A battle well fought and won. Gerald Phiri Jnr’s 80th minute exquisite penalty on Tuesday at Kamuzu Stadium in Blantyre sent Malawi into the 2022 Qatar World Cup qualification second round.
The result whipped the home fans, whose desperation had grown with every second, into frenzy as the Flames had missed chance after chance.
After a goalless draw in Botswana in the first leg played on Saturday in Francistown, only an outright victory guaranteed the Flames a place into the second round.
Flames coach Meke Mwase maintained the first eleven that drew 0-0 in the first leg in Francistown on Saturday.
He had Brighton Munthali in goals with Peter Cholopi, Stanley Sanudi, Charles Petro and Precious Sambani in defence.
Yamikani Chester played on his usual right wing while Papa was on the left flank.
Chimwemwe Idana and in central defence while Gabadinho and Richard Mbulu played as strikers.
The system worked well in the opening minutes as Malawi assaulted the visitors at will.
Gabadinho Mhango’s freekick after a foul on Mbulu from 35 metres zoomed off target in the eighth minute.
Malawi messed up two good chances after some good work from Chester.
Then Malawi won a free kick on the edge of the box, but Papa was denied by the crossbar with Botswana goalkeeper beaten.
The Zebras opted to playing deep and did well to keep Malawi at bay. A threat for Malawi from poor communication between Flames goalkeeper Munthali and Cholopi almost gifted Botswana goal but Munthali recovered to calm the situation.
The first half ended with Malawi still dominating as Mbulu shot over the bar from a Sambani’s cross.
Just a minute into the second half a searching cross from Sanudi found Gaba in the box, but the Orlando Pirates striker tried to control the ball instead of shooting first time and Botswana defence dispossessed him.
Botswana missed their best chance when Munthali left his line to rob the ball off Lucky Ngele in the nick of time.
Malawi also survived a scare when Cholopi conceded a freekick for pulling down a Botswana player, but Munthali denied the visitors a chance to score.
Malawi’s moment of happiness finally came 10 minutes before time when Mbulu was fouled in the box and left-footed Papa as Phiri Jnr is fondly called, sent Botswana goalkeeper Dambe Kabelo the wrong way.
The Zebras assistant coach Teena Mpote conceded defeat.
“A well contested game. I will first congratulate Mwase. It was a good game. We didn’t create chances,” he said.
Mwase on the other hand was over the moon.
“It can only be God. I can only say thank you God,” he said. After the match, FAM communications director Gomegzani Zakazaka could not help it, but embrace Mwase to celebrate the victory.