Zambia and Ethiopia might not have given us the highest quality football, but that pairing provided viewers with a thoroughly entertaining match as Group C got underway. While one might have expected the Wayla Antelopes to give the defending Africa Cup of Nations champions a real match, Ethiopia matched their illustrious opponents blow for blow in the early stages of the contest, ultimately earning a 1-1 draw.
It was the minnows who had the game's first clear opening on a rock-hard pitch. Zambia's defence was far too open, and when they failed to deal with a long ball forwards Saladine Said played a brilliant sidefooted volley that beat Kennedy Mweene, and landed in front of the net only to take a ludicrous bounce off the turf and fly over the crossbar.
But Zambia were getting their chances too Christopher Katongo had a free header which he put well over, and their one-touch play was giving the Ethiopian defence nightmares. They remained, however, far too open themselves, with Saladine causing particular problems with his clever use of space. It was the Wadi Degla striker who provided the game's next spark when he took the ball down in the box only to be scythed down by Chisamba Lungu.
It was a stonewall penalty, and referee Eric Otogo-Castane blew for it immediately, but, incredibly, Saladine missed his spot kick, sending his effort to Mweene's left with minimal pace and at an easy height. The goalkeeper flew off his line to bat away the tame effort, and Zambia were let off the hook.
And things quickly went from bad to worse for Ethiopia. Chisamba, who gave away the saved penalty, suddenly found himself clear of the Walya Antelopes' defence and as he tried for a shot from just outside the area, he was taken out by a flying leg from Jemal Tassew. It looked distinctly unpleasant.
Neither player did particularly well by the collision, and Jamel ended up being stretchered off the pitch, but the his injury didn't prevent Otogo-Castane from brandishing a straight red card at the stricken goalkeepers as he was being carried off.
Going down to ten men cost Ethiopia dearly. The Copper Bullets struck just before halftime, with some fantastic one-touch play leading to Collins Mbesuma powering through two defenders and planting a right-footed shot past substitute goalkeeper Zerihun Tadelle.
The second half was not supposed to be nearly as fun as the first. The red card and the goal had taken most of the sting out of the game, and Ethiopia could no longer afford to commit as many men forward as they'd been doing before being reduced to ten men.
But that didn't stop them from scoring. Sewnet Bishaw added midfielder Addis Hintsa to the mix 64 minutes in, and the substitute made an immediate impact when he started a flowing move led Adane Grima onto the ball just inside Mweene's penalty area. The tight angle required a perfect finish, but Adane provided it, smashing his shot in off the near post to draw his side level and ensure that the game was back on.
Zambia looked to reestablish their lead immediately, calling for a penalty when Mbesuma took a tumble in the box only to see Otogo-Castane brandish a yellow card for simulation rather than point to the spot. Jacob Mulenga then pulled off a repeat of Katongo's early miss, skying a free header when he really ought to have scored.
Ethiopia weren't simply settling for a draw, however. The Wayla Antelopes were inspired by their equaliser and throwing bodies forwards in an attempt to earn a shocking winner, causing Mweene more than a few scares as time wound down. Zurihun's net didn't look particularly secure either, but after 90 thrilling minutes and then three of injury time, the exhausted teams ended up with a point apiece.