Malawi National Football Team, the Flames, turned on a vintage performance as they came from a goal down to beat Zimbabwe 2-1 at Kouekong Stadium in Bafoussam, Cameroon Friday.
The victory revived Malawi’s hopes of qualifying for the knockout stages of the Afcon finals for the first time.
Striker Gabadinho Mhango was the toast of the night when he grabbed a brace to secure a famous win for the Flames over the Warriors.
Interestingly, it was Malawi’s first victory at the 2021 Afcon finals in Cameroon after a sluggish start to the tournament when they lost 1-0 to Guinea in the opening match on Monday at the same venue.
The win means the Flames are still in contention for a place in the round of 16 of the tournament whereas Zimbabwe are technically out.
Following the win, the Flames are third in Group B with three points, just one point behind joint leaders Senegal and Guinea, who shared the spoils after a goal-less draw in an early kick off.
The Flames need a positive result against Senegal to confirm their place in the round of 16 of the tournament on Tuesday.
However, they can still make it into the round of 16 as best losers.
Top two teams from each group automatically qualify for the knockout stage whereas four best losers out of the six groups will also qualify to the round of 16.
This was Malawi’s first win over Zimbabwe since 2006.
Amusingly, it was Malawi’s second win of the tournament in third appearances at the games.
The Warriors broke the deadlock with a wonderful header from Ishmael Wadi in the 39th minute after he connected a cross from Onsimor Bhasera, beating goalkeeper Ernest Kakhobwe, who left his line.
However, the lead was short-lived as Gabadinho Mhango equalised in the 43rd minute when he connected Francisco Madinga’s inviting cross.
It was a beauty, as Mhango was at the right place at the right time.
After the break, Mhango completed his brace in the 58th minute with a neat finish.
Once again, Madinga provided the assist as the Flames marched on to a famous win. The Warriors fought hard for an equaliser but Malawi stood firm.
A visibly delighted Mwase said it was a deserved win.
“The boys worked very hard and congratulations to the boys,” Mwase said.
Mhango, who returned to the team after missing the first game due to Covid-19, was pleased with the performance of the team.
“I have to thank God. It was tough match but at the end of the night, I thank the teammates for the win and they deserve the accolade,” Mhango said.
Both teams started the match on a low but the Warriors upped the tempo after five minutes. However, the first chance of the match fell to Flames but Stanley Sanudi blasted the ball wide.
After that, the Warriors created a host of chances but lacked composure in front of the goal. Wadi and Gerald Takwara missed good chances whereas Kakhobwe also made some saves.
Mwase made three changes to the starting line up that lost 1-0 to Guinea on Monday. Mhango, Richard Mbulu and defender Sanudi started in place of Yamikani Chester, Peter Banda and Micium Mhone.
However, injured Captain Limbikani Mzava was replaced by Lawrence Chaziya towards the end of the first half.
On his part, Warriors coach Norman Mapenza was disappointed with the loss.
“We had so many opportunities in the first half. We will see what happens against Guinea,” he said.
It was 58th meeting between Malawi and Zimbabwe since July 6, 1980.
Interestingly, the Flames dominated the first two decades before the Warriors turned around the fortunes from 2001.
The Warriors, ranked 121 in the world, dominated the fixture in the last 20 years, having lost only four matches against Malawi, who are on position 129.
The latest win over Zimbabwe means the Flames have won 19 matches, lost 20 and 19 draws in all competitions in 41 years.