The newly built Hawassa International Stadium hosted its first full international game as the Ethiopian National Team came from behind to beat Seychelles 2-1 in the final round of the 2017 African Cup of Nations qualifiers to finish second in the group and hold on to their slim hopes of qualifying. The venue was home to a handful of CECAFA 2015 games, but was yet to host a full international game featuring the senior side.
The Walia Ibex, as the team are affectionately known, made their intention clear early on with some good attacking football and neat interchange of passes. The first chance of the game fell Ethiopia’s way with Getaneh Kebede’s header in the 5th minute miraculously being tipped over by the Seychellois keeper. It was Seychelles, however, who opened the scoring with Achille Henritte heading home in the 20th minute against the run of play.
It took just 13 minutes for Ethiopia to respond. Wide man Efrem Ashamo showed some fine trickery to beat his man and deliver the ball to Salhadin Said, who in turn provided the assist for talisman Getaneh Kebede who leveled the score with a fine finish. It was Getaneh’s 8th goal in his last 6 appearances in an Ethiopia shirt, the currently unattached striker leads the qualifiers chart with 6 goals.
St George’s Behailu Assefa came in replacing Shimekit Gugsa in the second half in an effort to give the team some much needed width. Seychelles keeper Gino Melante took down Salhadin Said in the box in the 53rd minute, and the striker dusted himself up to convert the resulting penalty and give Ethiopia the lead.
Salhadin Said had a handful of chances to score another goal, but failed to convert the chances – a bad day in office for the usually sharp striker. The Ethiopians failed to extend the lead wasting a number of good scoring opportunities with Shimeles Bekele, Efrem Ashamo, Abdulkerim Mohammed and Siyoum Tesfaye being among the guilty party.
The game ended in a 2-1 victory for Ethiopia meaning the Walias end their qualifying run 2nd in the group with 11 points and a 3 goal deficit. They still have an extremely unlikely outside chance of qualifying for the tournament, and they’ll now hope Tunisia, Uganda, CAR, Cape Verde, and Swaziland stumble in order to make it to Gabon as one of the two best runner ups.
Caretaker Coach Gebremedhin Haile expressed his delight with the win, but reiterated that there are many negatives to learn from in the match.
“We’re happy that we were able to win. Our opposition were very defensive and wouldn’t get drawn out of their half, and that has prevented us from scoring more goals. We’ve also wasted a number of good scoring opportunities which we will take as our weakness and work on for the future.”
Seychelles coach Ralph Jean Louis stated that he was content with his team despite the loss, and that the result was good for his country considering the short preparation time they had before the game.
“First, I want to congratulate the Ethiopian team for their victory, inspite of my reservation about the penalty decision that led to their second goal. We played against a very technical Ethiopian team, but I think our defensive organization has effectively prevented them from creating chances. We only had a short preparation time ahead of this game, and there were also some significant absentees from the team – most notably our defender Carl Hall. Considering all these setbacks, I would say losing 2-1 away to Ethiopia is a decent result for us.”
Soccer Ethiopia would like to thank The Central Hawassa Hotel for assisting us to deliver this and related reports from Hawassa.