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Cape Verde edge ten-man Ethiopia to open 2021 AFCON with a crucial win

A goal from Júlio Tavares was all Cape Verde needed in their 1-0 victory over Ethiopia at the 2021 Africa Cup of Nations on Sunday. The Al-Faisaly striker crashed into the Ethiopian six-yard box to head in a cross from Garry Rodrigues, putting the Blue Sharks even at the top of Group A along with hosts Cameroon. Ethiopia now have plenty to do going forward with difficult matchups against the hosts and Burkina Faso on the horizon.

Disaster struck early for Ethiopia within the opening ten minutes. Sloppy play in the back allowed Tavares to steal the ball near the Ethiopian penalty area. As Tavares made his way toward goal, Walias defender Yared Bayeh took down the striker just outside the box for a free kick. After the Video Assistant Referee intervened, however, Bayeh was judged to be the last defender and his initial yellow card was changed to a red card by referee Hélder Martins Rodrigues de Carvalho.

Cape Verde tend to be better when getting out in transition and playing directly, and the Blue Sharks struggled to break down the Ethiopia defense. Garry Rodrigues was the greatest threat to the Ethiopian goal as the Olympiakos winger caused plenty of trouble when dribbling at defenders. Ethiopia held out well but lost their focus at a crucial moment in first half stoppage time. A turnover led to room on the left wing for Cape Verde midfielder Jamiro Monteiro. The Philadelphia Union player lofted in a high, hanging ball to find Rodrigues at the far post, who volleyed a cross back for Tavares to head past keeper Teklemariam Shanko.

The goal just before halftime was crucial and forced Ethiopia to bring more players forward in the second half. While they showed some potential to perhaps sneak an equalizer, the Walias attack could not find any clear opportunities. Cape Verde continued to struggle in asserting their numerical advantage and the closest they came to doubling their lead in the second half was through midfielder Kenny Rocha Santos, who forced a save from Shanko early in the second half before lashing a low shot wide in the 78th minute.

Cape Verde will face Burkina Faso next on Thursday while Ethiopia take on hosts Cameroon. Highlights of the match are below.

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