African Outlook Online

Africa Sports Report

World Cup 2014: Ethiopia 1-2 Nigeria

World Cup 2014: Ethiopia 1-2 Nigeria

 

Nigeria survived a scare in Addis Ababa as the African champions rallied to beat Ethiopia 2-1 in the opening leg of their World Cup play-off.

Nigeria striker Emmanuel Emenike

The hosts were the superior team for the first hour and led after 56 minutes as Nigerian goalkeeper Vincent Enyeama misjudged a cross from Behailu Assefa.

 

Nigeria, who were not at their best, equalised through Emmanuel Emenike's ferocious drive after 67 minutes. Emenike then won and scored a penalty late on to seal a barely-deserved win.  The match was in the 90th minute when Aynalem Hailu needlessly brought the Nigerian down, so allowing the Turkey-based striker to coolly slot home a decisive goal.

 

"Ethiopia's play scared us in the first half but we showed why we are the African champions in the second half - that's what makes the difference," assistant coach Daniel Amokachi told BBC Sport.

 

Bidding to qualify for their fifth World Cup in six attempts, Stephen Keshi's side grew stronger as the game wore on and could have led after 77 minutes as Ahmed Musa thumped a close-range strike against the inside of the post.

 

Defeat was cruel on Ethiopia coach Sewnet Bishaw, whose impressed with their technical play but who lacked a cutting edge in the final third. Trying to become the first East African nation to appear at a World Cup, the Walya Antelopes thought they had opened the scoring after 24 minutes through Saladin Said.

 

The forward controlled a long diagonal ball well and managed to beat Enyeama only to see Gofrey Oboabona clear off the line, with many inside a packed Addis Ababa Stadium - Said included - believing a goal had been scored. So there was a hint of irony when Ethiopia made the breakthrough in similar style as Enyeama was slow to react to a left-wing cross from Assefa, with the Nigerian badly positioned as he caught the ball behind the line.

 

There was a split second of hesitation before the home fans realised a goal had been scored, prompting an outpouring of celebration from the hordes of colorful Ethiopian supporters. The visitors, for whom Nnamdi Oduamadi had missed a good chance in the first half, had an early opportunity to draw level only for some smart goalkeeping from Jemal Tassew to deny Victor Moses.

 

The Super Eagles did not have to wait long for their equaliser however as Emenike took possession 30 yards out before drifting forward and rifling home a blistering strike. The goal took the wind out of the hosts' sails and they were fortunate to survive with their goal intact when Musa got behind the Ethiopian defence and hit the post with Tassew beaten.

 

Ethiopia substitute Addis Hintsa missed two presentable chances in the dying minutes, as the match looked set to end in a draw. While that may have been a fairer reflection on the game, Emenike had other ideas, ploughing into the box and forcing a rash challenge from Hailu who clearly tugged the Nigerian's arm.

 

Emenike's second goal of the game enabled the visitors to stage the perfect smash-and-grab and ensure that Nigeria are favorites to progress to their second straight World Cup when the two sides meet again in Calabar on 16 November.