Ten man Malawi Under-17 national football team Friday earned a hard fought 2-2 draw against Botswana’s Diamond Zebras in Group B opening match of the Cosafa Youth Championship at Gelvandale Stadium in Nelson Mandela Bay, South Africa.
It was a solid performance from the Junior Flames as they played with one player down for the better part of the match following a straight red card to defender Cliff Mbewe after 22 minutes.
The draw has kept the Junior Flames’ hopes alive of making it into the semifinals of Cosafa Cup and also for a place at next year’s Africa Cup of Nations (Afcon) Youth Championship in Morocco.
Malawi took an early lead through Renard Mapulanga after 12 minutes but Botswana equalised towards the end of the first half through captain Tlotlo Kgaolo.
The two teams went for recess with the scores at 1-1. Due to numerical disadvantage, Malawi panicked at the back and Kgotso Tlowe scored for the Diamond Zebras the lead in the 82 minute.
However, the Junior Flames fought back and equalised from the penalty spot through exciting left winger Macdonald Chiwanda in the dying minutes to secure a vital point. Captain Andrew Lameck was named man of the match.
Malawi Under-17 coach Deklerk Msakakuona praised the youngsters for the fighting spirit.
“It was not easy but I thank the boys for a job well done,” Msakakuona said in a game monitored on Cosafa TV. The Junior Flames will face Zambia on Sunday at the same venue before wrapping the group stages with a match against Comoros at Wolfson Stadium on November 25.
Two teams from each group will advance to the semifinals of the competition. The champions and runner-up will book a ticket to Afcon finals.
Line up for Malawi: Justice Mhone, Innocent Sikwese, Yankho Chitembeya, Cliff Mbewe, Andrew Lameck, James Chomba, Steve Banda, Macdonald Chiwanda, Edward Phiri, Chifundo Mphasi, Renard Mapulanga.