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Saidi acknowledges Moroccan nerves in CHAN opener

Morocco midfielder Salaheddine Saidi has acknowledged that the African Nations Championship hosts felt the pressure during a frustrating first-half display in their tournament opener against Mauritania.

The Atlas Lions ultimately romped to a 4-0 victory after an excellent second-half showing, but despite their utter dominance, had to contend with growing frustration from the crowd in Casablanca before Ayoub El Kaabi broke the deadlock in the 66th minute.

"It's normal [that there's a bit of apprehension]," Saidi told KweséESPN. "We were playing in front of our own fans and the first match is always a bit complicated.

"The first half was difficult," he continued. "We created a lot but we weren't lucky when it came to finding the net."

Before El Kaabi opened the scoring, Saidi had had two shots - a powerful close-range finish and a tamer looping effort - both saved by Mauritania goalkeeper Souleymane Brahim, while the opening score had also been denied during an increasingly heroic rearguard display.

However, after El Kaabi broke the deadlock, the floodgates opened, with Ismail El Haddad and substitute Achraf Bencharki also finding the net to secure a 4-0 victory that didn't flatter the hosts.

"In the second half, we came back into the game well focused and we made the most of our chances," Saidi added. "The key thing was to take three points, and I hope it will continue like that for the next game."

While Moroccan supporters can take encouragement from the notion that their side's second-half display was a sign of further scintillating attacking football to come, the way they were neutralised by lowly Mauritania - for over an hour - may come as some concern to coach Jamal Sellami.

"In the games to come," Saidi concluded optimistically, "we'll get there, God willing."

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