Ethiopia came from behind to shock the Ivory Coast 2-1 and Madagascar crushed Niger 6-2 in fierce heat as 2021 Africa Cup of Nations matchday two qualifying concluded Tuesday.
Hundreds in a huge crowd at the 60,000-seat Bahir Dar stadium ran on to the field at full-time to salute an Ethiopian side composed of 10 home-based footballers plus one who plays in Egypt.
Ivory Coast, twice African champions and 95 places higher than Ethiopia in the world rankings, made a great start with Tottenham Hotspur defender Serge Aurier scoring on four minutes.
But the Group K match turned dramatically midway through the opening half with Surafel Dagnachew and Shimelis Bekele scoring in a 10-minute purple patch.
The Ivorians introduced French Ligue 1 midfielder Victorien Angban in the second half as they sought an equaliser, but Ethiopia held firm to collect maximum points.
While the 1,800-metre (5,905 feet) altitude was a disadvantage for a visiting side, the unusually cool weather in the northern city would have suited them.
In the same group, Madagascar shook off difficult preparations to crush Niger in 39 degrees celsius (103 fahrenheit) heat.
The national stadium in Niamey has a bone-hard pitch, but that was no obstacle to the Indian Ocean islanders as they recovered from conceding an early goal to lead 6-1 after 65 minutes.
Amadou Wonkoye gave Niger a lead that lasted just four minutes before Lalaina Nomenjanahary levelled and the France-based Malagasy scored again to trigger the romp.
Madagascar were the surprise side of the 2019 Cup of Nations in Egypt, stunning Nigeria and eliminating the Democratic Republic of Congo before bowing to Tunisia in the quarter-finals.
– Travel difficulties –
After beating Ethiopia in Antananarivo last Saturday, Madagascar coach Nicolas Dupuis, his staff, the players and officials had to travel to Niger in two groups.
Like most African national teams, Madagascar cannot afford to charter a jet, and many airlines are unable to accommodate a full delegation in one flight.
Limited training time add to the challenges facing Dupuis, who was recently rewarded with a four-year contract extension after the unexpectedly successful campaign in Egypt.
Niger have suffered worse home humiliations, in the same stadium in Niamey 50 years ago they lost 9-1 to Ghana, the record away victory in a Cup of Nations qualifier.
Madagascar top the table with six points, Ethiopia and the Ivory Coast have three each and Niger are pointless.
Morocco and Mauritania share the lead in Group E as they followed up their 0-0 draw in Rabat last Friday with matchday two victories.
Achraf Hakimi, on loan to Borussia Dortmund from Real Madrid and a full-back with a fondness for goals, completed the scoring as Morocco outplayed Burundi 3-0 in Bujumbura.
Mauritania left it late to seal a 2-0 win over the Central African Republic in Nouakchott with Diallo Guidileye doubling the lead one minute into stoppage time.
Elsewhere, Zimbabwe star Khama Billiat answered critics of his recent international form by scoring both goals in a 2-1 Group H win over neighbours Zambia in Lusaka.
Group J pacesetters Tunisia edged Equatorial Guinea 1-0 in Malabo with former Premier League forward Wahbi Khazri scoring the lone goal 16 minutes from time.
Libya rose from last to second in the same section by shading Tanzania 2-1 with giant Anis Saltou snatching the 81st-minute winner in a match moved to Tunisia for security reasons. AFP