Malawi National Football Team, the Flames displayed a good performance but suffered a 2-1 loss to Ivory Coast at Mathieu Kerekou Stadium in Contonou, Benin, Monday night.
The defeat ended Malawi’s hopes of making it into the third and final round of the World Cup qualifiers.
This means it will be a two-horse race in Group D between Ivory Coast and Cameroon with two matches remaining in the qualifiers.
The Elephants maintained top spot in the group with 10 points from four matches, just one point above second-placed Cameroon, who defeated Mozambique 1-0 in Tanger, Morocco, in an early kick-off match Monday.
Unlike in the first leg, the Flames lost with dignity as they matched the Elephants in many departments for the better part of the match.
Frank Kessie scored the winner from the penalty spot for the Ivoirians after Flames defender Chembezi Dennis appeared to have fouled advancing Gervinho in the box.
Nicolas Pepe scored the opening goal for the Elephants just two minutes into the match after defender Peter Cholopi failed to clear a Serge Aurier cross.
Pepe made no mistake as he fired a low shot with his left foot into the net.
However, Khuda Muyaba grabbed the equaliser for the Flames in the 19th minute after he fired a shot past Ivory Coast goalkeeper Sylyian Gbohouo.
The two teams went for break with the scores tied at 1-1.
Malawi, who lost 3-0 in the first leg at Orlando Stadium in South Africa on Friday, displayed an eye catching performance last night with Chikoti Chirwa, Francisco Madinga, Muyaba and Chimwemwe Idana on top of their game.
Flames coach Meck Mwase praised the players for good performance but blamed referees.
“The players deserve respect after a good performance. It was one of the best performances for Khuda and he showed a great fighting spirit. I don’t want to talk much about the referees but they were not fair,” Mwase said
Mwase made five changes to the starting line-up that lost 3-0 in the first leg. Goalkeeper Brighton Munthali replaced Richard Chipuwa whereas Cholopi started in place of injured captain Limbikani Mzava.
Defending midfielder Chirwa was also given a rare start alongside Idana and Madinga.
Gerald Phiri Junior and Duncani Nyoni were relegated to the bench.
Attacking midfielder Peter Banda and striker Richard Mbulu missed the match due to yellow card suspension and illness, respectively.
However, Mwase made a first-half change when he brought in Yamikani Chester for Gabadinho Mhango, who had a bad game.
On the other hand, Ivory Coast featured a new-look side with which included stars namely Wilfried Zaha, Pepe and Eric Bailly.
However, the Flames matched them in many departments despite few individual errors that led to Ivory Coast goals.
Malawi: Munthali, Stanely Sanudi, Peter Cholopi, Charles Petro, Dennis Chembezi, John Banda, Madinga, Idana, Mhango, Chirwa, Muyaba.
Ivory Coast: Gbohouo, Bailly, Boly, Aurier, Konani, Sangare, Seri, Kessie , Pepe, Zaha, Gervinho