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Flames qualification chances reduced

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By Isaac Salima:

Malawi national football team Monday slimmed its chances of qualifying for the 2022 African Cup of Nations after playing out to a goalless draw against Burkina Faso at Kamuzu Stadium in Blantyre.

Playing in an empty stadium due to Covid-19 preventive measures, the Flames needed a win to keep alive their dreams of qualifying for the continental football fiesta to take place in Cameroon but it was the same script of failure to use home-ground advantage that the players seem to have perfected the most.

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The Flames still have mathematical chances of making it to Cameroon following South Sudan’s 1-0 victory over Uganda yesterday.

Burkina Faso top group B with eight points trailed by Uganda with seven points while Malawi are third with four points. South Sudan anchor the group with three points. Flames must win their two remaining games against Uganda and South Sudan to keep alive their qualification chances and at the same time hope that either the Stallions or Cranes stumble along the way.

Flames Coach Meck Mwase, who captained the side that drew 1-1 with Burkina Faso in 2002 in the World Cup qualifier, returned to Kamuzu Stadium as coach this time around, with a daunting task of guiding the team to its first victory over the Stallions.

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But it was never to be as the Flames yet again disappointed.

Mwase made six changes to the team that suffered a 3-1 defeat in the first leg last week when he deployed an attacking formation aimed at taking the game to the Stallions.

However, the visitors settled down quickly and controlled the affairs for the better part of the first half. Cyrille Barros Bayala made life difficult for Flames right back Nickson Nyasulu who made his debut after filling the gap left by suspended Stanley Sanudi who had accumulated two yellow cards, but their attempts were well tamed by Ernest Kakhobwe who had an impressive game.

The Flames lacked hunger and aggression and their highest moment came in the 25th minute when Charles Petro tested Abdou Razack Traore in the visitors’ goal after an excellent change of passes.

In the second half Mwase introduced Yamikani Chester, Vincent Nyangulu and Duncan Nyoni after resting ineffective John Banda, Peter Banda and Hassan Kajoke.

The trio injected life into the game as the Flames’ attacking machinery and physical presence improved.

After Djiboutian referee Souleman Ahmed Djama blew the final whistle, a visibly disappointed Mwase said all was not lost as he was focusing on the remaining two assignments.

“Nevertheless, our performance was far much better,” he said.

Traore said it was a tough game.

“We created so many chances but we were unlucky. At the end it is a good result for ourselves,” he said.

The Flames will host Uganda before travelling to South Sudan in its next qualifying fixtures. Two top teams will qualify from each group.

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