Second half substitute Youssef El-Arabi saved Morocco their blushes as a goal from him 12 minutes from time salvaged a point for the Atlas Lions in their 2013 African Cup of Nations Group A match against Cape Verde.
The Blue Sharks took the lead in the first half through Luis Platini before a 78th minute goal from El-Arabi saw the match at the Moses Mabhida Stadium finish 1-1 on Wednesday night.
The first 45 was half for the underdogs as Cape Verde dictated terms from the outset.
Morocco, on the other hand, while looking technically superior and able to pass the ball about smoothly, they were unable to really create any clear-cut chances in front of goal in the opening stanza.
Instead, it was the high work-rate of the smaller nation that shone through as they were quicker to the ball and just looked hungrier to make something happen in front of goal, and that they did as early as the first minute.
A left-sided set-piece was worked into the box and Julio Tavares rose highest to get his head on the ball, but he saw his flicked effort tipped over the crossbar by Nadir Lamyaghri.
Morocco’s only real chance of the half came in the tenth minute and from long range as they struggled to break down a stubborn Cape Verde defence.
Abderrahim Achchakir let fly with a powerfully 35-yard shot, which bounced just in front of the goalkeeper, but Josimar Vozinha did well diving to his right to palm the effort around the post for a corner.
At the other end of the park, Ryan Medes was a real thorn in the side of the Moroccan defence with his sublime vision and through balls, as well as his quick off-the-ball runs.
In the 22nd minute, however, it was his set-piece work that had the Atlas Lions worried as he struck a 24-yard free-kick goalwards. Lamyaghri, though, was alert to the danger making a fine save diving to his left.
In the 36th minute Cape Verde finally made their first half pressure tell when a mistake in the Moroccan midfield resulted in the Blue Sharks taking the lead.
Mendes was quick to pounce on the mistake in the midfield and quickly supplied a pin-point through ball for Luis Platini to run onto and he made no mistake with just the keeper to beat, clinically chipping the ball over the onrushing Lamyaghri to give his side the lead going into the break, 1-0.
The second 45 was a little scrappy as neither side were really able to take control of the game which resulted in chances on goal being few and far between, at least in the opening stages of the second stanza.
Consequently, as the half progressed it was clear Morocco were getting frustrated which resulted in a spate of yellow cards for Younes Belhanda and Abdelaziz Barrada as Cape Verde ‘parked the bus’ in defence while the Atlas Lions tried to break them down.
Eventually, in 78th minute the North African side were able to make their dominance tell as substitute Youssef El-Arabi found the equaliser.
The goal was superbly set-up by Abdelaziz Barrada who drove down the right flank, making his way into the box before cutting the ball back to an unmarked El-Arabi who produced an expert finish from 12-yards out, 1-1.
The final ten minutes saw the Moroccan side pester the Blue Sharks goal, but they could not find the winner as the match finished all square.