The Flames surged forward with swashbuckling verve and fashioned a plethora of chances in the closing stages of their opening Group K 2014 World Cup qualifier against Kenya, but sadly, failed to make them countâ€”and were held to a goalless draw on Saturday.
It was a pulsating contest that shredded the nerves of the big turnout, that included Kenyan Prime Minister Laila Odinga at Moi International Sports Centre (MISC) in Kasarani, Nairobi.
Flames coach Kinnah Phiri and revered former midfield maestro Ernest â€˜Wireâ€™ Mtawali said Malawi were unlucky not to collect full points.
Said Kinnah: “It was a grand game. The boys fought every inch of the way and the result is not a true reflection of the game, we dominated from start to finish and it was just unfortunate that we didnâ€™t utilise the chances we created especially towards the very end.
“People at home should not even complain about the draw. The defence and midfield were superb and never gave the Kenyans a chance.”
On his part, Mtawali also said the Flames dominated the proceedings.
“It is just unfortunate that we didnâ€™t win this match. We couldnâ€™t make use of the good chances we created especially in the second half and Russell [Mwafulirwa] comes to mind, he fluffed two clear scoring opportunities.
“Otherwise, our boys were in total control, the performance was absolutely superb. The coaches should just work on the finishing aspect,” said Mtawali who travelled to Nairobi to watch the game on duty for his South African club Mamelodi Sundowns where he works as a scout.
According to reports from the Kenyan capital, Simplex Nthala was assured and commanding in goal. James Sangala, Foster Namwela, Moses Chavula and Limbikani Mzava were rock solid in defence.
But it was revitalised midfielder Joseph â€˜Shakiraâ€™ Kamwendo and Chimango Kaira who were outstanding for the Flames as they staged breathtaking exhibition of matchless displays that held the stadium spellbound.
Even Mtawali could not help but shower praise on the duo.
“Chimango was tireless. He was up and down, whereas Joseph stroked the ball around in assured fashion. They were a marvel to watch,” he said.
After a rather slow start in the first half, suddenly there was renewed purpose in the last half as the Flames forced the hosts into rearguard action.
This was after Kinnah pulled out Spain-based Robin Ngalande, who featured out of position as a winger. Ngalande was replaced by Christopher John Banda. .
The Flames had vowed to sweat blood prior to the showdown and they did, particularly in the dying minutes and as the hosts laboured fruitlessly .
The Flames mounted late pressure and could have nosed ahead when Mwafulirwaâ€™s right-foot curler went narrowly wide of the post. A few minutes later, the lanky forward also missed another golden chance.
In the end, though, it was not enough. It was never going to beâ€”boy! oh boy!
Flames line-up: Nthala, Mzava, Chavula (C), Namwela, Sangala, Kaira, Ngalande (Christopher John Banda), Kamwendo, Davie Banda, Mwafulirwa (Zico Mkanda), Atusaye Nyondo (Frank Banda).