Visiting Rwanda came from behind to beat Ethiopia 3-2 in the Total African Nations Championship (CHAN) Morocco 2018 qualifier playoff first leg on Sunday, 5 November 2017 in Addis Ababa.
Host Walias failed to protect their narrow opening lead conceding twice within a space of two minutes.
Amavubi are now in pole position to snatch the last ticket to complete the line-up for next year's edition of the tournament designed exclusively for footballers playing in their domestic leagues. The return leg is due for Kigali next Sunday, 12 November 2017.
The homers started off the duel on a bright note with Rwanda's backline the busier in the opening minutes. The Walias were the first to pull the trigger on goal when midfielder Mesude Mohammed's through ball found winger Abubeker Sani who fired straight into the waiting hands of Rwanda goalie Eric Ndayishimiye in the fourth minute.
Ethiopia broke the deadlock in the 17th minute through Aschalew Girma. Mohammed yet again played a key role to release Girma, who rounded onrushing Ndayishimiye to fire home the opener and give the Walias a thin lead at the interval.
Upon resumption, Eric Rutanga put Amavubi on level terms with a well-struck free-kick which left Ethiopian goalie Lealem Birhanu hapless on 55 minutes.
The host restored their lead on 65 minutes through playmaker Sani, who headed in a cross from midfielder Samson Tilahun from the left flank.
After failing to increase the lead, the Walias were punished by the visitors for the missed opportunities.
Substitute Muhadjiri Hakizimana capitalized on blunder by Ethiopia goalie Birhanu to level matters in the 77th minute, before Abeddy Biramahire scored the winner two minutes later.
Ashenafi Bekele (Head Coach, Ethiopia)
It was not a bad game. The goals we conceded left us demoralized and I want to apologize to the public. We have not able to get good results in recent times. We had finishing problems. If you don't have decent forwards, you pay the price. I have said this over and over; these are the only players we have got. It is beyond my capacity. I take full responsibility for the loss. We don't really know what will happen in football and we shall see what the second leg has for us. We will try to include some players and we shall see how it goes.
Antoine Hey (Head Coach, Rwanda)
We are very happy with the result. Coming back twice after trailing at half time, it was very hard to take but our players dealt with it. It shows the mentality we have and we are very happy with the result and the match in general. We have a very young team with 20 and 21-year old players. It is new for them to play in such an atmosphere and they have done extremely well. They are getting better and better in every game we have been playing. They (Ethiopia) have more experience. The players were a bit relaxed under the circumstance so it is not over yet. We have another 90 minutes to play next week. Everything can happen in football and let's hope for the best. We wanted to get a good result away from home; that is why we played on the offensive. That exposed us for counter attacks but it was a good result to take home.