By Mphatso Malidadi:
Malawi national football team missed a perfect opportunity to qualify for the semi-finals of the Cosafa Cup after losing 4-2 to Zambia on post-match penalties in a quarter-final match played at Princess Magogo Stadium in Durban, South Africa, Sunday.
After taking a comfortable 2-0 lead deep into the second half, Malawi allowed Zambia to come from behind and force a 2-2 draw at full time.
Goalkeeper Ernest Kakhobwe gifted Zambia an equaliser in the 89th minute when left-back Precious Sambani carelessly sent a back pass to him.
The Flames will now meet Comoros in the Cosafa Plate semifinals Tuesday.
In-form Flames hitman, Gabadinho Mhango, put Malawi in the lead after connecting home a Gerald Phiri Jnr free-kick three minutes into the game.
Phiri curled in a free-kick which John Banda flicked to set up Gabadinho for his third goal of the competition in four games.
Malawi were resolute and disciplined in defence as they restricted Chipolopolo’s movements throughout the first half.
The Flames extended the lead in the second half after Phiri converted a spot kick in the 51st minute.
But Zambia pulled one back in the 58th minute after Austin Muwowo took advantage of Malawi’s defensive lapses to release a powerful grass cutter beyond Kakhobwe.
From this moment, both teams were a bit nervous as Malawi chased another goal to cushion the lead whereas Zambia were also cautious when going forward in their search of an equaliser.
Flames Coach, Meke Mwase, opted for attacking substitutions when he substituted Micium Mhone and Richard Mbulu for Chawanangwa Kaonga and Peter Banda, respectively.
Mwase was also forced to introduce Dennis Chembezi for injured Charles Petro.
Zambia could not believe their luck after Sambani made a back pass to under pressure Kakhobwe, who panicked and failed to clear a seemingly harmless ball.
Emmanuel Chabula took full advantage to equalise with a minute to go and send the game into penalties.
During penalty shootouts, Phiri and Stanley Sanudi converted but Chawanangwa Kaonga blazed his over the crossbar whereas Sambani hit the crossbar.
Heartbroken, Phiri, who was named Man-of-the-Match, said it was a tough and cruel result.
“The coach did not put any pressure on us and we played our game. But one mistake cost us the game and we have learnt the hard way,” he said.
Mwase said he was at pains with the loss and blamed it on lack of maturity.
Zambia Coach , Aggrey Chiyangi, said they deserved to win after working hard to come back into the game.
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