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.
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.
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.