After a rocky patch this year, the result in Casablanca was the tonic England needed as they get ready to tackle the world's best in their quest to win the ultimate, the World Cup. Despite the victory, which will boost the confidence in the camp, the performance was far from world championship quality in the first half. England made nine changes to the team which drew with Saudi Arabia at Wembley last Saturday. Hoddle gave a run out to several players who have not played, or started a game recently. As expected Gascoigne was in the starting line-up as was Steve McManaman. Paul Ince made a surprising start to the game, wearing the captain's armband, after breaking down in training at the beginning of the week with an ankle injury.
The first twenty minutes of the game passed fairly uneventfully. Morocco's Saber was the only player to light-up the opening period with his free-kick and long shot. Then after asking his players not to risk injury in the King Hassan II Cup, one of Hoddle's front men, Ian Wright, pulled up with a hamstring injury. Wright had been chasing Morocco's Saber to cut back on the possibilty of the home side taking the lead. It is uncertain how long Wright will be out of action, and whether it will hamper his chances of going to the World Cup. Reports are that he could be out from anything between four days and two weeks. Hoddle will be anxious to hear the verdict.
Young Michael Owen came on to replace Wright, but eight minutes after entering the play he too was taken off the pitch after being kicked in the head by the Moroccan goalkeeper, Benzekri. The clash came as the Liverpool player sprinted to receive a ball from Le Saux. Luckily the knock to the head only kept Owen out of play for a few minutes thanks to the quick actions of Dublin and treatment from England's medical team.
The second half started on a more livelier note than the first had ended. The visitors changed from their starting formation of 3-5-2 to a better looking 4-4-2 system. England had their first serious chance of scoring in the game in the 46th minute when Le Saux played a good free-kick which was met by Dublin, but his header went over the bar. Steve McManaman looked more comfortable having changed to a wider role, from the left midfield position he had played in the first 45 minutes. The change brought him to life and the crowd saw him running past defenders with ease. McManaman played a good ball for Owen to run on to on 50 minutes, but Owen was ruled offside.
Flowers was having little to do in the game, but Morocco turned up the heat ten minutes into the second period when Chiba powered a shot from 35 yards out. The Blackburn Rovers goalkeeper collected the ball with ease. Then Rokki shot from 25 yards out which Southgate managed to clear.
Action returned then to the other end of the field and in the 59th minute Michael Owen became the youngest player to score for England. Again linking up with his club mate, McManaman. Owen ran past Rossi to meet McManaman's ball. He was 40 yards out but only had the goalkeeper to beat and did so by placing the ball in the corner of the net. At last England had scored.
Within the final ten minutes of the game Gascoigne had two great opportunities to stamp his name on the game but his shot from 10 yards out went wide of the post, and after working well he missed again with just two minutes until the final whistle.
Benzekri, Saber, Rossi, Negrouz, Hadrioui, Chiba (Amzine 63mins), Taher, Chippo (Sellami 79 mins), Bassir, Ouakili (Reda 73 mins), Robbi (El Khattabi 63 mins).
Subs Not Used: Triki, Abrami,Azzouzi, Laroussi, Abdeiaoui, Chadi, Chadili.
Flowers, Keown, Le Saux, Ince, Campbell, Southgate, Anderton, Gascoigne, Dublin (L Ferdinand 79 mins), Wright (Owen 26 mins), McManaman.
Subs Not Used: R Ferdinand, Walker, G Neville, Butt, Lee.
England Scorer: Owen (59 mins)
Morocco Caution: Rokki
England Caution: Keown
Referee: M Daami (Tunisia)