimistic of the outcome.
Andre Ayew, the Ghanaian forward has vowed that the Ghanaian team will fight to win Sunday’s AFCON final match against Cote d’Ivore for the whole of Ghana.
The Ghanaian forward has shone in this competition, scoring three goals but he insisted it was the result of the confidence he has enjoyed both from his teammates and the coach.
“I have tried to raise my game because I have been given responsibilities both on and off the pitch. It is due to the group and the confidence from the coach,” he said.
He also blamed inexperience for the Black Stars loss at the 2010 AFCON final to Egypt saying that 14 players had been brought from the U20 World Cup and the team was in the final after three months of the tournament where they were attacking, but couldn’t score.
Ayew said, “I remember the red coat my father wore (sitting on the sidelines in the 1992 final). My father is a Ghanaian and so I want to win this cup for all Ghanaians.”
Ghana last won this competition in 1982 with Andre’s father, the legendary Abedi ‘Pele’ Ayew, one of the top stars from that triumph in Libya.
Ten years later, Ayew senior could not play another Africa Cup final after he picked up a second yellow card against Nigeria in the semi-final and Cote d’Ivoire went ahead to beat the Black Stars 11-10 on penalties after a goalless 120 minutes of action. “When you get to the final, you need to do everything to win the trophy,” he said.
Ghanaian Black Stars Captain, Asamoah Gyan, returned to training in Bata on Saturday ahead of the AFCON 2015 final against Ivory Coast.
Gyan did not join his colleagues during the team work out, but trained separately with physical trainer Jamie Lawrence due to his health status.
Gyan must pass a late fitness test to make Avram Grant’s starting line-up for the final against Ivory Coast.
The 29-year-old missed Ghana’s AFCON 2015 semi-final against Equatorial Guinea due to a hip injury he suffered against Guinea last Sunday.
Avram Grant, the black star coach also said that reaching the final of the AFCON tournament is as important to him as reaching the UEFA Champions league final.
“For me, I do not rate any final as the best; it’s a good achievement we have reached with these guys and all Ghanaian should get behind the team,” he said.
The former Chelsea boss took charge of the West African giants three weeks to CAF’s flagship competition, but has managed to reach the final of the competition.
The Confederation of African Football (CAF) has shifted the matches scheduled to hold in Ebebiyin and Mongomo in Equatorial Guinea to Bata and Malabo, after the group-stage matches left the pitches damaged beyond use.
The tournament officials confirmed the two venue switches on Tuesday and said that all Africa Cup of Nations quarter-final ties will take place in Bata and Malabo.
Originally, the last-eight showdown between Tunisia and hosts Equatorial Guinea was scheduled to take place in Ebebiyin on Saturday.
Similar problems occurred in Mongomo where a quarter-final match was originally slated to take place on Sunday, but that will now be held in the capital Malabo.
That match will kick off at 16:00, which means the remaining quarter-final, also taking place in Malabo, has been pushed back to start at 19:30.
Consequently, the CAF Executive Committee feels that the eight teams qualified for the quarter-final stages onwards should be given the opportunity to play on grounds that provide the highest standards, specifically those of Bata and Malabo, to ensure the quality of play remained at the highest possible level.
There have already been instances of overcrowding at matches earlier in the tournament and police being overrun by supporters.
Moving the match to Bata Stadium, which will also host the final on 8 February, means an extra 30,000 fans will be able to attend.
Report also has it that it is the first time in the history of the Nations Cup that quarter-finals matches have been relocated, but the logistics of holding the tournament in Equatorial Guinea at short notice have presented unique problems.
After reaching the quarter -final of the Africa Cup of Nations, the Ghana captain Asamoah Gyan said his team is not afraid of any other.
Ghana pulled through after defeating South Africa 2-1 and will meet the Group D runners-up in the quarter-finals on Sunday evening.
Confident of his team’s performance, Gyan said “with this team we can take on anyone in this competition.”
The Algeria coach Christian Gourcuff said: “It was not easy to get out of this group,” as the team qualified as Group C runners-up.
Gyan scored Ghana’s late winner in their second game against Algeria which ultimately helped them finish top of the table on head-to-head record.
“I have played at five cups of nations, but this group was the hardest,” he added.
“We were very strong mentally, even after conceding the first goal. We kept believing and fought to the end knowing that we could win.”
Ghana manager Avram Grant said: “We deserve it because South Africa were not better than us.
Grant also said “We have finished first in the group of death, which is not bad. After losing the first match we showed great attitude in the second and continued along the same lines today , we started the match very well with two or three good chances. We had the match in our hands. I am very happy that the players showed, just as in their last match, a good spirit and good attitude.”