Malawi National Football Team, the Flames, put their 2022 World Cup qualifying bid back on track after registering a 1-0 victory over the Mambas of Mozambique at Orlando Stadium, South Africa, Tuesday.
Forward Richard Mbulu was the hero of the day when he scored the lone goal of the match after 10 minutes of the match.
The Baroka FC forward headed into an empty net after a bizarre back-pass from 40 yards, which left Mozambique goalkeeper Ernan Siluane in a difficult situation.
Siluane tried to clear the ball with his boot but only managed to smash it against the post, leaving Mbulu with the simplest header as there was no Mambas’ player in sight.
In the first half, the Flames had plenty of chances during the match. Gerald Phiri Junior fired his shot off target on the edge of the box whereas Orlando Pirates Gabadinho Mhango, back into the starting line-up, missed the target.
However, the visitors came out blazing in the second half but failed to beat Flames goalkeeper Richard Chipuwa, who replaced Ernest Kakhobwe after a shoddy performance against Cameroon on Friday night.
Gabadinho playing at his base where he is familiar with saw his attempt saved by Mozambique substitute goalkeeper Victor Guambe. Khuda Muyaba and Peter Banda also missed good chances for the Flames.
Despite an improved performance from Mozambique, in the second half, the Flames held on for a 1-0 victory.
Following the win, the Flames are third in Group D of the qualifiers with three points from two matches, at par with second-placed Cameroon, who lost 2-1 away to Ivory Coast on Monday night.
The Elephants top the group with four points from the same number of matches. Mozambique anchor the group with a point from two matches.
Flames Coach Meck Mwase gave credit to the players for the win.
“The boys have done a good job and I am happy with the performance. Coming from a painful defeat, we talked to each other and finally we got the three points. This win has given us confidence that we can pull a surprise in our group,” a visibly delighted Mwase said.
Mwase made three changes to the side that lost 2-0 to Cameroon. Chipuwa started in place of Kakhobwe whereas Mhango and Muyaba were also in the starting line-up, replacing Tawonga Chimodzi and Yamikani Chester, respectively.
However, Mwase made some tactical changes in the second half as he brought Chester for Mbulu. Chikoti Chirwa replaced Phiri Junior before Francisco Madinga and Chimwemwe Idana came in for Banda and Mhango, respectively.
Flames captain Limbikani Mzava rued missed chances.
“We had so many chances and we could have won the match with a bigger margin.
“But it is good to collect three points,” Mzava said.
On his part, Mozambique Coach Horacio Goncalves said individual errors cost them the game.
“We made one mistake and it is disappointing that we lost the match,” he said.
Meanwhile, Football Association of Malawi President Walter Nyamilandu, who watched the match, has said he is delighted with the win.
“The bar has been raised. I had a motivational talk with the players. I believe Malawians are also excited with the win,” he said.
The Flames will host Group D leaders Ivory Coast in October whereas Cameroon will meet Mozambique.