Africa-Press – Malawi. Gabadinho Mhango became the first Malawian to score a brace at the Africa Cup of Nations tournament when he inspired Malawi National Football Team to a hard-fought 2-1 victory over Zimbabwe in the second game of Group B to keep the Flames’ chances of making it to the knockout stages alive.
Flames caretaker coach Meck Mwase made three changes to the side that lost 1-0 to Guinea in the opening match, with Mhango, Mbulu and Stainley Sanudi all coming in for Yamikani Chester, Peter Banda and Micium Mhone.
The Flames faced an increasingly uphill challenge heading into this match based on their record against the Warriors who have had a fair run of results over Mwase’s men.
The hosts created their first chance from a freekick in the 9th minute but Mhango’s effort went straight at Petros Mhari in goal for the Zimbabweans. A minute later, Mbulu delivered a cross into the box to Sanudi who failed to connect the ball into the net.
At the other end of the field, Knowledge Musona made a brilliant run before sending a dangerous pass into the box which nearly found Timo Kadewere but Gomezgani Chirwa was quick to make a clearance as Malawi’s defence was caught offguard in the line of duty.
Moments later, Musona was at it again, this time around, sending another dangerous cross into the box which found Wadi unmarked but the winger sent his header off Ernest Kakhobwe’s goal sticks.
The Flames were under siege and they almost conceded in the 15th minute when Wadi and Musona exchanged passes to release Kadewere who was once again denied by the timely clearance of Chirwa. Malawi’s defence was the busiest on the day, with John Takwara’s header missing the goal mouth with just an inch.
Mwase’s side suffered a massive blow when Captain Limbikani Mzava was substituted after suffering an injury and he was replaced by Lawrence Chaziya, who was playing his first match for the Flames.
26th minute into the match, Kakhobwe rose to the occasion when he denied Kadewere from finding the back of the net with a brilliant save for a corner which had no impact as Chaziya cleared the danger away from his box.
However, the Warriors were able to break the deadlock in the 39th minute through Wadi who produced a powerful header from a Onismor Bhasera’s cross, 0-1. But their celebration was cut short by the resilient Malawians.
A cross from lively Francisco Madinga was missed by Takwara and found Mhango unmarked who wasted no time by slotting the ball past Mhari into the net, 1-1.
After the recess, it only took four minutes for Malawi to create their first goal scoring chance through Madinga who made a good run into the attacking zone before releasing a thunderous shot which beat Mhari only to hit the upright in an unbelievable circumstance.
Ten minutes into the final half, Kadewere saw his goal-bound shot well blocked for a corner. The Flames were ahead in the 58th minute in a brilliant fashion.
Mhango exchanged passes with Madinga who released the Orlando Pirates forward into the penalty box and chipped his effort over the advanced Mhari into an empty net, 2-1.
Mwase, knowing how crucial the lead was, introduced Peter Banda and Yamikani Chester in the 65th minute for Mbulu and Khuda Myaba to try to pile more pressure on the Warriors’ defence.
The Flames were now slowly taking the game away from the Warriors, with Chirwa, Sanudi, Chaziya and Dennis Chembezi all defending with everything in order to frustrate their fellow Southern African country.
Mhango was set through by Chester in the 75th minute but an offside call went against the forward. Musona was the replaced by Admiral Muskwe to try to find the much needed equalizer going into the last ten minutes of the match.
The Zimbabweans had a freekick in the 82nd minute which was delivered into the box by Wadi only to be cleared by Chester for a corner which was easily dealt with by the Flames. Mwase then decided to introduce Gerald Phiri Jnr and Charles Petro for Madinga and Chimwemwe Idana in the 83rd minute.
The Warriors had their final chance in the 88th minute through Muskwe who fired wide outside the penalty box and that was all for the match as four minutes of additional time produced nothing to see Malawi claiming their first win at the tournament.
Speaking after the final whistle, Mwase hailed his charges for the highly spirited performance. “It was a tough game especially in the first half but I thank the boys for such a gallant fight. We fought well and we deserved this win,” he said in a short interview with CAF media.
The result means Malawi are still third with three points and they will play Senegal on Tuesday next week in their final Group B match. This was Malawi’s second win ever at the continental showpiece. Mhango was named man of the match.