Red Foxes bowed out of the 2017 Total African U-17 Nations Cup final qualifying round after a 4-1 aggregate defeat at the hands of the reigning African champions Mali. Mali came out on top in the return leg as they cruise to a 2-1 win over Ethiopia in Addis Ababa on Sunday afternoon.
The hosts were on the wrong foot from the onset as they found themselves trailing 1-0. Mali’s forward Sibiry Keita handed his country an early lead in the 3rd minute when he finished off a great chance inside the area. Keita, who had been a thorn in flesh for the Ethiopian defense, was very close to double the lead but his shot went to the side netting in the 11th minute. Ethiopia were finding it very difficult to penetrate to the visitor’s defense The Malians continued on their fast breaks and were almost awarded with the second after Keita unleashed a superb shot but a heroic save from Ogna Omegna kept the score the same. The host’s best chance came in the dying moments of the first interval when Mali’s custodian Youssouf Koita tipped a cross that struck the bar while Ethiopian winger Kalkidan Zelalem failed to convert the rebound.
Ethiopia pushed forward to get a goal and were denied by Koita. Koita saved a Jafar Mudesir’s headed effort. Red Foxes manage to equalize in the 72nd minute through first half substitute Fasil Abebayehu. Unfortunately, the Malians caught the Ethiopian defense napping on counter attack at stroke of full time to score their second and seal qualification. Second half substitute Mahamane Toure fired home from close range to hand Mali the win.
Ethiopia’s quest to take part in the next year’s U-17 tourney went all in vain. The national team defeated Egypt 5-2 on aggregate before losing ground to Mali in the final qualifying round.
Atnafu Alemu (Ethiopia, Coach)
“Our performance has been great. We came here to win but in football you can’t win often. We tried to prepare in the best possible way to win the tie on home soil. As you all have seen the players have a bright future ahead. U-17 tournaments are like schools where you learn things. All in all we built a good team.”
“The first goal that we conceded is our own defensive blunder but in the meantime we squandered some superb chances. They (Mali) were superior on the physical aspect. A concentration lapse is what got them the first goal and sometimes things like that happen. We can’t say much on the referee but he was hard on us.”
Jonas Komla (Mali, Coach)
“I think the Ethiopia side is a good team. In the first leg in Bamako they played really well. They have got players that play a very good football. They were good today and they have given us a big problem but my boys got the much needed experience. I believe this U-17 team could feed players to the Ethiopian senior national team after two years.”
“In my country we have more football academies now and we are going on the right truck. We had the pleasure of getting a technical help from Joachim Fickert who happens to be in Ethiopia. Fickert made a tremendous job in Mali four years ago.”
“The referee’s decision is up to him. The most important thing is my team”