Painful as always! Malawi National Football Team, the Flames were eliminated out of the 2022 Hollywoodbets Cosafa Cup with a game to spare following a 1-1 stalemate at King Zwelithini Stadium in Durban, South Africa Friday.
This means the Flames have failed to reach the quarterfinals of the competition for second consecutive year.
It was a similar situation last year after they also exited the regional showpiece with a game to spare.
After two games, Malawi have one point, three points behind eSwatini.
Flames’ fate in the competition was sealed following Lesotho’s 2-1 victory over Mauritius in a late kick off at King Zwelithini Stadium.
After 1- 1 draw against eSwatini in an early kick off, the Flames were hoping that Mauritius would get a positive result against Lesotho for them to be in contention for the quarter-finals but Lesotho overpowered Mauritius.
The battle for top spot in group B is between Lesotho and eSwatini heading into the final Group B matches Sunday.
The Flames will face Mauritius in the last game at Princess Magogo Stadium Sunday whereas eSwatini and Lesotho will also meet on the same day.
This year, the Flames had star names available for the tournament including Gabadinho Mhango, Peter Banda, John Banda and Khuda Muyaba.
And they were among the favourites to win the competition for the first time after impressive performance at the 2021 delayed Africa Cup of Nations (Afcon) finals in Cameroon early this year.
But the Flames produced a comical display at Cosafa Cup in two games, having started with a 2-1 loss to Lesotho at the same venue on Wednesday before the 1-1 stalemate yesterday.
The Flames were just one minute away from a victory but conceded a late penalty in added time.
After a barren first half, Muyaba broke the deadlock in the 46th minute with a low shot after eSwatini goalkeeper Mathabela Swandanezwe failed to deal with a back pass.
Substitute Stain Davie got to the end of Muyaba’s shot but the ball had already crossed the line.
After the goal, the Flames came wave after wave looking for the second goal but it never came.
In added time, captain John Banda fouled eSwatini player and the referee awarded the Sihlangu a penalty. eSwatini captain Sabelo Ndzinisa stepped up and converted the spot kick to broke the hearts of Flames players.
Flames coach Marian Mario Marinica made five changes to the starting line-up that played in a 2-1 loss to Lesotho on Wednesday.
Blossoming goalkeeper Clever Mkungula made his debut for the Flames having replaced Ernest Kakhobwe. At the back, Sankhani Mkandawire and Blessings Mpokera paved way for Kelvin Kadzinje and Paul Ndhlovu.
Winger Peter Banda forced his way into the starting line-up after impressive performance against Lesotho as Chikoti Chirwa was relegated to the bench. Micium Mhone also started ahead of Davie.
Both sides saw a little action in the first half as they failed to create chances. The Flames failed to register a shot on target in the first half.
But after the break, Marinica made a double change when he introduced Davie and Yamikani Chester for Gabadinho Mhango and Mhone respectively.
In post-match interview monitored on SuperSport, Marinica was upset with the referee for awarding eSwatini a penalty.
“That was not a penalty. Unfortunately, in Africa, none of them officiate at World Cup because cheating does not pay,” Marinica said.
On his part, eSwatini coach Dominic Kunene was happy with the result.
“I am happy to get a point against the best. The players showed great character,” Kunene said.
Flames line up: Mkungula, Sanudi, Kadzinje, Ndhlovu, Sambani, Banda, Idana, Mhone, Peter Banda, Mhango, Muyaba.