Neant AliumGiant-killers Ethiopia blamed bad refereeing for Sunday’s defeat by Nigeria that virtually extinguished hopes of a first World Cup appearance.

Hoping to become the first nation from the east of the continent to compete at the global football showcase, the ‘Waliya Antelopes’ lost 2-1 at home to the ‘Super Eagles’.

The first-leg play-off result leaves Ethiopia needing to score at least twice in the November 16 return match to reach the 2014 World Cup in Brazil.

Coach Sewnet Bishaw, credited with a major role in reviving Ethiopia after three decades in the doldrums, laid the blame for the Addis Ababa loss with the Cameroonian referee.

“We lost the game because the referee was poor,” Bishaw told reporters after the Antelopes suffered a first home defeat in five qualifying games.

“We scored a goal that he cancelled and the referee also did other things that were questionable.”

Salahdin Ahmed believed his close-range poke crossed the goal-line midway through the opening half before Godfrey Oboabona cleared the ball.

The referee waved play on before a capacity 35,000 crowd and television replays of the incident were inconclusive.

Bishaw, a stern-faced 61-year-old former biology teacher who has coached only the national team, also admitted Ethiopian shortcomings.

“After taking the lead we thought it would be easy, but we could not match the pace of the Nigerians after they equalised.”

The coach conceded that the introduction of Omod Okwury and Addis Hintsa during the second half did not have the desired effect.

Ethiopia captain and defender Degu Debebe blamed the defeat on squandered scoring chances during the opening half.

“We missed some good chances,” he conceded, referring to wild shooting by Girma Adane after slick, short passes created openings.

Emmanuel Emenike won the match with a last-minute penalty after earlier cancelling the lead Behailu Assefa gave Ethiopia soon after half-time. Read more