Ethiopia gave their 2022 Fifa World Cup qualification hopes a major boost with a 1-0 home win over Group G rivals Zimbabwe at Bahir Dar Stadium on Tuesday afternoon.
The result – secured by an injury-time penalty from Aschalew Tamene – sees the Walia Ibex join Ghana on three points, tied for second place, with South Africa leading on four points and the Warriors propping up the log with one point.
Ethiopia were the more forceful and proactive team through the first half, with attackers Amanuel Gebremichael, Abubeker Ahmed and Getaneh Kebede combining to force Zimbabwe onto the back foot for most of the first 45 minutes.
Yet the Walia Ibex struggled to create scoring opportunities, only once calling Warriors goalkeeper Talbert Shumba into serious action, as he kept out a drive from Kebede midway through the opening stanza.
The visitors provided a sporadic threat and saw Khama Billiat shoot on target just past the half-hour mark, though goalkeeper Fasil Gebremichael was able to make a relatively comfortable save.
Ethiopia’s rhythm was disrupted somewhat when they were forced into a 33rd-minute change, replacing the injured Shimeles Bekele with Tafesse Solomon, and the first half closed with the score locked at 0-0.
The East African side picked up in the second half where they left off in the first, though they found Zimbabwe’s defence difficult to break down – and when they did manage to get off efforts, Shumba was on hand to deny the hosts.
Ethiopia looked set to be frustrated right to the final whistle, but their pressure paid dividends in injury time at the end of the game, as they earned a penalty call from referee Bernard Camille and Aschalew Tamene converted from the spot to secure a 1-0 victory.
Ethiopia will return to Group G action with back-to-back matches against South Africa in October, while Zimbabwe will face Ghana both home and away.