Burkina Faso takes control of Group C
NELSPRUIT, South Africa (AP)
Alain Traore scored two goals Friday to help 10-man Burkina Faso take control of Group C with a 4-0 victory over Ethiopia in the African Cup of Nations.
Traore netted in the 34th and 74th minutes at the Mbombela Stadium to become the leading scorer in the tournament with three, and ensure that goalkeeper Abdoulaye Soulama's red card ultimately had no effect on the game.
Soulama was sent off with Burkina Faso leading 1-0 with half an hour remaining for handling the ball outside the area.
But Ethiopia was unable to capitalize, and Djakaridja Kone and Jonathan Pitroipa rounded off the scoring for Burkina Faso to put it top of its group with four points.
Ethiopia made four changes from the team that drew 1-1 with Zambia as it tried to counter the Burkinabes physical presence with pace.
The tactic nearly paid dividends in the opening minutes of the game when Salahdin Said's crafty backheel put Shimelese Bikele through on goal, only for his effort to hit the upright.
Burkina Faso grew in stature, and after Wilfried Sanou had a goal ruled out for offside, Traore gave it a deserved lead.
Although Ethiopia defender Degu Debebe was able to clear an initial attack off the line, the Ethiopian defense rushed out and allowed Charles Kabore to send a ball over the top for Traore to open the scoring.
The diminutive Ethiopians continued to struggle with the raw power of their opponents, and made two injury-enforced substitutions before halftime.
They were handed an unexpected advantage in the second half when Soulama snatched a relatively harmless ball from outside his penalty area and was shown a straight red card.
But as Ethiopia pressed forward, Burkina Faso was able to hit on the break and Traore rifled home his second from 30 yards out.
''The game did not go according to plan,'' Ethiopia coach Sewnet Bishaw said. ''In the second half we tried to manage it, but there were unnecessary goals from Burkina Faso and that totally destroyed our emotions.''
Kone and Pitroipa completed the rout as Ethiopia fell apart, giving Burkina Faso its first win at the African Cup in 15 years.
''We can say it was a very crazy game, and certainly in the beginning we were lucky with the ball hitting the post,'' Burkina Faso coach Paul Put said.
''But when we scored the goal you saw Burkina Faso was released to play the game. And I think when we were down to 10 men we kept very disciplined and we scored another three goals so I'm very happy.''
Earlier Friday, Zambia goalkeeper Kennedy Mweene once again proved decisive on penalties Friday as the defending champion held Nigeria to a 1-1 draw in the African Cup of Nations.
Mweene first saw Nigeria's John Obi Mikel send a spot kick onto the outside of the post in the first half after diving the right way, and then scored one himself at the other end to equalize the game in the 85th minute.
Mweene's penalty-saving prowess was one of the keys during Zambia's winning campaign in Gabon and Equatorial Guinea last year, and Mikel seemed to be wary of the goalkeeper's skills as he sent a weak kick onto the post in the 25th.
Emmanuel Emenike then put Nigeria ahead with a smooth finish in the 57th minute, leaving Zambia's hopes of defending the title hanging by a thread. But they were handed a lifeline when Egyptian referee Ghead Grisha awarded a penalty for a foul by Ogenyi Onazi.
There was no keeping out Mweene's effort, as he found the top right-hand corner of the net, but Grisha's decision later came in for heavy criticism from the Nigerian camp.
''It was a bizarre call for a penalty. It really was one of the worst calls I've seen in the history of football,'' Nigeria captain and goalkeeper Vincent Enyeama said. ''You don't see such calls for a game of such magnitude as Nigeria versus Zambia. I don't know what's really happening about the officiating. I'm really mad.''
Nigeria coach Stephen Keshi added: ''In a big game like this the penalty's got to be clear. But he's the chief and the boss on the field, he's taken a decision and we just have to try and move ahead.''
The poor quality of the pitch made attractive football difficult in Group C's signature clash, with few clear-cut chances from open play.
Davies Nkausu granted Nigeria the first opportunity with a clumsy challenge on Ahmed Musa to draw the first penalty, only for Mikel to let Zambia off the hook.
Although the referee awarded a corner after the ball went off the post, Mweene later confirmed that he had not touched the ball.
Zambia responded with a bright period in which Chisamba Lungu tested Nigeria goalkeeper Vincent Enyeama with a free kick and Stoppila Sunzu headed narrowly wide.
However, Nigeria came out with greater purpose in the second half, and capitalized on a mistake by Zambia when Mikel stole the ball from Lungu before slipping it through to Emenike, who took a crisp touch before firing home his second goal of the tournament.
That knocked the wind out of Zambia, which struggled to make headway despite a raft of substitutions until Onazi tangled with Emmanuel Mayuku on the edge of the penalty area to give away the penalty.
The result left both teams with two points apiece after also drawing their opening games 1-1.
''With the circumstances of course I am happy with the result. Don't forget we had the Super Eagles in front of us and in 2012 they did not lose one game,'' Zambia coach Herve Renard said. ''We are still alive and in a good position to qualify for the next round.''