Europe-based striker Tabitha Chawinga and her young sister Temwa Friday meshed potently to inspire Malawi national women football team to a comfortable 6-3 win over Madagascar and keep alive their semi-final qualification chances from Group A.
The duo set the Barbourfields Stadium in Bulawayo, Zimbabwe ablaze with some incredible individual skills that saw them scoring six goals as Malawi recovered from a 3-6 defeat by Zambia’s She-polopolo in the opener of Council for Southern Africa Football Associations (Cosafa) Women’s Cup on Wednesday.
Following the latest result, Malawi can ably make it into the semi-finals if they beat the hosts by a good score margin in their last group match on Sunday. That would also depend on the results of the Zimbabwe versus Zambia match, which was being played at press time. Before that game, Malawi were tied on three points with the two sides.
Tabitha opened the score-sheet in the 21st minute when she took on Madagascar defenders before scoring with a left-footed shot. A minute later, she had another scoring opportunity but she shot directly into the palms of Madagascar goalkeeper Sylvia Razafindravao.
Earlier on, Malawi’s Eluby Bottoman missed a penalty which was awarded after Temwa Chawinga was tripped in the box. She hit the ball directly at the goalminder.
Tabitha made it 2-0 in the 36th minute when she chipped into the net after making a defence-splitting run from close to the 18 yard box; leaving the advancing keeper sprawling on the ground.
From then on, Malawi pressed hard in search of the third goal. Sabina Thom saw her long-range drive bouncing off the post and, a minute later, Temwa hit over the bar from the right side of the box. It was a selfish effort as she could have passed the ball to her unmarked elder sister.
Nevertheless, Temwa finally got her name on the score-sheet at the stroke of halftime when she lurched on a loose ball to drive home from just outside the box.
She managed a brace with a wonderful finish in the very first minute of the second-half after an exchange of passes with Tabitha, who saw her own effort being saved two minutes later.
However, fatigue and unsteady defensive performance began to take their toll on the Malawians as they conceded three goals within 14 minutes. Madagascar’s first goal came in the 54th minute through their captain Sophie Irene before Farida Razafimanan reduced the arrears in the 64th minute after connecting home a cut-back pass from Irene, who had a brace in the 68th minute through a wonderful curler from a freekick.
Malawi’s hopes for an emphatic victory returned in the 86th minute when Tabitha dribbled past a forest of defenders, before slotting into the empty net for her second hat-trick in two consecutive games. But as everyone thought that it was all she could offer, she came again in a similar manner to score her fourth goal of the match.
No wonder, she bagged the player-of-the-match accolade and she had this to say after her individual brilliance: “I thank God for this victory. It was all about team work.”
Malawi coach Stuart Mbolembole said they are now focused on their preparations for their final group match against hosts and defending champions Zimbabwe this Sunday.
“Overall, we played better than in our opener against Zambia. However, we were still vulnerable at the back. We are playing Zimbabwe this Sunday and we have to plan properly to keep alive our hopes of staying in the tournament,” he said.
In spite of that, the game proved tough for Austria-based export Chisomo Kazisonga. The defender, who was featured as a central midfielder, appeared a shadow of herself for the better part of the game before being replaced by Chikondi Gondwe in the 80th minute.
Sheila Dimba was the other substitute as she took Pilirani Malora’s place in the 33rd minute.
This was Malawi’s first win in five years as they last won during the 2012 African Cup of Nations (Afcon) Women’s Cup qualifier when they beat Zambia 4-0 in the first leg. However, they failed to progress to the next round following a 7-4 aggregate loss as they were beaten 0-7 in the second leg.