Third day of African Cup of Nations brings unexpected results

Associated Press

1/21/2013 5:55:20 PM

NELSPRUIT, South Africa -- The African Cup of Nations produced all the colour, chaos and drama with which it has traditionally been associated on Monday, as well as a couple of surprising results in Group C.

Leading the way was Ethiopia, whose return to the tournament after a 31-year absence drew an estimated 10,000 fans, with busloads of South African-based immigrants flooding into Nelspruit from Johannesburg.

They were rewarded for their support with an unexpected 1-1 draw with defending champion Zambia, but not before they reacted to a red card for goalkeeper Jemal Tassew by throwing vuvuzelas and other debris onto the pitch.

The match was delayed for eight minutes before order was restored, with organizers deploying riot police on the side of the pitch to maintain calm for the remainder of the evening.

The tackle from Tassew was a dangerous one, with the goalkeeper flying into Chisamba Lungu outside the penalty area with his studs up at waist height, yet coach Sewnet Bishaw defended his player.

"The goalkeeper is not only a goalkeeper, he is also a defender and he went to defend the ball. I tell you that should not be a red card," he said. "The reaction of the fans is normal. They are supporting their boys and they want them to win."

Collins Mbesuma capitalized on Zambia's numerical advantage in first-half injury time, but Ethiopia, whose effervescent striker Saladin Seida had missed a penalty in the 25th minute, regrouped during the break.

With Zambia failing to impose themselves in the second half, coach Herve Renard elected to replace left back Joseph Musonda after 60 minutes with a third striker in the form of Jacob Mulenga, but was left to rue his decision.

Five minutes later Ethiopia attacked down the channel that had previously been protected by Musonga, and Seida's layoff allowed Adane Girma to rifle home the equalizer.

That unleashed a healthier form of bedlam in the Ethiopian-dominated stands, and the Walya Antelope fans were the ones celebrating at the final whistle.

"I would like to congratulate the Ethiopian team. I thought they put in a very good performance, but it's no great surprise for me," Renard said. "I think today it was the fault of the coach because I did not prepare this side to start very well. It was a very bad result, but we deserved what we got."

The second match at the Mbombela Stadium was short on entertainment, but it nevertheless produced late drama when substitute Alain Traore struck in the final seconds of stoppage time to give Burkina Faso a 1-1 draw with two-time champion Nigeria.

The Super Eagles controlled the game thanks largely to a man-of-the-match performance from Chelsea midfielder John Obi Mikel, but were made to pay for a lack of ambition and a second yellow card for Efe Ambrose in the 74th minute that saw the defender dismissed.

Spartak Moscow striker Emmanuel Emenike opened the scoring with a composed finish after 23 minutes, but Nigeria, which was without the injured Victor Moses, showed little ambition thereafter and was punished when Traore took advantage of a slip-up by defender Godfrey Oboabona.

That meant that five of the six games at this African Cup have been drawn, with Mali the only team to have gained maximum points in its 1-0 win over Niger on Sunday evening.

In Port Elizabeth, Ghana's squad and coaching staff held a series of meetings to dissect Sunday's slump against Congo in their Group B opener.

Coach Kwesi Appiah said the players had first met among themselves on Sunday night to discuss how they blew a 2-0 lead to draw 2-2 -- and nearly lose -- against a competitive and free-flowing Congolese team at Nelson Mandela Bay Stadium.

More soul-searching gatherings would follow, Appiah said.

Tipped as a strong title contender despite a relatively young team, Ghana has Mali next in the third meeting between the regular foes in the last two Cup of Nations.

It needed to forget Congo quickly.

"Once you're leading and you concede two goals ... How do I say it? It's important that you put it behind you," the softly spoken Appiah told reporters at a press conference in a stuffy room in the team hotel and beamed live back to Ghana.

The coach and players Kwadwo Asamoah and Emmanuel Agyemang Badu had been brought in front of the cameras to explain Sunday's tentative performance.

The distance Ghana has to make up to the tournament favourite will be clearer when Didier Drogba's Ivory Coast takes on Emmanuel Adebayor's Togo on Tuesday to start Group D in the sweltering heat of Rustenburg up in the north west.