It’s over. The Malawi women’s national football team was on Sunday swept aside with contemptuous ease by Kenya’s Harambee Starlets courtesy of Mwanalima Adam’s goal scoring instincts.
And so the dream to take wing to the 2020 Olympic qualifiers turned into a nightmare at Kenyatta Stadium in Machakos as the hosts recovered from a narrow 3-2 away loss in Blantyre to turn the tables with a 3-0 sweet victory to qualify for the third round on a 5-3 aggregate.
It really mattered less that the Starlets did not enjoy home support, having played behind closed doors following a ban imposed on the arena by the Confederation of African Football (CAF) and in the end, they turned the pitch into a theatre of celebrations as Malawi players staggered in the mist of the disappointment.
In a match monitored through live-streaming on Kenya Football Federation’s Facebook Page, there was nothing extraordinary from the Harambee Starlets, but they did their homework after the first leg experience and their game plan for the return match was executed to perfection.
Malawi’s trampcard Tabitha Chawinga and her young sister Temwa, were kept under lock and key except for a few occasions when the former came close to scoring.
Kenya drew first blood in the 18th minute through Cynthia Shilwato who was left unmarked in the 18-yard box and she cooly slotted the ball past goalkeeper Samir Amidu—no panic, no fuss, job done.
Malawi came into the second half with renewed purpose, forcing the Kenyans into rearguard action.
However, the closest they came to scoring was when Tabitha’s free-kick from almost 35 metres, was denied by the woodwork and relief was the prevalent emotion for the hosts.
Seven minutes later, the Starlets were two up through Adam.
She was on target again with three minutes to full time with an equally virtuoso strike from a defensive lapse when she turned Malawi’s defence pillar ToweraVinkhumbo inside out in the 18-yard box before providing the final flourish.
Game over? Yes and it was all over for Malawi.
In a post-match interview through Football Association of Malawi (FAM), Tabitha said: “We have lost, it is part of the game, we cannot blame anyone.
“But all I can ask [from the authorities] is that the team should camp longer to allow for thorough preparations. It is sad that we have lost after doing well in the first leg.”
On his part, coach Abel Mkandawire blamed the loss on mistakes at the back.
“We played very well, but we made some mistakes…our marking was not bad.
“We tried our best, but it is one of those things in football, we tried our best but our friends were better than us,” he said.