Said brace boosts Ethiopian World Cup bid
Last updated on .From the section Football
Ethiopia are proudly sitting on top of qualifying Group A after Saladin Said's brace earned them a 2-0 home win over the Central African Republic on Sunday.
African champions Zambia put a torrid week of off-field tension behind them to beat Ghana 1-0 in a 2014 World Cup Group D qualifier on Saturday.
In Marrakech, Morocco substitute Hamza Abdourazzouk scored a dramatic equaliser one minute from time to earn a 2-2 draw with top-ranked Ivory Coast in Group C.
Ethiopia surged to the top of the group on Sunday with Saladin Said bagging the brace that earned a 2-0 home win over the Central African Republic.
Egypt-based striker Said, whose goal gave the Black Lions a shock draw in South Africa last weekend, put the home team ahead on 38 minutes in Addis Ababa and he scored again two minutes from time to clinch maximum points.
Ranked 130 in the world by Fifa this month, Ethiopia are the bottom seeds in Group A behind three-time World Cup qualifiers South Africa, Botswana and the Central African Republic.
But the table makes a mockery of the rankings with Ethiopia on four points, Central African Republic three, South Africa two and Botswana one after two rounds of the mini-league second qualifying phase.
Famous for their athletics prowess, Ethiopia have never come remotely close to reaching the World Cup, but that could be about to change, especially with South Africa battling to score goals or win matches.
South Africa's first game after the firing of coach Pitso Mosimane began promisingly when defender Morgan Gould headed them into the lead in the 14th minute against Botswana.
But Ofentse Nato netted the equaliser seven minutes before half-time.
The 2010 World Cup hosts, who have begun qualifying with two draws, have now gone eight matches without a win.
South Africa caretaker coach Steve Komphela was hoping that Bafana Bafana would put a difficult week behind them against the Zebras.
Komphela was assistant coach this time a week ago but was elevated to his current role after Pitso Mosimane left his job in the wake of Sunday's 1-1 home draw at home to Ethiopia.
Tunisia struggled to get past Cape Verde in Praia after Odair Fortes had brought the home side level following Saber Khalifa's early opener.
Isaam Jemaa scored a minute into the second half to give the Tunisians a second straight win and control of the group.
Although Jemaa again proved Tunisia's talisman, he was guilty of squandering several late chances against the Cape Verdians.
Cape Verde, who lost 2-1 in Sierra Leone last weekend, made life difficult for Tunisia, who conceded an early goal before recovering to defeat Equatorial Guinea 3-1 in their first game.
The Carthage Eagles are the only side in the group to have ever contested a World Cup finals, becoming the first African team to win a game at the tournament in 1978.
Meanwhile, Sierra Leone and Equatorial Guinea shared the spoils after an eventful 2-2 draw in Malabo.
The Leone Stars goals both arrived in the first half from Samuel Barley and Ibrahim Bangura.
Spain-based Juvenal was the hero for the home side, scoring both goals.
Sierra Leone Stars had arrived in Malabo after a tortuous journey that took them via Liberia, The Gambia, Ghana and Togo.
In Marrakech, Ivory Coast looked like posting a second win from as many matches after goals by Salomon Kalou and Kolo Toure.
But Morocco's Hamza Abourazzouk scored in the 89th to earn his team a second draw.
Kalou chipped the Ivorians into an eighth-minute lead, outsprinting the defence to get on the end of a fine through ball from Siaka Tiene.
Captain Houcine Kharja equalised for Morocco from the penalty spot but Toure put the visitors back in front with a close-range header on the hour.
It was the Manchester City defender's fourth goal for his country on his 98th appearance for the Elephants.
Talismanic captain Didier Drogba, who scored last week when the Ivorians launched their campaign with a 2-0 home win over Tanzania, was a towering presence in attack before being taken off with six minutes left.
Abdourazzouk then grabbed the equaliser with a powerful header, much to the relief of Morocco's Belgian coach Eric Gerets.
Tanzania moved into second place behind Ivory Coast with a 2-1 over The Gambia in Dar es Salaam on Sunday.
The Taifa Stars fought back with Shomari Kapombe cancelling an early Momodou Ceesay goal for the visitors and Erasto Nyoni converting a late penalty in Dar es Salaam.
It was Tanzania's first World Cup qualifier at home since losing 1-0 to Chad in the first round last November.
Coach Kim Poulsen said after the game he was pleased with the perfomance.
"We have played two games, we are number two in the group and we will be stronger and stonger; it was good for the boys because they got what they deserved," the Dane said.
"This victory will push them more; we have sent a signal that we are moving to great heights."
Zambia beat Ghana with a goal from captain Christopher Katongo in the 15th for a morale-boosting win in Ndola.
Katongo's goal marked a successful opening of the new 40,000-capacity Chinese-built stadium on Zambia's copperbelt and will go a long way to easing tensions.
Zambia's flamboyant French coach Herve Renard criticised sports ministry officials for botching travel arrangements to Sudan, which he blamed for the defeat.
He also revealed that he had not been paid for the last six months since Zambia won the Nations Cup in February.
He has a contract with government rather than the football association and was told to temper his criticism by irritated officials.
The Chipolopolo lost their first competitive match since winning this year's Africa Cup of Nations final when going down 2-0 in Sudan. last weekend.
Ghana had gone into the game with their confidence sky-high after beating Lesotho 7-0 in their opening qualifier.
On Sunday, Lesotho drew 0-0 with Sudan in freezing Maseru - a result that left the visiting Nile Crocodiles top of the group on four points.
Ghana and Zambia both have three points but the Black Stars occupy second place because of a superior goal difference, thanks to that 7-0 mauling of Lesotho.
Congo Brazzaville made full use of home advantage to record a 1-0 victory over Niger in Point Noire on Saturday.
Francis Malonga's goal in the closing stages of the match was the difference between the two sides and propelled the Red Devils to the top of the group.
Niger's preparations for the game were thrown into disarray in midweek when French coach Rolland Courbis walked away from his post.
Courbis, who took charge of Niger one match into their Africa Cup of Nations campaign, said he would not be returning to the side.
Gabon, meanwhile, gave their fans something to smile about when they beat Burkina Faso 1-0 in Libreville.
Remy Ebanega's 56th minute effort settled the tie between the West African rivals.
Gabon co-hosted this year's Africa Cup of Nations and reached the quarter-finals before losing against Mali.
Saturday's match saw coach Paulo Duarte, who led Burkina Faso at this year's Nations Cup, guiding his new side Gabon against the Stallions.