Flames on Monday launched their Cecafa Senior Challenge Cup campaign in style after claiming a priceless 2-1 victory over Sudan, arguably the toughest hurdle in Group C of the qualifying stages.
Played in Bahir Dar in Ethiopia, the match saw revived striker Chiukepo Msowoya giving the Flames an early lead in the 13th minute.
He run on to a through ball from Schumacher Kuwali then beat two defenders before firing the ball home.
However, the Falcons of Jediane equalised three minutes later.
But on the hour mark, evergreen midfielder Dalitso Sailesi, a strange inclusion in the starting line-up, restored the Flames lead on his debut when he connected home a Gerald Phiri Jnr corner kick.
Coach Ernest Mtawali opted for an inexperienced side with Miracle Gabeya, rather than Sankhani Mkandawire, partnering John Lanjesi in central defence. Stanley Sanudi was deployed as right-back with Yamikani Fodya occupying the left-wing back.
The midfield battle was entrusted in the feet of John Banda, Chimango Kayira, Phiri and Sailesi while Kuwali and Chiukepo were paired upfront.
In the closing stages, Sudan were awarded a penalty which they missed and it all but sealed the Flames precious victory at the tournament.
The Flames were buoyed by the presence of Malawi’s Ambassador to the African Union Commission and Ethiopia Chimango Chirwa.
In the other group C match, South Sudan beat Djibouti 2-0 and top the group as they have a superior goal difference than second-placed Malawi.
In a brief interview from Bahir Dar, 555 kilometres from Addis Ababa, Mtawali said: “It’s always good to start on a positive note. Everybody is happy, but we have now switched focus to Wednesday’s game.”
Flames face Djibouti tomorrow and South Sudan on Friday. A win and a draw will guarantee them a quarter-final place.
Sudan, who have won the tournament three times—in 1980, 2006 and 2007—were the losing finalists in the last event two years ago.
The Flames, who are the only guest participants at the tournament, have also won the tournament thrice—in 1978, 1979 and 1988.