The Desert Hawks took the lead through Saifeldin Malik Bakhit midway in the second half before Abedrahmane Mubarke salvaged a draw for the homers with the equalizer seven minutes from time.
A defensive-minded Sudan side kept the Walias at bay for the majority of the first interval as the homers struggled to penetrate the solid backline of the visitors.
Despite their cautious approach, the Sudanese players made the duel tough for the Ethiopians, who pulled the trigger first courtesy talisman Getaneh Kebede, whose shot was saved by a courageous Akram El-Hadi Salim in post for the Desert Hawks.
The host almost went up through Desta Yohannis who tried to beat El-Hadi from close range in the 35th minute.
Twelve minutes after recess, Ethiopia goalkeeper Jemal Tassew pulled off a superb save to deny Abuaagla Abdalla, who struck a near perfect volley. Tassew, the busier of the two keepers in the second interval, was again to his side’s rescue, parrying out a Bakhit header minutes later.
Sudan took a deserved lead in the 76th minute when Bakhit beat his markers on a solo run before firing past Tassew for the opener.
The visitors nearly doubled the lead on 82 minutes, when substitute El-Samani El-Sawi’s header was saved by Tassew.
At the other end, Mubarke beat an offside trap to put the Walias on level terms when he chipped over a hapless El-Hadi seven minutes before time to drive the home crowd into a frenzy.
Ethiopia travels to the Sudanese city of El Obeid for the return leg on Saturday, 19 August 2017, with the winner of the two legs qualifying for the final tournament scheduled for 12 January to 4 February 2018 in Kenya.
Ashenafi Bekele (Head Coach, Ethiopia)
Our game was not good at all. Comparing it to our recent outings, we were poor today. I am not satisfied with our boys’ performance. The fans were not hoping to see such a poor performance. They (Sudan) were playing long balls like us and that impacted our plan. We didn’t play as wished. We don’t expect the return leg to be the same.
Mohammed Abdallah ‘Mazda’ (Head Coach, Sudan)
Both sides were good especially in the second half. The first half was full of difficulties. In the second half, we were prepared to do well in the tie and it is a deserving result for us. We even more chances to score, but squandered them. Nowadays, in football no one can predict what would happen so we will take the return leg seriously. We will try to rectify the weaknesses we have seen from the first leg, especially in our attacking proficiency, in order to achieve qualification.
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