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Flames in injury scare

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The Malawi National Football Team, the Flames, have an injury scare in the defensive department ahead of Sunday’s Cosafa Cup tie against Angola in Namibia after central defender, John Lanjesi picked up an injury in last weekend’s 3-0 defeat against Zimbabwe in an Africa Cup of Nations Qualifier.

Lanjesi, who played alongside Harry Nyirenda in central defence, confirmed in an interview from Namibia that he had suffered a calf injury in the ill-fated match that ended the Flames’ chances of qualifying for their third ever Africa Cup of Nations finals that will take place in Gabon next year.

“I received a knock on my calf muscle and my leg was swollen. I was struggling to run, but at least there is an improvement,” the Nyasa Big Bullets defender said.

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Lanjesi came into the starting lineup as a replacement for captain Limbikani Mzava who is sidelined because of a hamstring injury.

Mzava is also a major doubt for the Angola match as he is still on the recovery path.

Flames’ team doctor Levi Mwale said he was hopeful that Lanjesi would recover in time for the Angola match.

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“He is getting better. Hopefully he can play the first game of the tournament,” he said.

Another defensive option Miracle Gabeya travelled with an ankle problem that kept him out of action for his club Bullets for three weeks, but Mwale said the player has recovered.

“He is in good shape. He has not complained of any problem so far,” he said.

Another defensive option for Flames Coach Ernest Mtawali is Pilirani Zonda who could play alongside Nyirenda if Lanjesi and Gabeya are not certified fit.

Zonda and another fringe defender Yamikani Fodya were tipped to get their chances last evening when the Flames played Namibia in a friendly match.

The Flames’ defensive play against Zimbabwe left a lot to be desired as they struggled to contain the Warriors’ marauding attackers Tendai Ndoro, Kudakwache Mahachi, Knowledge Musona and Khama Billiat who were not at their best on the day.

After getting only two points from five matches in Africa Cup of Nations qualifiers, the Cosafa Cup is Mtawali’s final opportunity to impress and improve chances of having his contract renewed before the final qualifier against Swaziland in September.He has dropped Micium Mhone and replaced him with Isaac Kaliati who flew to Namibia on Tuesday.

After playing Angola, the Flames will play Mauritius on Tuesday and Lesotho on Thursday to complete their group assignments.

South Africa await the group winner in the quarterfinals.

Meanwhile, Mtawali, in a telephone interview from Windhoek, admitted that Malawi did not defend well against Zimbabwe.

“We have noticed the mistakes we made. I will be honest with you. I don’t think we defended well as a team. Even when going forward I don’t think we had a lot of penetration and there was no aggression from our strikers. So these are the areas which we need to work on,” he said.

Mtawali said they had three days to rectify the mistakes before they begin their Cosafa campaign.

“I think by the time we play against Angola the team will be ready. It takes time for the team to gel. We only spent about nine months with the team. We have made a lot of changes in the team. Finally we have got a picture of what kind of players we need in the team,” he said.

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