ABIDJAN: A melee broke out between Morocco and Congo players and coaching staff at the end of their 1-1 draw at the Africa Cup of Nations on Sunday.
It started after the game when Morocco coach Walid Regragui approached Congo captain Chancel Mbemba, who had already received a yellow card for arguing with the referee. Mbemba clearly disagreed with what Regragui said and made signs for the video referee as players from both teams rushed in and officials struggled to control the situation as pushing and shoving ensued.
“It’s the heat. It’s a big match between two big nations,” Congo coach Sébastien Desabre said. “It’s very hot. Very, very, very hot.”
The temperature in San Pedro was 32 degrees C (90 F) when the game started.
Morocco missed the chance to secure a spot in the knockout stage with a game to spare as Congo forward Silas Katompa Mvumpa canceled Achraf Hakimi’s early goal for the “Atlas Lions.”
Hakimi scored from Hakim Ziyech’s corner in the sixth minute, but Silas equalized in the 76th for Congo’s second successive draw in the tournament.
Morocco leads Group F with four points from two games after its opening 3-0 win over Tanzania, followed by Congo on two points. Zambia played Tanzania later Sunday in the other Group F match.
The game’s first cooling break was needed. It also allowed tempers to cool – albeit only briefly – after a series of robust challenges.
There was another break for treatment to Congo defender Henock Inonga Baka, who had to have his head bandaged to stem a heavy blood flow after he jumped for a set piece and received a blow.
When he returned, the referee awarded Congo a penalty after checking video replays for a possible hand ball by Selim Amallah. He also booked the Morocco defender.
But Cédric Bakambu hit the post with the penalty. It was just one example of the “Leopards” lacking accuracy in front of goal as they otherwise finished the half strongly.
Congo’s Inonga Baka went off at the break for Dylan Batubinsika, who almost had an immediate impact with an effort that went just wide of the post.
Congo kept pushing, however, and finally scored when Meschack Elia cut the ball back for Silas to fire in the equalizer.
“There was room at the end for us to get all three points,” the Stuttgart forward said.
Tanzania has a new coach after suspending Adel Amrouche after he was banned for eight matches for pre-tournament comments he made about Morocco’s alleged influence on the African soccer confederation (CAF).
South Africa played neighboring Namibia later Sunday as it looks for its first points in Group E.