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Malawi still on third place

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By Peter Kanjere:

TIGHTLY MARKED—
Gabadhinho Mhango
(right) shields the ball
from Cameroon’s Petrus Mayega

Malawi national football team characteristically failed to translate their dominance into goals as they drew 0-0 against Cameroon at Kamuzu Stadium in Blantyre Tuesday to remain on third place in the 2019 Africa Cup of Nations (Afcon) Group B qualifier.

The Flames, who under Ronny van Geneugden (RVG) have played 19 games, winning twice, drawing 10 times and losing seven, should have won the game but their 12 free-kicks, three corner kicks, three shots on target and seven off target proved irrelevant.

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In contrast, Cameroon, who had 13 free-kicks, two shots on target and two off it, opted for patience and control of the game while building from the back.

The African champions put more men behind the ball and played on the counterattack— their biggest chance being wasted by giant striker Zoua Jacques whose point-blank shot in a one-on-one situation was stopped by advancing Flames goalkeeper Charles Swini in injury time.

The result coupled with a 2-2 draw between visiting Morocco and bottom-placed hosts Comoros Islands, also Tuesday, mean that the standings remain unchanged and the group is open.

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The Indomitable Lions, who will host the 2019 Afcon finals, lead with eight points from four games, Morocco have seven points whereas the Flames are on four points—the only setback being that Malawi has failed to score in five consecutive games in all competitions.

Malawi will travel to Comoros next month before winding up the group’s assignments by welcoming Morocco next March. The Flames’ chances of qualifying depend on results of other games.

Only group winners will qualify for the finals but the second best in the group will make in the event that the already qualified Indomitable Lions finish top.

Tuesday, few fans turned up for the game with gaps of unoccupied seats visible in all terraces. Not the best of patronages for a venue that last hosted the Flames two years ago.

The match was played on a sun-baked afternoon with temperature hitting 32 degrees Celsius. Interestingly, all coaches, RVG for Malawi and the visitors’ duo of Clarence Seedorf and Patrick Kluivert wore white shirts and black pair of trousers.

However, when the game started, differences in approaches were evident for RVG who made two changes to the squad, bringing in Levison Maganizo and Chiukepo Msowoya in the starting XI while resting Jabulani Linje and Denis Chembezi.

On the other hand, Seedorf made six changes to the squad that defeated Malawi 1-0 on Friday with scorer in that game Eric Maxim Choupo-Moting conspicuously missing through injury.

The Flames were on the front foot for the better part of the first-half, Chiukepo Msowoya failing to connect Yamikani Chester’s right-wing cross when scoring seemed easier in the box, minutes after Ambrose Bitolo had glanced his header wide on the break. Gabadinho Mhango also kicked the air instead of the ball from a rebound.

In the second-half, RVG added more numbers in attack, pulling out otherwise impressive Maganizo for Patrick Phiri then injured Chikoti Chirwa for Alfred Manyozo Junior. Yet Cameroon still looked dangerous on the break as Jacques sent his free header off the bar.

The Flames best scoring chances fell to Msowoya who broke clear on the right after meeting Mhango’s cut-back but he sent his shot into the side-netting with Cameroon goalkeeper Fabrice Ondoa helpless at the near post.

Earlier referee Victor Gomez ignored Mhango’s penalty appeal after appearing to have been fouled in the box.

In the end, Seedorf appeared content with the result while RVG rued the missed chances.

In a post-match interview, RVG said: “I am very proud of my players. We decided to play an open game, man-to-man against such a big team. We played well especially in the first-half. We had a very big chance to score but it was not to be. We will keep on working hard with this young squad. I was also happy with the chemistry between the fans and the team.”

Seedorf also hailed his charges, saying: “It was a difficult match, difficult field of play against a very aggressive opponent.”

Malawi squad: Charles Swini, John Lanjesi, Stanley Sanudi, Peter Cholopi, Precious Sambani, Maganizo, Chester, Chirwa (Manyozo), Banda, Mhango, Msowoya.

Cameroon squad: Ondoa, Failed Ngoran Fai, Yoyskim Tchakonte, Tata Banana, Ambrose Bitolo, Diederrick Radio, Fabrics Essono, George’s Mendjeck, Paul Madiba (Karl Ekambi), Petrus Mayega (Andre Anguissa), Jacques

Referee: Gomez (South Africa).

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