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A six-minute spell of defensive lapses left Malawi national football team, the Flames, hanging perilously to their Fifa World Cup African qualifying ‘fantasy’ after losing 2-0 to hosts Tanzania’s Taifa Stars on wedneday.

Going into this Sunday’s second leg of the preliminary round at Kamuzu Stadium, Malawi needs to win by three unanswered goals if they are to progress to the next round.

The Daily Times monitored the game on SuperSport.

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Flames coach Ernest Mtawali, admitted that defensive blunders at Dar es Salaam’s National Stadium gifted the win to Tanzania, who netted in the 17th and 23rd minutes respectively through DR Congo-based strikers, Mbwana Samatta and Thomas Ulimwengu.

“We conceded two silly goals in 20 minutes and the whole game changed. But, I am sure we will win in Malawi. All we need is to prepare well,” Mtawali told Matindi Radio.

His Tanzanian counterpart, Charles Mkwasa, insisted that the battle is not yet over.

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If Mtawali was cautiously optimistic, captain Limbikani Mzava was, in an interview with Matindi Radio, bold enough to suggest that “we need the fans to rally behind us on Sunday. We can even score two or four goals.”

On the evidence of yesterday’s display, the inexperienced Flames that had Big Bullets defender, Miracle Gabeya, earning a debut, have a lot of basic defending to master.

In conceding the first goal, Ulimwengu turned inside-out left back, Yamikani Fodya, wide on the left, slipped past Gabeya, then squared the ball across the goal-mouth.

So bad was the Flames’ defensive unit in the penalty area, not even Mzava could turn sharply enough to cut the ball, which Samatta eventually slipped through the arms of sprawling goalkeeper, Simplex Nthala.

The Mozambique-based ‘keeper only made on save in the first half and three in the second half, yet conceded two goals and generally, his decision-making was flawed.

Returning after two years, Nthala then gifted Tanzania the second goal when he dropped a ball after going for the same attempt with Mzava. In the build-up to the goal, Gabeya had on the right wing, failed to stop a speeding Tanzania attacker.

Ball-watching and inability to defend as a compact unit left too many gaps in Malawi defence in the first half.

Earlier, the Flames had few scoring chances as striker Chawanangwa Kawonga twisted and slipped past Tanzania defence, but his effort was blocked.

John Banda also had a long-range bullet kept out for a corner. The Flames dominated in corner-kicks.

Malawi came back fighting in the second half, especially after substituting Micium Mhone, Gerald Phiri Jnr. and Robin Ngalande for Manase Chiyesa, Frank ‘Gabadingo’ Mhango and Isaac Kaliyati respectively.

Mhango’s pace and trickery troubled Tanzania defence and Kaliyati came close with a powerful shot. Generally, the Flames got it wrong as they could not win enough balls and attacked with long balls, which could not reach the ‘short’ Kawonga and Ngalande.

Nonetheless, Tanzania controlled the game, used width to great effect and executed a slick counterattacking game.

Malawi has its work cut out ahead of the second leg. The overall winner of the two legs meet Algeria in the second round.

Flames squad: Nthala, Stanley Sanudi, Mzava, Gabeya, Fodya, Banda, Chimango Kayira, Phiri Jnr (Kaliyati), Mhone (Chiyesa), Ngalande (Mhango), Kawonga.

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