Malawi’ Flames have kept their dreams of booking a place in the 2019 Africa Cup of Nations (Afcon) finals intact after they put up a gallant fight to hold reigning champions Cameroon’s Indomitable Lions 0-0 yesterday at Kamuzu Stadium.
With the other Group B match between Morocco and Comoros ending 2-2, it means apart from Cameroon, who already qualify as hosts, the other three teams all have a chance of taking up the second slot to book a ticket to the finals.
After the match Flames coach Ronny Van Geneugden (RVG) said though disappointed that Malawi missed an opportunity to bag full points, the point snatched from Cameroon would prove vital after the last qualifiers against Morocco who are second with seven points and Comoros who are at the bottom with two points.
“We will go to Comoros with one goal—to win the match. If we can come back with a good result, the last qualifier against Morocco at home will be the decider,” he said.
But then Malawi, who are third with four points, could have been the favourites by now if they were clinical in front of goal in yesterday’s match where victory seemed within grasp.
The Flames were returning to the soccer Mecca after a two-year absence during which the venue was closed for renovations, and they did not disappoint.
They pressurised the star-studded African giants only to be frustrated by the visitors’ back four marshalled by Greece-based defender Banana Yaya, and some impressive goalkeeping by Joseph Fabrice Ondoa Ebogo.
The Flames should have been up by half-hour mark, but Chiukepo Msowoya was denied by Ebogo in a one-on-one situation after being set by impressive Yamikani Chester, who had a grand game.
Frank ‘Gabadidho’ Mhango also shot wide in inexplicable circumstances with just the ‘keeper to beat.
Stand-in captain John CJ Banda, who also had a share of missed chances outside the box, said they lacked the finishing touch due to pressure for goals.
“I think we were hungry for goals and that gave us pressure,” he said.
Cameroon also had some good chances. But Malawi survived thanks to some good defending by John Lanjesi, Peter Cholopi and Stanley Sanudi.
In the first–half, South African referee Victor Gomez gave Malawi some relief after ignoring Cameroon penalty calls when Chikoti Chirwa blocked Jacques Daogari Zoua, before he could open fire in the box.
Substitute Pierre Mabong Kunde proved tough to tame in the last quarter-hour as Malawi survived yet another scare when his sleek pass allowed Zioua again to elude the defence only to be stopped by imposing Swini in one-on-one situation.
RVG was all praises for his charges for the rare show of character.
“The boys did well. It is not easy to hold a big team like Cameroon, who are Africa champions, and have very strong players. We took control of the game. We had more chances, but we were just unlucky not to score,” he said.
Cameroon coach Dutch legend Clarence Seedorf said a draw was a fair result.
“It was a difficult match. Malawi played well in terms of intensity. A lot of fighting spirit from Malawi,” he said.