Richard Avornyotse, GNA Special Correspondent, Addis Ababa, Ethiopia
Addis Ababa, Jan 9, GNA - Ethiopia spiked the winning run of the Black Starlets when they beat them by two goals to one at the Addis Ababa International Stadium in the first leg final qualifier of the African Under-17 championship.
The home side came from behind to score two goals in three minutes to send their fans into wild jubilation.
After a barren first half, Abubakar Awudu stunned the home side in the 76th minute when he headed in from a tense goalmouth action which came as a result of a corner kick from the right.
The goal was against the run of play but it ignited the confidence of the Ghanaians and they appeared to assume control for a brief spell. The Ethiopians soon regained control and in the 83rd minute, Tsegaye Belete swung in a connection to a cross from the right, leaving the entire Ghanaian defence and goalkeeper Nana Bonsu sprawling. With the scores at one all, the Ethiopians stepped up the tempo and pushed the Ghanaians to defend and in an attempt to halt the charge, Emmanuel Ansong produced a clean tackle to rob Mohammed Naser of the ball.
But to the amazement of the Ghanaian team, referee Husien Omar of Somalia whistled for a penalty and Belete converted to put his side ahead. Earlier in the match, Ghana had a glorious chance to snatch the leader on the hour mark when Opoku Agyemang ghosted past the Ethiopian back line and rounded up goalkeeper Mesfin Zewdu but slammed the ball into the side netting.
The Ethiopians wove through the Ghanaian team on several occasions but lack of potency in front of goal denied them a clear advantage.
David Duncan, head coach of the Starlets said he was satisfied with the spirit of his team. He blamed the harsh weather and the referee for the defeat and promised to reverse the result in Ghana. In his reaction, Wondenagegen Kebede, coach of the Ethiopians said his team worked hard for victory. He said it was necessary to press forward continuously and that was what his boys did to get the equaliser and the penalty.
The coach hoped to win in Ghana to qualify for the championship.
Before the match, Mr Kwasi Nyantekyi, Vice Chairman of the Ghana Football Association who was leader of delegation told the players that their winning bonuses were ready and urged them to win and collect them.
Though his speech was very inspirational and drew cheers from the players, they could not maintain their lead till the end.
The Starlets had a fair share of the support from the stands as Ghanaians resident in Addis Ababa trooped in to chant for them.
Also in attendance was Mr Emmanuel Enos, deputy head of Ghana's Mission.
It was the first competitive match of the Ethiopians in the series. They walked over Egypt in their previous fixture.