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Flames revive Afcon qualification dream

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NATIONAL TEAM COACH—Mwase

Malawi National Football Team Wednesday kept the Africa Cup of Nations (Afcon) qualification dream alive with a 1-0 victory over South Sudan at El Hilal Stadium in Khartoum, Sudan.

The result means possibilities of reaching the promised land in Group B lie among Burkina Faso, Uganda and Malawi.

To make it to their third qualification to the continental showpiece, the Flames just need three points against Uganda at Kamuzu Stadium on Monday.

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Following the victory, Malawi remain third in Group B with seven points, just two behind leaders Burkina Faso, who shared spoils with Uganda after a goal-less draw Wednesday.

The Stallions have nine points followed by Uganda on eight points whereas South Sudan are out of contention with just three points.

Gerald Phiri Junior made the difference after his corner kick was deflected into the net by a South Sudan player just two minutes after recess.

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It was a perfect response for the Flames after losing 4-0 to Ethiopia in a friendly on Wednesday last week. However, the performance was not convincing in Malawi’s first away victory in the Afcon qualifiers in 13 years.

After the final whistle, relief was the prevalent emotion on the part of Flames players and the technical panel.

Flames coach Meck Mwase made several changes to the side that lost to Ethiopia.

Only goalkeeper Ernest Kakhobwe, defenders Precious Sambani, Stanley Sanudi and John Banda retained their places.

Captain Limbikani Mzava and Charles Petro partnered at the back whereas John Banda, Peter Banda and Gerald Phiri Junior started in midfield.

Upfront, Mwase started with Gabadinho Mhango, Richard Mbulu and Khuda Muyaba.

Malawi dominated proceedings in the first half but wasted some scoring opportunities with both Mhango and Muyaba missing good chances.

Mhango headed wide from inside the box in the 41st minute after Banda crossed in from the right.

Muyaba also missed a sitter when he shot wide with the goal keeper at his mercy.

In the second half, Mwase brought in Francisco Madinga and Rafick Namwera for Muyaba and Mbulu.

Despite playing in familiar surroundings, the Bright Stars failed to register a single shot on target in the entire match.

Speaking after the vital win, Mwase said there was no time to relax.

“It was a do-or-die match for us. The players worked hard to get the three points. We had the desire and hunger to win the match. Our focus has now shifted to the Uganda match. We do not have the time to relax,” Mwase said.

Only group winners and runners-up will qualify for next year’s finals to be staged in Cameroon.

Malawi last qualified for the continental showpiece when it was hosted by Angola in 2010.

The Flames’ first trip to the finals was in 1984 in Ivory Coast.

Line-ups:

Malawi: Kakhobwe, Sanudi, Petro, Mzava, Sambani, CJ Banda, Phiri Junior, Peter Banda, Mhango, Mbulu, Muyaba.

South Sudan: Majak Maling Mawith, Peter Manyang, Manyumow Achol, Okello Tito, Rehab Angier, Omot Sebit,Makueth Wol, Stephen Pawar, Mutwakil Abdulkarim, David Majak, Jackson Gibson.

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