HomeSportSoccerEthiopian lions belie lowly status again

Ethiopian lions belie lowly status again

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CAIRO — Ethiopia continued their recent good form when they held Benin 1-1 in Cotonou Sunday and reached the final football qualifying round for the 2013 Africa Cup of Nations.

Ranked 39 on the continent, they are the lowest placed country among the 30 survivors set to play two-leg ties during September and October to decide who joins hosts South Africa at the continental football showcase.

The Black Lions held South Africa away and defeated Central African Republic at home this month to lead a 2014 World Cup qualifying group despite being the bottom seeds.

Benin, who forced a goalless first leg draw in Addis Ababa, and are ranked 22 places higher than Ethiopia, went ahead on 19 minutes through Mickael Pote only for Alula Mekonnen to level just before halftime.

Mekonnen made light of the wet conditions to turn and slam the ball beyond goalkeeper Fabien Farnolle for an equaliser that put the visitors ahead on the away-goal rule. A Benin team that also impressed in World Cup qualifiers this month under new French coach Manuel Amoros applied relentless second half pressure without scoring again and suffered a heart-breaking exit.

Jerry Sitoe gave Mozambique an eighth-minute lead over Tanzania in Maputo which they retained until 60 seconds from time when an Aggrey Morris goal brought the teams level on the day, on aggregate and on away goals.

Elias “Domingues” Pelembe, whose $60 000-a-month salary in reportedly the highest in the South African Premiership, became the toast of his homeland by converting the kick that took his team through 8-7 on penalties.

There was no such drama in Kinshasa as a Democratic Republic of Congo team already four goals ahead from a February visit to the Seychelles, triumphed 3-0 via goals from Dieumerci Mbokani, Issama Mpeko and Deo Kanda.

Algeria, Cameroon, Cape Verde Islands, Liberia, Malawi, Nigeria, Sierra Leone and Uganda also secured second round places at the weekend with the final place going to the Central African Republic or Egypt.

Record seven-time Cup of Nations title holders Egypt suffered a stunning 3-2 home loss to the Wild Beasts last Friday and the countries clash again on June 30 in Bangui.

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