By Mphatso Malidadi:
Malawi national football team’s mission to win the Cosafa Plate for the second time ended in vain after losing to the hosts, South Africa, 5-4 on post-match penalties at Moses Mabhidha Stadium Friday.
It was a harsh defeat for the Flames who had a glimmer of hope following two disastrous and fruitless campaigns at the regional showpiece in 2017 and 2018.
The two teams could neither be separated at full time nor at the end of extra time, forcing the game into sudden death.
South Africa converted five spot kicks with the Flames depending on substitute goalkeeper Ernest Kakhobwe to save them from a worse result as he saved on two occasions.
Kakhobwe, who was trying to make amends after gifting Zambia the equaliser in the quarterfinals of the competition, saved penalties taken by Thendo Mukumela and Jemondre Dickens.
Malawi scored through Gabadinho Mhango, Stanley Sanudi, Richard Mbulu and Peter Cholopi while Christopher John Banda, Micium Mhone and Charles Petro missed.
Both teams featured relatively developmental sides in this year’s edition of the competition.
South Africa Coach, Stuart Baxter, opted for under-23 players as he had one eye on the forthcoming Africa Cup of Nations whereas Flames interim boss, Meke Mwase, has blended youthful players with some experienced ones.
It was an open game in the first half with both teams having good chances to take the lead but neither managed to score.
Flames players were determined to impress but it was obvious that they were suffering from burnout having played five games in 10 days compared to South Africa’s two.
After resumption, Mwase pulled out Gerald Phiri Jnr, who appeared injured, for Chikoti Chirwa and later introduced Peter Banda for Chimwemwe Idana.
Flames captain John Banda tested Bafana Bafana goalkeeper, Mondli Mpoto, with a long shot but the custodian was equal to the task.
The hosts also responded with some decent attempts from Reeve Frosler and Kamohelo Mahlatsi which went in vain.
The game went into extra-time and South Africa created better chances with Mahlatsi being the major culprit.
Malawi continued to live dangerously in the second quarter of extra time with South Africa creating several chances but failed to find the target.
The Flames were forced into a late substitution after goalkeeper, Brighton Munthali, suffered an injury and was replaced by Kakhobwe who also made a late save.
Man-of-the-Match John Banda said it was disappointing to lose the game.
“We started this tournament well but it is disappointing that we have lost to South Africa. We just need to take positives from this tournament,” he said.
Mwase said it was a tough game as his players were exhausted after playing more games than their counterparts.
“But I am happy for my boys because they worked hard throughout,” he said.
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