10 Man Ethiopia Walia Ibex caused a major upset away in Bamako as they beat hosts Mali 2-3 in a highly entertaining match in an Africa Cup of Nations qualifer.
It had been a week of heartache after Walia fell 2-0 at home last Saturday a loss that failed to demoralize the team under Mariano Barreto who remained steadfast and buoyant despite the back to back losses to Algeria 3-2,Malawi 3-2 and Mali 2-0.
On Wednesday the boys were breathing fire and wanted nothing short of a win that was achieved in what was not expected as the Walia Ibex had been written off.
The hosts were the first side to find the net after Bakary Sako scored in the 31st minute.However the goal did not deter Ethiopia who fought back almost immediately and five minutes later Omod Okwury equalised to make the scores 1-1 giving Walia a lifeline as they came out guns blazing.
In the stroke of half time Getaneh Kebede who plies his trade for Bidvest Wits put Walia ibex ahead with a fine finish as the dreams suddenly appeared real in the ding dong battle of Bamako
On resumption Getaneh Kebede was shown his marching orders and the gap left by his sudden departure gave Mali an opportunity to draw level in the 68th minute from a Mustaphe Yatabare goal that put matters level at 2-2 with both sides fighting for a win.
Ethiopia Walia Ibex had other plans up their sleeves when it seemed the match would end in a draw and as trhe game approached the very end full back Abebaw Butako was the hero for Ethiopia taking scoring from an indirect freekick to give Ethiopia their first away win since 2013 October when they beat Central Africa Republic 2-1 away in Congo Brazzaville.
It was celebrations and jubilation across Ethiopia and Ethiopians living in the diaspora as coach Mariano Barreto who had been working hard to put his mark as he blended the youth and experienced players was vindicated with the away win at a time that a section of the media had called for his sacking .
However the win came at an important time as it was also the first loss for Mali at home since a 2-0 win to Ghana in 2009.Walia Ibex have a date with Malawi at home as well as another against top African side Algeria away.As it stands Ethiopia’s win against Mali will act as a catalyst to jump start their quest which before the game looked dead and buried.