Goalkeeper Simplex Nthala saved a last-gasp penalty to earn a nervous Malawi national football team a 2-1 win over Sudan and go second in group C of 2015 Cecafa Senior Challenge Cup in Bahir Dar City of Ethiopia Monday.
“Simplex take it easy,” screamed Malawi coach Ernest Mtawali before his Mozambique-based goalkeeper leapt to the right to keep out Altif Khalid’s 85th minute spot-kick, which winning goal scorer, Chiukepo Msowoya had conceded.
With pressure taking its toll on defensively feeble Malawi, Msowoya had handled on the goal-line while trying to deal with a corner kick from the right.
The corner came about after Nthala had seconds earlier pulled another stunning finger-tip save to deny Khalid from the direct-free-kick spot after John Banda was adjudged to have fouled the Nile Crocodiles’ dangerously advancing goal-hunter.
Save for the goals which Big Bullets duo of Dalitso Sailesi and Msowoya scored in the 12th and 28th minutes respectively, the Flames’ displays, were even in Mtawali’s admission, disjointed, lifeless and uninspiring.
“We need to work on our tactical discipline. We still have got tomorrow (Tuesday) to rest and try to fix this. We had a pre-match meeting and somebody was supposed to sit on the D-zone, but this did not happen,” Mtawali said in a post-match interview.
“They were piling the pressure on us because we were defending too deep and we were just hoofing the ball forward. There are a lot of things we need to improve.”
With such pressure, little wonder Burundian referee, Eric Gasimzigwa’s final whistle was greeted with utter relief, then song and dance by Malawi Embassy staff in Ethiopia, led by Ambassador Chimango Chirwa right at the centre of the 60,000-seater pitch.
During the game watched by a poor crowd on a mild afternoon, Malawi took forever to come out of their blocks with the ball being hoofed forward aimlessly while targeting Msowoya and his strike partner, Schumacher Kuwali.
This aimless play gifted the Sudanese cheap possession as the guest participants, Malawi, sat deeper and deeper.
Sailesi found the pace and physical demands of national team football too hard to handle and he hardly made his trademark darting runs with left-back Yamikani Fodya too forced to restrict his movement.
However, against the run of play, Sailesi headed in the opener from Gerald Phiri Jnr’s right-flank corner kick which Malawi earned after Sudan’s Mujahid Ibrahim had cleared off the line John Banda’s goal-bound low shot..
The lead lasted barely three minutes as Sudan grabbed a leveler through Atahir who deflected his low shot past Nthala after the Flames defence cleared poorly Sudan’s corner-kick from the left.
The ball found the Sudanese winger on the edge of the box before firing hard and low past ball-watching Malawi defenders.
Some 12 minutes later, the Flames’ counter-attacking game paid dividends as Kuwali picked unmarked Msowoya wide on the right wing with a long ball, which he controlled and volleyed past Sudan goalkeeper Akram.
Sudan almost cancelled Malawi’s lead but got betrayed by way-ward shooting. Malawi clung to their lead going into half-time.
Expectedly, Sudan stepped up
the gear in the second half with Malawi retreating and isolating Msowoya upfront with long balls aimed at him failing to make any difference.
Mtawali had pulled out Sailesi, Kuwali and injured defender Miracle Gabeya for Isaac Kaliyati, debutant Nelson Kangunje and Sankhani Mkandawire, but there was little difference.
Then with five minutes left, the Flames survived five minutes of nerves, but thanks Nthala redeemed himself as the absolute number one with telling saves.
Sudan assistant coach Mohsen Saed said he was not comfortable granting an interview in English simply saying “it was not our day.”
Malawi next face Djibouti tomorrow.
Djibouti anchor the group after losing 2-0 to the pool’s surprise leaders, South Sudan in an earlier match. South Sudan, who date their cousins Sudan also tomorrow, lead on superior goal aggregate over the Flames.
Flames squad: Simplex Nthala, Yamikani Fodya, Stanley Sanudi, Miracle Gabeya (Sankhani Mkandawire), John Lanjesi, Gerald Phiri Jnr, John CJ Banda, Dalitso Sailesi (Isaac Kaliyati), Chimango Kaira, Chiukepo Msowoya, Schumacher Kuwali (Nelson Kangunje).
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