By Beng Emmanuel
Cape Verde marked their return back to the Africa Cup of Nations after missing out in 2017 and 2019 with a slim 1-0 win against 10-man Ethiopia in their group A opener of the 24-nations tournament in Yaoundé.
The Blue Sharks who are without some of their players due to Covid-19 are now second of group A and joint leaders with host nation Cameroon after the Indomitable Lions came from behind to defeat Burkina Faso 2-1 in the tournament curtain raiser at the Olembe Stadium.
Julio Tavares scored the lone goal of the game with almost the last kick of the first half to give his side a precious win against Ethiopia whose return to the Afcon after their absence in 2015, 2017 and 2019 was ruined.
Ethiopia began the game with ambition to carry the day but barely had time to exert serious influence when they were reduced to 10-men. Their defender Bayeh Yared was sent off after a reckless tackle on Julio Tavares who had dispossessed him of the ball at the edge of the box and was heading towards goal.
They had their moral low thereafter but fought their way through a surge of pressure from the Blue Sharks. They almost conceded an own goal but Shanko Teklemariam produced an instinctive save to keep the ball out. And in spite of being down by one man, they managed to force Cape Verde’s keeper Marcio Rosa into action although with no success.
Cape Verde failed to build on their numerical advantage immediately although they enjoyed a large spell of possession. Nevertheless they kept pouring forward and pinned Ethiopia to their own half with Julio Tavares and Garry Mendes the biggest threats.
Julio Tavares had initially failed to turn in Garry Mendes’ menacing right cross but scored on his second attempt when they both teamed up to enable him head home their breakthrough goal deep into extra-time of the first half.
Cape Verde never took their feet off the gas in the second half but Ethiopia also returned from the break with greater verve but lacked some creative spark. While the Walia ibex wanted to avoid defeat, their opponents piled more pressure on them late on to score more goals but in vain.
The Blue Sharks were seriously impressive but spurned several chances to take the game to bed. But they will be satisfied with the results and hope to replicate the same display when they face Burkina Faso on match day two on January 13.
Ethiopia on their part will aim to make an early shot at redemption when they take on Cameroon in their next game.
Ethiopia 0-1 Cape Verde
[Julio Tavares 45+2’]
Group A Standing after Match day 1
2. Cape Verde-3pts
3. Burkina Faso-0pts