It was a tense game even before the ball was kicked. The sudden ban of Sierra Leone by FIFA has turned this tie into a must win for both teams. The fact that FIFA rejected Sierra Leone’s appeal a day before the game was also a warning bell for the two East African sides who are hoping to make their dream of AFCON qualification a reality, Ethiopia after 6 years and Kenya after 14.
Coach Abraham Mebratu stated before the game that they will be focused on the game at hand, not on Sierra Leone. A packed Bahir Dar stadium was there to rally on Team Waliya. But the game ended goalless, a repeat of the results that occurred in 2013 and 2015. Kenya will be the happier of the two sides as Ethiopia failed to make their more than enough chances and home advantage count.
Ethiopia made one change from the team that faced Sierra Leone in Hawassa. Striker Dawa Hotessa started ahead of Oumed Oukori. Dawa played on the right wing of a three man attacking midfield as the Waliyas deployed a 4-2-3-1 formation.
The Ethiopia players felt the pressure early on as they made hasty decisions and gave the ball away. Kenya sat deep, absorbed the pressure, and tried to hit the home side on the counter using long balls and taking advantage of the width of the pitch.
Ethiopia’s main outlet of attack was through the middle. Shemeles Bekele and Gatouch Panom continously tried to find striker Getaneh Kebede via through balls, but the St. George striker kept getting caught offside as the Kenya defense perfected the offside trap.
Despite all of their possession The Waliyas weren’t the ones who had the best chances of the first half. Goalkeeper Samson Assefa was called into action in the 19th and 26th minute to keep out the visitors. Kenya attacked the gap in between the Ethiopia midfield and defense, found spaces, and tried to take advantage of poor clearances.
As the minutes went on the Ethiopia national team started to gain confidence and started to attack in numbers. St. George fullback Abdulkerim Mohammed provided the width as Ethiopia tried to put in crosses for Getaneh. However, the deliveries were poor and failed to find their intended target.
In the second half Ethiopia dominated the game completely. They kept on creating chances in order to find that crucial win. The Harambee stars started to commit fouls to break up attacks as the hosts piled on the pressure. There were boos from the stadium whenever the visitors went down injured as the crowd felt that they were trying to waste time.
Ethiopia had a good opportunity to score in the 81st minute as Getaneh took a curling shot outside of the box which was saved by Matasi. From the resulting corner Ethiopia managed to find the back of the net but the goal was ruled out for offside.
Gambian referee Bakary Papa Gassama controlled the game well. He rightly waved off two penalty appeals from Ethiopia and one from Kenya.
The draw leaves Ethiopia in a tight spot as the Waliyas will only have a point to show for all their hard work, given that Sierra Leone’s ban still stands. Kenya has 4 points from their win against Ghana and their draw in Ethiopia. They will also feel confident going into their home tie against their neighbors.