The Young Chimodzi-led Flames coaching panel was left with plenty of food for thought after a humiliating 1-4 defeat at the hands of of the Warriors of Zimbabwe at Kamuzu Stadium in Blantyre on Wednesday.
What was expected to be a perfect return for Chimodzi and his deputy Jack Chamangwana turned out to be a nightmare afternoon as the Flames froze like flat-footed penguins in front of a sizeable home crowd that included principal secretary in the Ministry of Youth and Sports Justin Saidi and FAM president Walter Nyamilandu.
Led by the unstoppable South Africa-based forward Kingstone Nkhata, the Warriors left their hosts battered and bruised.
They were relentlessly torn apart in a match that exposed their rust after six months of inactivity while the Warriors were still fresh from their Championship of African Nations (Chan) tournament foray where they finished a respectable fourth position.
Despite the massacre, Flames coach Young Chimodzi put on a brave face, saying there were positives to be drawn from the game.
“We did not tick. We were weak in almost all the departments. We simply could not tick, but it has helped us identify some players.
“But I am not going to blame any individual player for this defeat. We have lost as a team and there are lessons learnt from this defeat,” said Chimodzi, his voice clearly straining with emotion.
He also played down suggestions that the Flames might have struggled due to inadequate preparations.
“We were one goal down going into the second-half and then we got an early equaliser, but then Zimbabwe’s second goal, demoralised the players, but I cannot blame the loss on inadequate time for preparations either.
“We still have time to pick ourselves up and work on our mistakes,” he said.
In midfield, the Flames needlessly gave away possession and failed to build meaningful attacks whereas the visitors appeared to be calm, knocking the ball around gently as if to get the feel of the game.
In a drab game that failed to stir the passions, the Warriors who are on position 100—15
places above the Flames on Coca Cola Fifa World Rankings—surged ahead in the 20th minute when Peter Moyo capitalised on a defensive lapse between the Flames defence and goalkeeper Simplex Nthala.
The Flames came into the second-half with renewed purpose and Mozambique-based Zicco Mkanda, who was out of sorts, missed from close range in the 46th minute, but in the 49th minute, Atusaye Nyondo translated his club scoring form to the national team when he coolly tapped home a cross from Chimango Kaira to beat his Pretoria University ‘keeper Washington Arubi.
Sadly, as the home fans were discussing the beauty of the equaliser, Warriors’ nimble-footed striker Kudakwashe Mahachi restored the lead for the Warriors with a simple finish, tapping home a well-curled cross from the left; it was all simple, nothing was forced.
And soon after the goal, Nthala was taken off stage for Charles Swini in the 69th minute and hardly had he settled between the goalposts when the Warriors made it 3-1 through Pasca Manhanga and Chimodzi fell prey to emotions and held his head in disappointment. Then Nkhata closed the scoresheet. Game over? Yes and the Flames trooped off a well-beaten side.
Zimbabwe coach Ian ‘Dibango’ Gorowa said the Flames were scrappy in the first-half, but came back stronger in the second-half.
“They were not a hopeless side, but all in all I think we were a better side. For us, we managed to achieve what we wanted and that was to further tune up for 2015 Afcon qualifiers, it wasn’t about the result although we are happy that we have got a good result,” said Gorowa.
Soccer analyst Charles Nyirenda said the result could have been different had the Flames been sharp in front of goal.
“If we were good enough in attack, the result could have been 6-4 in our favour because twice Nyondo failed to score with only the ‘keeper at his mercy then Kaira and Mkanda also missed close-range chances. So, the result does not really reflect the proceedings,” said Nyirenda.