THE Malawi National Football Team, the Flames, yesterday began the 2019 Africa Cup of Nations qualifying campaign on a high after beating Comoros Islands 1-0 before a sizeable crowd at Bingu National Stadium in Lilongwe.
It was Ronny Van Geneugden’s first victory as Flames coach since he took over in April this year. Relief was the prevalent emotion on the part of the Flames following the win.
After the final whistle, Geneugden patted each player on the back as a thank you for the deserved victory.
Gerald Phiri Jnr was the hero of the day after scoring the vital goal from a well-taken free kick 30 minutes into the first half to end the Flames’ 299 minute-goal drought.
With his father Gerald Phiri Snr on the bench, the Platinum Stars forward planted the ball home with his left foot from the edge of the box beating Comoros goalkeeper, Ali Ahamada. It was a beauty that sent Flames fans into celebrations.
The goal proved vital as the Flames collected maximum points in the first game of the tournament to lead Group B with three points.
Unlike the game against Madagascar, the Flames played a passing game- building attack from the back with Stanely Sanudi playing as right wing back.
The score line could have been huge had the Flames been clinical in front of goal. Jabulani Linje and Gabadihno Mhango were guilty of missing several goal-scoring opportunities.
Linje was eventually replaced by Costa do Sol forward Richard Mbulu with 15 minutes remaining. Substitute Mbulu brought life into Flames’ attack combining well with Mhango.
But Comoros should also thank their goalkeeper Ahamada for a solid performance throughout the game as he denied Mhango on several occasions. Flames had the upper hand for the better part of the game as Phiri Jnr, John Banda and Chikoti Chirwa bossed the midfield.
Captain Limbikani Mzava, John Lanjesi and debutant Dennis Chembezi combined well at the back.
In goals, Charles Swini was forced to make a finger-tip save from a well-taken free-kick by Fadu Mohammad.
Towards the end of the match, Comoros upped the tempo of the game and nearly grabbed the equaliser but Cassim Abdallah headed over the bar.
In post-match interview, Geneugden praised his charges for the victory.
“We started the game with an offensive plan and we attacked well with a passing game. I am really happy for the players. We played our passing game and I believe the fans also enjoyed themselves,” he said.
His opposite number, Amir Abdou, rued the absence of some of his players due to injuries. The Flames are joint group leaders with Cameroon who also won 1-0 against Morocco. Line ups: Flames: Swini, Chembezi, Lanjesi, Mzava, Sanudi, Chirwa, John Banda, Frank Banda, Phiri Jnr, Linje, Gabadihno. Comoros: Ahamada, Abdou Nadjim, Chaker Ahadu, Ibrahim Rashid, Fadu Mohammed, Youseff Mnchamanga, James Bakes, Mohammed Yousseff, Ali Mzee, Cassim Abdallah. Referee : Dennis Dembele (Ivory coast)
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