Mali will be in Madagascar come next year to defend their title at the 12 th edition of the U-17 Africa Cup of Nations. ‘Les Aiglonnets’ beat Ethiopia 2-1 on Sunday away in Addis Ababa to complete a double and advance 4-1 on aggregate.
The hosts were trailing 2-0 from the first leg in Bamako and were on the wrong foot from the onset after conceding just four minutes into the game. Malian Sibiry Keita, who was a headache for the Ethiopian backline, capitalized on a defensive blunder to slot home from close range.
The visitors continued to dominate and were almost rewarded with second goal seven minutes later but Keita’s low drive could only find the side netting.
The Red Foxes failed to make any meaningful attempt on goal for the majority of the first half. Ethiopia goalkeeper Ogan Omenga was to his side’s rescue with a brilliant save from Keita’s close range shot three minutes before the half-hour mark.
The homers’ best chance came in the dying moments of the first half when Mali shot stopper Youssouf Koita saw his save hit the crossbar before Ethiopian winger Kalkidan Zelalem failed to convert the rebound.
Ethiopia pushed forward to get a goal after recess but were denied by Koita again. The Malian goalie parried away Jafar Mudesir’s headed effort from a corner.
The equalizer finally came on 72 minutes through Fasil Abebayehu, who replaced Mohamed Yusef just before the break. Abebayehu was left unmarked and he finished off a cross from the right.
The goal served a catalyst for Ethiopia to deploy an offensive tactic, nevertheless the Malians caught the Ethiopian defence napping on fast break on the stroke of full time to snatch victory and seal qualification. Substitute Mahamane Toure fired past Omegna from close range to hand Mali the delightful victory.
In a post-match interview, a disappointed Ethiopia Coach, Atnafu Alemu said: “Our performance was great. We came here to win but in football you can’t win all the time. We tried to prepare in the best possible way to win the tie on home soil. The players have a bright future ahead. U-17 tournaments are like schools where you learn things. All in all we built a good team. The first goal that we conceded was a defensive blunder while we squandered some superb chances. They (Mali) were superior physically”.
On his part, Mali coach Jonas Komla said: “The Ethiopia side is a good team. In the first leg in Bamako, they played really well. They have got players that play very good football. They were good today and they gave us some problems but my boys got the much needed experience. The most important thing is that we won and qualified. We were on point in attack and defence today”.
Elsewhere in Bafousam, Cameroon were too much for Sudan winning 5-1 and 7-3 on aggregate. Moise Sakava and Stephane Zobo each scored in either half with Christian Bella also finding the back of the net whilst Shihabeldeen Alzobair grabbed a consolation for the visitors who ended the game with ten men after Mazin Mohamed was sent off after a second yellow card in stoppage time.
Congo left it late against Tanzania in Brazzaville with Edouard Mountou scoring in the 90th minute for the Congolese to go through on the away goal rule after a 3-3 tie on aggregate.
Second half strikes from Melono Dala and Abilio Contreiras was enough for Angola to beat Comoros 2-0 in Moroni and book their place 7-0 on aggregate.
Earlier on Saturday, Ghana and Niger became the first two teams to qualify for the final tournament confirming their places with stalemates away from home.
Ghana held western neighbours Cote d’Ivoire to a barren draw at the Robert Champroux Stadium in Abidjan and advanced 3-1 on aggregate, returning to the eight-team finals for the first time since 2013.
Niger also played out a 3-3 draw with host Gabon in Libreville, with the host of the 2015 edition progressing 4-3 on aggregate. Gabonese forward Fahd Richard Moubeti scored a hat-trick whilst a brace from Ibrahim Marou and one from Hamid Ajina was all the Young Menas needed to confirm their ticket to Madagascar, and further confirming that their ouster of World champions and neighbours, Nigeria, at the previous was no fluke.
The last spot will be decided between Guinea and Senegal, who faceo-off on Monday, 3 October 2016 in Conakry. Guinea were 1-0 winners from the first leg in Dakar in two weeks ago.
The final tournament will be held from 2-16 April 2017 in Madagascar.
Saturday, 1 October 2016
Cote d’Ivoire 0-0 Ghana (1-3)
Gabon 3-3 Niger (0-1)
Sunday, 2 October 2016
Ethiopia 1-2 Mali (0-2)
Guinea vs Senegal (1-0)
Cameroon 5-1 Sudan (2-4)
Congo 1-0 Tanzania (2-3)
Comoros 0-2 Angola (0-5)
Qualified teams: Madagascar (Host), Angola, Cameroon, Congo, Ghana, Mali, Niger, Guinea or Senegal