Malawi national football team, the Flames’ chances of making it to the third and final round of the Qatar 2022 World Cup qualification have been reduced after a 3-0 loss to Ivory Coast’s Elephants at Orlando Stadium in Johannesburg, South Africa yesterday.
The West Africans scored the first in the 36th minute through Max-Alain Gradel after Flames defender Stanley Sanudi and captain Limbikani Mzava failed to deal with a cross from the right, allowing the Turkish side Sivasspor striker to ghost from the blind side, beating Richard Chipuwa between the posts with a low shot.
Though a balanced affair for a good part of the match, which saw Ivory Coast goalkeeper denying Frank ‘Gabadinho’ Mhango, Richard Mbulu and John ‘CJ’ Banda, the visitors still proved tactically superior and added two more goals deep in the second-half.
They scored the second in the 84th minute through PSV Eindhoven’s Ibrahim Sangaré, who fired past a hapless Chipuwa, after some neat passes with AC Milan midfielder Frank Jessie.
Just when it appeared like the game would end at 2-0, the Elephants were on song again in the added-on time, this time a counter-attack led to Serie A’s Sassuolo midfielder Jerome Boga dazzling five the Flamees rearguard before firing home the third goal.
The loss takes Malawi a step backward and the Flames, who are stuck at three points from three games, have to ensure they collect maximum points against the West Africans in the return leg set for Tuesday in Benin.
Flames coach Meck Mwase bemoaned the loss, which says puts his team under pressure ahead of the return leg.
He said: “Very unfortunate. We play them in the next three days. We will go back to the drawing board, see where we were wrong and rectify the problems.”
Mwase blamed the lapses at the back on poor preparations since the team only trained together for a day.
“As they say, sometimes failing to prepare is preparing to fail,” he said.
Ivory Coast coach Patrice Beaumelle admitted that the score line was not a true reflection of the match as Malawi were in it throughout the game.
He said: “I have so much respect for the Flames. I think they played well. We were much better in the second half when we made some substitutions such as Jerome Boga and we tried to put the ball on the ground. Otherwise, it was a difficult game for us as well. But that’s football, and we need a winner and loser.”