By Peter Kanjere:
After losing 0-1 to Zambia under-23 national football team at Kamuzu Stadium in Blantyre Wednesday, Malawi Coach, Meke Mwase, refused to throw in the towel ahead of Sunday’s away second leg.
But after this under-23 Africa Cup of Nations (Afcon) second round, first leg qualifying match, there is no doubt that Malawi have a mountain to climb in Lusaka.
Belgium-based striker Fashion Sakala’s 78th minute header won Zambia the game, which a sizeable crowd watched before trooping out prematurely as the visitors dominated proceedings.
The home fans rallied behind the visitors.
Yet, in a post-match interview, Mwase—after his charges had amplified hopes following a two-week camp training in Belgium and a friendly in Egypt—insisted that they can qualify for the third and final qualifying round to book a place at the Egypt Afcon finals.
“We had so much hope and belief in the team but it did not work out. We had the chances to score but did not use them. However, it is not yet over until it is over. This is football,” said Mwase, who admitted that his charges lacked midfield coordination and gave up after conceding.
In this latest version of Malawi and Zambia football rivalry, the visitors slightly dominated on and off the greasy pitch, as the handful of their supporters overshadowed their counterparts, beating drums and singing non-stop at the Covered Stand.
The travelling fans enlivened the atmosphere of this dour game that lacked spark and creativity, as both teams hoofed the ball back and forth, struggling to boss possession and get rhythm of play.
Malawi opted for a 4-4-2 formation with forward Peter Banda playing off the shoulders of striker Hassan Kajoke while the visitors deployed a 4-3-3 system.
Europe-based strikers Patson Daka, Fashion Sakala and winger Enock Mwepu played in attack.
However, both teams played in patches. In those few moments, forward Peter Banda slipped a measured pass past Zambia’s defence onto Kajoke’s path but he placed his effort wide.
A few minutes later, Peter Banda crossed the ball into the box but Kajoke arrived seconds too late and missed the flight of the low ball— when even a baby shot could have translated into a goal.
Operating from the left wing, Mkwate received a pass from left-back Precious Msosa but the diminutive midfielder could not get his angle right— he shot straight at Zambia goalkeeper Mangani Banda.
Zambia replied through Austria-based Daka who arrived in the box to welcome Mwepu’s long ball.
Malawi keeper Bright Munthali blocked Daka’s attempt before staying on his feet to block Kings Kagwa’s rebound. Malawi cleared the danger.
Half-time ended goalless and eventless. However, both teams upped the tempo in the second half. Sambani headed marginally wide from a corner kick before, on the other end, Sakala picked a spilled Munthali ball, only to see his effort bounce off the near-post upright.
Zambia’s Cosafa under-17, 20 and Afcon under-20 winning coach Beston Chambeshi, who did not train the team for two weeks, made changes to his squad.
Chambeshi withdrew Kagwa for Lameck Banda, who made the difference as his left-wing corner-kick was done justice by Sakala’s expertly timed header.
Before that, Mwase had withdrawn Mkwate and Levison Maganizo for Patrick Phiri and Francis Mkonda respectively.
It could have been worse for the hosts, thankfully defender Trevor Kalema swept the ball off the line when Daka thought he had grabbed the second goal for Zambia.
In a post-match interview, Chambeshi admitted that his charges struggled for rhythm.
“Malawi is a good team. They played well in the first-half but we came back strongly in the second-half. We did not play our usual game. We played in patches as some of our players arrived yesterday. We hope to play an attacking game at home as we expect Malawi to play an open game,” Chambeshi said.
The overall winner between Malawi and Zambia date either Congo Brazaville or Burundi, who drew 0-0 Wednesday.
Malawi: Munthali, Hadji Wali, Chembezi Dennis, Kalema, Precious Sambani, Chimwemwe Idana, Maganizo (Mkonda), Mkwate (Patrick Phiri), Isaac Kaliyati, Peter Banda, Kajoke.
Zambia: Mangani Banda, Kepson Kamanga, Solomoni Sakala, Shemmy Mayembe, Moses Nyondo, Boyd Musonda, Kangwa (Lameck Banda), Harrison Chisala (Emmanuel Banda), Mwepu, Sakala, Daka.
A vibrant writer who gives a great insight on hot topics and issues