Chikoti salvages draw for Flames


The Malawi National Football Team, the Flames, yesterday came from behind to salvage a 1-1 draw against Lesotho in a strength-testing match at Bingu National Stadium in Lilongwe.
Despite failing to make full use of home-ground advantage, the hosts had a much improved performance in the second half that saw Red Lions midfielder, Chikoti Chirwa, salvaging the draw when he headed in the equaliser in the 52nd minute of the match to cancel out Tseka Kopano’s 44th minute opener.
Kopano benefited from the Flames’ poor defending when he pounced on a loose ball beating goalkeeper Brighton Munthali.
But Munthali had a grand game as he denied the visitors on several occasions. In the absence of Gabadihno Mhango, the Flames Coach, Ronny Van Geneugden started with Atusaye Nyondo and Robin Ngalande upfront with Schumacher Kuwali, Gerald Phiri Jnr and Robert Ng’ambi as attacking midfielders.
But the Flames were too slow on the ball and struggled to contain the visitors. The two teams went for recess with the Likuena (Crocodiles) of Lesotho carrying the slender lead.
The Flames came back a changed side after the introduction of Dalitso Sailesi for Kuwali.
Sailesi linked up well with Ngalande and the two were a marvel to watch. On the other hand, Lesotho were dangerous in counter-attacks with Khutlang Thumelo and Matsoso Luciano causing plenty of problems to Flames’ defence of Limbikani Mzava, Yamikani Fodya, Denis Chembezi and Gomegzani Chirwa. But Chirwa was stretched off the field with an injury. He was replaced by Stanely Sanudi.
Nyondo hit the crossbar from an offside position in the first half when he connected a Phiri Jnr cross. Moments later, the Bloemfontein Celtic striker also had a golden opportunity but his attempt hit the side netting.
Both teams pressed hard for the winner but it never came. In a post-match reaction, Van Geneugden said he was not satisfied with the first half performance.
“We played too slow in the first half and we had no speed. But we played well in the second half. There was fresh air after we introduced some players but there is hope in this group of players,” he said.
His opposite number, Moses Maliehe, said the two teams matched in their style of play.
“We played the same type of football. We both knocked the ball around. Some of my players were tired in the second half and I had to get some fresh legs to contain the Flames,” Maliehe said.
Starting line ups: Flames- Munthali, Mzava, Chembezi, Sanudi, Fodya, Ng’ambi, Chirwa, Kuwali, Phiri Jnr, Ngalande, Nyondo.
Lesotho- Mphunthi Likano, Moremoholo Mafa, Mokhehkle Thapelo, Tseka Kopano, Makepe Basia, Koette Tsoanele, Kalake Hlompho, Mohapi Thabiso, Masoabi Nkoto, Khutlang Thumelo, Luciano.

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