Malawi’s Flames have topped Africa Cup of Nation (Afcon) Group B following their narrow victory over South Sudan at Kamuzu Stadium in Blantyre on Wednesday.
This follows a goalless draw between the other group members Uganda and Burkina Faso at Stade du 4 Août in Ouagadougou in a late kick-off on Wednesday evening.
The Flames lead the group with three points while Burkina Faso are second with a point just like the third placed Uganda while South Sudan anchor the table.
But Flames coach Meke Mwase said it was too early to start celebrating.
“It is a journey that has just started. It’s a long way,” he said.
The Flames flew to Kampala, Uganda yesterday for the second qualifier against their hosts at Mandela Stadium in Namboole, the Crane’s football shrine.
But despite the Flames plucking a victory at Kamuzu Stadium, the team failed to stamp its authority in the game against a team ranked 38 places below them on Fifa ladder.
Malawi created hordes of scoring opportunities, but lack of composure and precision in front of goal betrayed them.
At the back, poor coordination between the goalkeeper and his central defenders almost gifted South Sudan a goal twice.
This was expected as Lucky Malata, partnering Peter Cholopi, returned to the national team after four years to replace injured Charles Petro.
In the midfield US-based North Carolina FC midfielder Yamikani Chester lacked match fitness after staying idle since the USL Championship is on break.
Malawi’s goal was a solo effort from Gabadinho Mhango who got a long ball from his goalkeeper Brighton Munthali and dribbled past the Sudanese defence before beating their goalkeeper Majak Maling Mawith.
Though Malawi improved in the second-half, Mwase said there is need to improve in all areas.
“We cannot just concentrate on one area. From goalkeeping, defending, midfield and all the way upfront—we need to improve if we are to succeed,” he said.
“What we always say is that the game is played by the players. What we need to do is encourage them to work hard so that we can continue where we stopped. Results can only come if we do that,” he said.
His counterpart, Johnathan McKinstry, said the Cranes will go into Sunday game with confidence after managing a point away to Burkina Faso.
He said: “We had the fight and desire in the match against Burkina Faso. It is one point and we need to maintain doing this to earn on the road.
“We look forward to that home game against Malawi at Namboole Stadium on Sunday. We call upon the fans to come and fill up the stadium,” the North Irish is quoted as saying by the Independent of Uganda.