It might have taken a year and eight months, but the Flames yesterday ended their lengthy winless streak with a 3-0 resounding triumph over the Pirates of Seychelles in their opening Group B 2019 Cosafa Cup contest in Durban, South Africa.
In a match monitored on Digital Satellite Television’s (DStv) SuperSport channel, there were scenes so lovely at King Zwelethini Stadium as a group of Malawians based in the coastal city celebrated the significant victory, which also ended the Flames’ three-year winless run in the regional showpiece.
Malawi last won in September 2017 against Togo’s Hawks and their last Cosafa Cup victory was against Mauritius in June 2016.
It was also the first competitive win for the Flames in almost two years, having last won against Comoros 1-0 in a 2019 Africa Cup of Nations’ qualifier in June 2017.
Yesterday, the Flames turned on a vintage display against a side ranked 190th on Coca Cola Fifa World rankings, 62 places below them.
Malawi might have had scored more were it not for some fine stops from the Pirates’ goalkeeper Ian Ah-Kong.
South Africa-based forward Frank ‘Gabadinho’ Mhango drew first blood in the ninth minute through a free-kick with a magnificently executed curling chip that had all the hallmarks of theatre and art.
Mhango then turned to an architect of the second goal three minutes into the second half.
A typically assured touch on the left flank gave him control, a drop of the shoulder confused his marker, another touch pushed the ball into a little pocket of space on the outside and then he crossed the ball to Richard Mbulu who provided the final flourish near the goal line.
It was all simple, no sweat.
Gerald Phiri Jnr then stepped off the bench to score the last goal. After picking up a loose ball in the box, he controlled it with his right foot and finished with his left.
Flames coach Meke Mwase said he was impressed with his charges’ display.
“We were in control, but I felt we were a bit casual in the first half in which we could have scored more goals. But we upped the tempo in the second half.
“The win gives us confidence going into our second match against Namibia on Tuesday [tomorrow],” he said.
His Seychelles counterpart Gavin Jeanne said: “My players tried hard…It was a tough game and Malawi were good on the ball, but the journey is still on,” he said. The Flames are tied on three points with Namibia, but they lead on goal difference as Brave Warriors beat Mozambique’s Mambas 2-1.