Ethiopia can now smell a first Total Africa Cup of Nations (AFCON) qualification for the first time in eight years after a flawless performance in Bahir Dar on Wednesday saw them beat Madagascar 4-0.
The Walia Ibex who also beat giants Ivory Coast at the same venue are now top of the group with nine points, two ahead of The Elephants who play Niger in the other fixture.
Madagascar have dropped down to third, also with seven points and now must win their final match of the group against Niger next Tuesday and hope the Ethiopians don’t pick a point away to the Ivorians.
By half time, Ethiopia had a 3-0 lead with goals from Gebremichael Aregawi, Abubaker Nassir and skipper Getaneh Kebede. Shemeles Kebele then sealed the victory with a goal four minutes from time.
They broke the deadlock after 19 minutes when Gebremichael struck a low shot from inside the box after being picked out by Ramdan Yusef. The striker took one touch to drift into his favourite right foot before striking low to beat the keeper.
Madagascar who were one of the revelations at the last Cup of Nations in Egypt went out to try and get back into the game and almost sounded an immediate response when the returning Faneva Andriatsima made a run on the left but his shot hit the side netting.
The visitors pushed Ethiopia into their own half as they sought to get back into the game, knowing a win would put them in a good qualifying position.
But, their fight was punctured in the 34th minute when skipper Kebede struck a sublime freekick, curling the ball beyond the wall from outside the area after Yusef was hacked down.
The islanders never gave up their fight despite going two down and they had another chance when Zotsaraa Randriambololona tried to pick the keeper off his line with a freekick from range, but the custodian made a smooth save for a corner.
Off the counter attack, Ethiopia seemed to have buried the game when Nassir scored the third. A sweet interchange of passes inside the box with Suraffel Mengitsu opened him throygh inside the box before striking low between the keeper’s legs.
The Barea looked deflated but continued their fight in the second half. However, all their efforts came to nothing. Faneva had a shot from range go just wide while in the 64th minute, Carolus Andriamahitsinoro saw a header go straight to the keeper.
He had a second effort in the 72nd minute when he controlled a cross inside the box, but he couln’t gather enough power behind his shot.
Finally, it was Ethiopia whou would seal the game with four minutes left, Bekele hitting the fourth after Kebede was denied a brace with a save from the keeper.