Malawi National Football Team reached the lowest ebb after a 2-1 defeat to Lesotho in the opening match of the 2022 Hollywoodbets Cosafa Cup at King Zwelithini Stadium in Durban, South Africa, Wednesday.
Lesotho spoiled the Independence Day party for hundreds of Malawian fans who turned out at the match venue to give vocal support to their countrymen.
The result was an anticlimax for the entire country on a day it celebrated 58 years of self-rule.
The loss means the Flames have a huge task in the remaining two matches and must win to have any chances of reaching the quarterfinals.
They will face eSwatini at the same venue on Friday before meeting Mauritius in the last group stage match at Princess Magogo Stadium on Sunday.
After Match Day One, eSwatini, who defeated Mauritius 3-0 in the early kickoff, top Group B with three points above Lesotho on goal difference.
The Flames and Mauritius are third and fourth without a point, respectively.
Flames coach Marian Marinica gambled with his starting line-up, partnering veteran defender Sankhani Mkandawire with debutant Blessings Mpokera at the back.
The move backfired as the two defenders produced a cocktail of mistakes that led to Lesotho’s first goal. Lesotho took the lead via Mkandawire scoring into his own net after a deflection following goalkeeper Ernest Kakhobwe’s failure to deal with a harmless shot from Katleho Makateng in the 14th minute.
After the goal, Lesotho sat too deep and defended well while the Flames kept hunting for the elusive goal.
The first real chance of the first half came to Chimwemwe Idana but he blasted the ball over the bar from a rebound.
After the break, Marinica substituted Chikoti Chirwa for Peter Banda, who brought life into the Flames’ attack.
But Lesotho doubled the lead in the 55th minute through Makateng, who also benefitted from a Stanley Sanudi blunder.
However, substitute Chiukepo Msowoya pulled one back with a neat finish from Banda’s cross in the 87th minute. The Flames tried to push for the equaliser, with Idana forcing Lesotho goalkeeper to make a great save.
It was too little, too late for the Flames as the referee blew the whistle to mark the end of the match.
Marinica also featured a number of his star names including Gabadinho Mhango, captain John Banda and Khuda Muyaba.
Malawi-Kakhobwe, Sanudi, Sambani, Mkandawire, Mpokera, Chirwa, Idana, Davie, Mhango, Muyaba
Lesotho: Moerane, Mkwanazi, Lebokollane, Makepe, Lisema, Tseka, Sera, Makateng, Malane, Tsabantso, Rasethuntsa, Mafatle.