African champions Nigeria staved off a strong Ethiopian challenge in Addis Ababa with a come-from-behind 2-1 win in the opening leg of the continent’s World Cup play-offs last weekend.
Ethiopia, bidding to become the first East African team to qualify for the World Cup, opened the scoring in the 56th minute when Nigerian goalkeeper Vincent Enyeama misjudged a Behailu Assefa cross.
Emmanuel Emenike, who plays in the Turkish league, scored the equaliser 11 minutes later and the winner from the penalty spot just before the end of regulation.
“Ethiopia’s play scared us in the first half, but we showed why we are the African champions in the second half and that’s what makes the difference,” said Nigeria’s assistant coach Daniel Amokachi who represented his country at the 1994 World Cup.
Coach Stephen Keshi predicts his team will advance to the World Cup.
“We will be the winners in Nigeria,” he said. “We have to go to Brazil.”
Nigeria is seeking a fifth World Cup appearance.
After the game, Ethiopian fans attacked the Nigerian team bus with stones, shattering the windscreen in the process.
Ivory Coast, which has been in the last two World Cups, registered an impressive 3-1 victory over Senegal.
Didier Drogba netted from the penalty spot and a Lamine Sane own goal provided Ivory Coast with a comfortable 2-0 half-time lead. Salomon Kalou sealed the issue in the second half.
“We showed today that we can be a team,” said Kalou who represents Lille in the French league. “We scored early which gave us the confidence to go forward and score more. I think it’s a good victory. We can be positive about the next round because there is one more game to go.”
The return game will be played in Morocco next month because Senegal is banned from playing at home.
The Confederation of African Soccer imposed a one-year ban a year ago at the Leopold Senghor stadium when Senegal hosted the Ivory Coast in an African Cup of Nations qualifier. The game was called off in the second half with the visitors leading 2-0. Senegal was also disqualified from the African Cup of Nations and fined.
In other World Cup play-offs last weekend, Burkina Faso defeated Algeria 3-2 and Cameroon and Tunisia played to a goalless draw.
Ghana whipped Egypt 6-1 last Tuesday.
The return matches will be played between November 15 and 19.
The winners will advance to the World Cup.