Last laugh! Malawi women’s national football team, the Scorchers, displayed a solid performance to book a semifinal berth after beating Zambia 1-0 at the Cosafa Cup in Nelson Mandela Bay, South Africa, Monday.
The Scorchers qualified for the semifinals as group winners with six points from two games for the first time since 2011.
For finishing as group winners, Malawi will face hosts and defending champions South Africa in the semifinals on Thursday
Published and printed whereas Zambia, who advanced as overall best runner-up with three points, will face Botswana, who topped Group C with six points.
This is the first competitive victory for Malawi over Zambia since the Cosafa Women’s Cup was introduced in 2002. It was Chawinga sisters Tabitha and Temwa who put a sublime performance to outshine Zambia’s Barbra Banda, who was a bit of a lone ranger.
China-based Temwa scored the vital goal for Malawi with a fine header when she connected an inviting cross from Zainab Kapanda after 31 minutes in the first half. The Wuhan FC striker was also named as player of the match.
Her sister Tabitha did not register her name on the scoresheet but played the full match as she led teammates. Tabitha is current top goal scorer with six goals which she scored in the 9-0 thumping of Lesotho on Thursday whereas Temwa has scored two goals.
In the first half, Malawi wasted some scoring opportunities in the opening minutes of the game. Kapanda fired wide before Zambia goalkeeper made a timely intervention to deny Tabitha.
Playing against the wind, the Scorchers were a bit nervous as the Copper Bullets came hard in search of an equaliser but it never came as Malawi held on. Banda and Grace Chanda came close to scoring for Zambia but Malawi defence led by Patricia Nyirenda and Ruth Nyirongo stood firm. Madyina Nguluwe and Asimenye Simwaka also had a grand game.
After the final whistle, relief was the prevalent emotion on the part of the Scorchers.
Kazuwa maintained his first eleven as goalkeeper Samir Amidu retained her place with Nyirongo, Chimwemwe Madise, Emily Josam and Nyirenda at the back.
Nguluwe and Kapanda featured in midfield alongside Asimenye Simwaka and Sabina Thom whereas Temwa and Tabitha led the front line. Throughout the game, Kazuwa only made one change when he brought in Maureen Phiri for Kapanda.
After the match, Kazuwa was the happiest man. “We wanted to win and we got the result. Our plan was to score an early goal so we are happy.”
Player of the match, Temwa was also excited. “The coach told us to go forward and attack,” she said.
On his part, Zambia coach Bruce Mwape said the Scorchers utilised their chances.
“In the second half, we tried by all means to equalise but it was difficult,” he said.
Malawi last reached the semifinals in 2011 but lost 5-1 to South Africa.
Meanwhile, Banyana Banyana coach Desiree Ellis said she expects a tough semifinal against Malawi.
“Chawinga sisters are in top form but we will analyse it and plan for the match, “ she said.
Sibulele Holwen of SA is the joint leading goal scorer with Tabitha after scoring five goals against Comoros. Both Tabitha and Holwen have six goals each. South Africa and Malawi are yet to concede in the competition.
Malawi : Amidu, Nyirongo, Madise, Josam, Nyirenda, Nguluwe, Kapanda, Sabina Thom, Simwaka, Temwa, Tabitha.
Zambia: Hazel Nali, Lushomo Mweemba, Anita Mulenga, Mary Wilomba, Misozi Zulu, ,Margret Belemu, Grace Chanda, Barbra Banda, Martha Tembo, Ireen Lungu, Prisca Chilufya