Ethiopia will return to the Total Africa Cup of Nations (AFCON) after an eight year absence despite a 3-1 loss at the hands of Côte d’Ivoire in Abidjan on Tuesday.
The match had to be suspended for close to an hour after the main referee experienced some health challenges. First assistant referee Gilbert Cheruiyot stepped in for the final quarter an hour of play, with the game finishing 3-1 just as it was when it was temporarily halted.
Ethiopia go through after Madagascar was held to a goalless draw by Niger in the other group match in Masaina, meaning The Walia Ibex finish second in the group and earn a ticket to Cameroon.
Ethiopia found themselves trailing 127 seconds into the match. Serge Aurier who starred in last week’s 3-0 win over Niger with a goal and two assists continued from where he left off, floating a neat delivery into the box off a corner that was converted by Willy Boly.
They were 2-0 down in the 17th minute when the home side doubled their tally, Franck Kessie scoring from the penalty spot. The AC Milan midfielder sent the keeper the wrong way after Kouassi was brought down inside the box by Remdan Yussef.
In the second half, the home side had some efforts to score. Five minutes after the restart, Kouassi had a chipped effort come off the bar as he looked to catch the keeper off his line. In the 65th minute, Yohan Boli missed a great chance when he tapped wide unmarked at the back post off a Jouassi cross.
Ethiopia brought themselves back into the game when Kebede scored in the 73rd minute, tapping the ball in from a yard out after Shemekit Gugesa’s cross from the left landed on his path.
But the hope of a comeback was shortlived as the Ivorians got back to their two goal cushion three minutes later when Kouasi scored after wriggling away from two markers off a Max Gradel cross before slamming into the net.
In Masaina, Madagascar needed to win against visitors Niger to reach their second successive AFCON finals, but the goalless draw meant Barea missed the chance, leaving Ethiopia with the second group ticket.