Ethiopia and Kenya settled for a barren draw in a Group F Day Three clash on Wednesday at a packed Bahir Dar National Stadium.
It was an evenly matched game in the first interval with the Harambee Stars squandering some clear goal scoring chances. The host Waliyas almost got the opener but a brilliant tackle by Kenya defender Musa Mohammed denied Getaneh Kebede from scoring in the opening half.
The pressure from the home side could not persist as the visitor's star player Michael Olunga nearly hit back. Olunga was on clear in the second minute but centre back Asechalew Tamene headed the ball out before the Kenyan forward could bury the ball into the net.
On the quarter-hour mark, Dawa Hotessa's effort from a free kick sailed wide without causing havoc to the Kenya backline.
Olunga's strike inside the penalty area was parried by an alert Ethiopian goalie Samson Assefa 20 minutes into the game. Minutes later, Erick Johanna was the culprit for squandering unarguably Kenya's best scoring chance of the day as his effort went wide.
Ovella Ochieng will later test Assefa from a tight angle only to see his effort cleared off. In the 29th minute, Ethiopian midfielder Shemeles Bekele dribbled past his markers and unleashed a shot that went straight into the side netting.
Back from recess, the Waliyas were the dominant force whilst the Harambee Stars went defensive. A great pass from Kebede found unmarked Bekele but the Egyptian-based playmaker's strike was deflected out for a corner.
A minute after the hour mark Gatoch Panom should have given Ethiopia the lead but missed to hit the target. In the 67th minute, a long range pass found Bekele who controlled it beautifully and unleashed a low volley that went past Kenyan custodian Patrick Matasi. However, the ball agonizingly rattled the post. Matasi was called to action eight minutes before time as he superbly saved an effort from Kebede.
The draw gave Kenya the edge going to the reverse in Nairobi in three days. The Harambee Stars lead Group F with four points, same as Ethiopia.
Abraham Mebratu (Head Coach, Ethiopia)
I'm happy with the way my boys performed. I can see that we have a good side. Apart from the first half that we saw a lapse in concentration, we were dominant throughout the game. Kenya has got a good blend of players that are both experienced and tactically disciplined. They have got the result they wanted but we don't deserve to share the spoils as we were the better side. We will try to rectify our finishing abilities and notch a positive result in the return leg.
Sebastien Migne (Head Coach, Kenya)
We squandered some good scoring opportunities that we should have converted in the first half. After that, it was difficult since Ethiopia has got a good fan base that can make a difference and create an electrifying atmosphere. At the beginning of the second half, we were going forward but the injury to my left back Abdu Omar gave Ethiopia the edge to pressure us from the flanks. It was an evenly matched game so the draw is fair.