Gatoch Panom was the two-goal saviour at the weekend as a brave Ethiopia comeback secured a place at the 2016 African Nations Championship (CHAN) in Rwanda.
The dreadlocked midfielder scored twice within seven minutes in a 3-0 second-leg win over Burundi in Addis Ababa that overturned a two-goal away defeat last weekend. Ethiopia qualified 3-2 on aggregate and will join 15 other countries during January at the biennial championship for home-based stars.
Angola, Congo DR, Gabon, Guinea, Mali, Morocco, Niger, Nigeria, Tunisia, Uganda, Zambia and Zimbabwe have also qualified. Rwanda are automatic entrants as hosts and return matches between Congo and Cameroon in Brazzaville and Côte d’Ivoire and Ghana in Abidjan this week will decide the other two participants.
Eight countries had home advantage at the weekend as they attempted to overcome first-leg losses ranging between one and three goals. But only Ethiopia succeeded, after leading 1-0 at half-time thanks to a Seyoum Tesfaye goal on 37 minutes.
Panom scored his first after 73 minutes, then kept his nerve to convert a tie-clinching penalty. It will be the second CHAN appearance by the Ethiopians, who flopped at the 2014 tournament in South Africa, losing all three group games. A competition restricted to home-based footballers suits Ethiopia as the majority of the first-choice national team are locals.
Uganda took a two-goal advantage over Sudan to Khartoum and doubled it with another 2-0 victory thanks to late first-half goals. Caesar Okhuti broke the deadlock, and Sudanese spirits, by scoring on 43 minutes and Faruku Miya claimed his third qualifying goal soon after.
Nigeria drew 0-0 in Ouagadougou with Burkina Faso, who squandered a penalty as they sought to overcome a 2-0 first-leg defeat Super Eagles coach Sunday Oliseh missed the match as he is recovering at his Belgian home from an illness.
Zimbabwe boast an unbeaten qualifying record and stretched it to 16 games after drawing 1-1 against Lesotho in Maseru having built a two-goal first-leg lead. Roderick Mutuma added to his two goals of last weekend by opening the scoring and Ralekoti Mokhahlane levelled from a late second-half penalty.
Zambia had an even more comfortable passage, drawing 1-1 with Mozambique in Maputo to qualify 4-1 overall. A first-half goal by Festus Mbewe for the Chipolopolo was cancelled out five minutes from time when Momed Hagy converted a penalty.
Mohamed Ounajem scored a late winner as Morocco pipped Tunisia 3-2 in a Rades thriller between nations who had already qualified at the expense of title-holders Libya. In region-based qualifying, the north was the only zone to use a mini-league format.