Malawi has made life difficult for themselves here at the 2018 Cosafa Cup by losing 1-0 to Mauritius in their opening Group B match at Old Peter Mokaba Stadium, in Polokwane, South Africa yesterday.
A 15th minute goal from Mauritius star player Damien Pascal Balisson proved decisive as Mauritius ended the Flames’ 11-month unbeaten record.
The loss puts a dark cloud over the Flames plans of going past the group stage, something that has eluded them for a long time.
Flames coach Ronny van Geneugden (RVG) opted for a 4-3-3 formation with Silver Strikers goalkeeper Brighton Munthali starting while having the traditional four-man defence of captain John Lanjesi, Gomezgani Chirwa,Peter Cholopi and Precious Sambani. The midfield had the trio of Rafick Namwela, John Banda and Dalitso Sailesi.
Desperate for goals, RVG deployed three strikers Robin Ngalande, Richard Mbulu and Gastin Simkonda.
But the three-pronged attack proved ineffective as the Flames hardly troubled Mauritius in the first half.
Malawi gifted Mauritius the goal when Jean Pierre Sophie’s pace paved the way for Balisson to coolly tuck the ball away for what proved to be the winner.
Mauritius survived several scares, but they defended superbly and were on the back foot as the Flames, led by Sailesi and Sambani’s raids, desperately fought for an equaliser, but Les Dodos held on to their nerve.
In a post-match interview, RVG said he was disappointed with the result.
“In a tournament, if you make a mistake you pay in cash,” he said.
However, he promised to improve in the second match against Botswana this Wednesday.
Mauritius’ Jean Langue, who was named man-of-the-match, said for them it was important to start with a win.
“It was a result of hardwork and we are happy to have beaten Malawi,” he said.
Following the loss, the Flames anchor the four-team Group B. In another match played earlier on, Botswana’s Zebras beat Angola’s Palancas Negras 2-1 to tie on three points with Mauritius.
It was the first time for the islanders to beat Malawi in a competitive match in nearly 42 years as the last time they emerged triumphant was in December 1976 when they won 3-2 in an African Cup of Nations qualifier.
Overall, Malawi has beaten Mauritius 11 times, drawn five and lost five as well. n