Industrious forward Gabadinho Mhango yet again underlined his ruthlessness when the Malawi National Football Team started the 2023 Africa Cup of Nations (Afcon) qualifiers with a 2-1 win over Ethiopia at a jam-packed Bingu National Stadium Sunday.
The 2020-21 Premier Soccer League joint top goal scorer gave Malawians a taste of his individual brilliance at the 2021 Afcon finals when he completed a first half brace to hand the Flames victory.
However, the Flames survived scare towards the end of the match as the visitors launched a series of attacks in a bid to get an equaliser.
It was a game of two halves as Flames dominated the first half whereas the visitors came wave after wave in the second half.
With President Lazarus Chakwera and Vice President Saulos Chilima, watching from the VIP Lounge, The Flames started the match on a high.
Malawi’s blistering start saw Mhango scoring a first half brace from the penalty spot before Abubeker Nasir Ahmed netted the consolation from the penalty spot in the second half.
Mhango’s first goal came after 10 minutes after Stain Davie was brought down in the box.
The former Nyasa Big Bullets forward stepped up and sent the Ethiopian goalkeeper Fasil Gebremicheal Weildegebriel the wrong way.
Mhango completed his brace in the 33rd minute after he was fouled in the box.
Ethiopia tried to reorganise themselves and forced goalkeeper Charles Thom to make a reflex save denying Nasir. The two teams went for recess as the Flames led 2-0.
After the break, the Flames dominated the first 10 minutes of the second half and created three chances.
Khuda Muyaba headed the ball over the bar from a Stain Davie cross in the 54th minute.
John Banda also missed a chance in the 60th minute before Davie shot straight into the palms of the Ethiopia goal-keeper a minute later.
Sensing danger, the visitors introduced Gatouch Panom for Emmanuel Aregawi.
The Flames switched off and invited pressure from Ethiopia.
Nasir hit the crossbar from the edge of the box.
In the 69th minute, Nasir scored from penalty spot after captain Christopher John Banda brought down the striker.
After the goal, Flames coach Marian Mario Marinica made triple substitution when he introduced Fransisco Madinga, Chiukepo Msowoya and Charles Petro for Davie, Gerald Phiri Junior and Chimwemwe Idana.
With 11 minutes to full time, Mhango had a ball into the net ruled out for offside.
Micium Mhone came in for Muyaba in the 85th minute before Chikoti Chirwa replaced Mhango. The Flames held for a win.
In post-match reaction, Marinica admitted that his charges were out-played.
“It was a tough match, Ethiopia played fantastic football but we had a very good game-plan to get the points,” Marinica said.
Ethiopia Coach Wubetu Abate said his players did not play well in the first half.
“We came a changed side in the second half and we scored but it was too late for us,” he said.
Malawi will travel to Guinea for the second match of the qualifiers on Tuesday whereas Ethiopia will hang around for a match against Egypt at BNS on the same day.