Flames on Tuesday blew up their qualification chances for the 2017 Africa Cup of Nations (Afcon) when they went down 1-2 against Guinea’s Syli Nationale in the a return-leg at Kamuzu Stadium in Blantyre.
The visitors came from behind to beat the Flames, who appeared tactically inferior for the better part of the game.
The loss means the Flames now anchor the four-team Group L with two points from four games and they will require mathematical chances to make the grade for the Afcon finals in Gabon next year.
They need to win their two remaining group matches against leaders Zimbabwe away in June and Swaziland at home in September and hope that Zimbabwe will lose their last group match against Guinea.
Zimbabwe, who beat Swaziland 4-0 on Monday, are at the summit with eight points, three ahead of second-placed Guinea and third-positioned Swaziland, who are separated by goal difference.
Msowoya put the Flames ahead against the run of play in the 26th minute when he headed home John Banda’s well-taken free-kick.
He took off like a rocket to plant a powerful header that sent Guinea goalkeeper Yattara Mousaa the wrong way.
The goal lifted the Flames’ spirits. That, plus the backing from the home fans injected a dose of liveliness in the Ernest Mtawali-coached side for the better part of the first-half.
However, the joy only lasted for 20 minutes as the Syli Nationale restored parity seconds before half-time break through Lamina Mohammed Yattara’s simple header.
Flames youthful goalkeeper Brighton Munthali could have done better had he not moved-off the goal-line to let his defenders do their job.
Guinea piled more misery on Flames in the 65th minute when Idrissa Sylla pounced on a dropping cross to connect home a short-range thunderbolt that was too hot to handle for Munthali.
The result seemed so unbearable for Flames supporters who started chanting “Mtawali achoke!” on the terraces.
But Mtawali wore a brave face after the match saying the Flames still have chances to make it to Gabon.
“I admit that we put up a poor performance today. We couldn’t play as we planned. In spite of that, we still have qualification chances. All we need is to win our remaining group matches and see what happens,” Mtawali said.
Guinea assistant coach Hatton Laurent said Malawi lacked the zeal and determination to launch numerous attacks that could have resulted into more goals.
“Malawi players seemed to be afraid of our tall players. Nevertheless, they gave us tough time and they deserve a pat on the back,” he said.
Both sides made half-time changes. Mtawali pulled out diminutive striker Gabadinho Mhango, who seemed to have a torrid time with lofty Guinea defenders, for Schumacher Kuwali while Guinea mentor Fernandez Luiz replaced Alhassane Bangoura.
Five minutes into the second half, Mtawali replaced Isaac Kaliati with Francis Mlimbika. n