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Julio Tavares fires COVID-19 ravaged Cape Verde to opening AFCON win

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Julio Tavares scored the only goal as Cape Verde overcome 10-man Ethiopia in Africa Cup of Nations opener.

He forced home a diving header after a superb cutback pass from Garry Rodrigues on the stroke of half-time at the Olembe Stadium in Yaounde as the Cape Verdians joined hosts Cameroon on top of the Group A standings.

Cape Verde were forced to start the match without coach Bubista, in quarantine after testing positive for coronavirus, and had just six substitutes on the bench, with a further nine players isolating, and two injured.

But Ethiopia made their task easier when defender Yared Bayeh was sent off after 10 minutes.

He tripped Tavares from behind with the Cape Verde striker bearing down on goal and Angolan referee Helder Martins, having initially cautioned Bayeh, changed his mind after reviewing his decision on the pitchside VAR screen

Ethiopia gamely fought on despite the disadvantage of being a man down, and looked to be taking a psychological boost into the break by managing to hold Cape Verde at bay, before Tavares’ brave finish from close range.

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Just minutes earlier, Ethiopia had a chance to be first on the scoresheet when Abubeker Nasir intercepted a poor back pass from Irish-born Roberto Lopes but goalkeeper Marcio Rosa, winning only his third cap, was quickly off his line to smother the opportunity.

Ethiopia, who were the first team to arrive in Cameroon for the tournament a fortnight ago, are one of the few countries at the finals not hampered by Covid-19 infections.

Kunle Solaja is the author of landmark books on sports and journalism as well as being a multiple award-winning journalist and editor of long standing. He is easily Nigeria’s foremost soccer diarist and Africa's most capped FIFA World Cup journalist, having attended all FIFA World Cup finals from Italia ’90 to Qatar 2022. He was honoured at the Qatar 2022 World Cup by FIFA and AIPS.

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