What started like a good project for Malawi football, Sunday took a reverse gear when the Flames suffered a 2-0 loss to Uganda’s Cranes in a 2021 Africa Cup of Nations (Afcon) qualifier at Mandela National Stadium, Namboole in Uganda.
This is a big setback for the Flames who have slumped to third position in group B with three points from two games.
Uganda, who qualified for 2019 Afcon finals held in Egypt in June, top group B followed by Burkina Faso who defeated South Sudan 2-1 in Khartoum also yesterday.
The Cranes lead the group with four points from two games at par with the Stallions but Uganda have a better goal-difference.
Flames next assignment in the qualifiers will be against Bukina Faso away on August 31 next year before hosting them on September 8 2020.
Flames coach, Meck Mwase, maintained the team that started against South Sudan at Kamuzu Stadium in Blantyre last Wednesday.
Goalkeeper Brighton Munthali kept his place with Stanley Sanudi, Peter Cholopi, Gomezgani Chirwa and Lucky Malata forming a back-four.
Yamikani Chester, Chimwemwe Idana, John Banda and Gerald Phiri Junior started in the midfield with Gabadihno Mhango and Richard Mbulu playing as twin strikers.
But Mwase was let down by individual errors at the back especially at left-back where he improvised right-back Chirwa.
Playing as a left back, Chirwa was exposed by Uganda strikers which led him to commit errors.
Uganda striker Emmanuel Okwi opened the scores for the hosts in the 30th minute after Chirwa failed to deal with an aerial ball from Joseph Ocaya.
The Uganda striker controlled the ball and left his marker before unleashing a powerful shot into the net, beating Munthali.
The goal energised the hosts as they wanted to kill off the games before the break. Farouk Miya hit the post towards the end of the first half.
The Flames never gave up and kept on fighting but Mhango and Mbulu were given little space by the Ugandans.
Mwase pulled out Idana for Chimango Kaira before the break to add stability to the midfield. Before the goal, the first half was an open contest although Uganda had lion’s share of possession.
In the second half, the Flames came with fighting spirit hoping to find an equaliser but they rarely threatened Uganda goalkeeper Dennis Onyango.
The Cranes were gifted another goal following another defensive blunder by Chirwa who played a back pass to Malata who in turn was too heavy to deal with Uganda’ forward Fahad Bayo.
Bayo outpaced Malata before slicing the ball into the net. It was game over for the Flames and failed to fight back.
Mwase brought in Robin Ngalande for Phiri Junior who had a bad day. With two minutes to full time, Mwase rested Mhango for Hassan Kajoke.
Mwase was not pleased with defence.
“It is very unfortunate that we lost the game. We made some mistakes at the back and this cost us the game. Mistakes are part of the game which need to be corrected. Playing away is very tough so the players gave a good fight,” the former Flames defence pillar said.
His Uganda counterpart, Johnathan McKinstry, was delighted with three points.
“The second half was better for us although the pitch was a challenge for both teams but we managed to cope up. The most important thing is that we got the three points,” he said.