Malawi women’s football national team on Wednesday edged Kenya’s Harambe Starlets 3-2 in 2020 Tokyo Olympic qualifier at Kamuzu Stadium in Blantyre to take a slight advantage going into this Sunday’s away second leg.
Midfielder Madina Nguluwe gave Malawi the lead in the 13th minute from a well curved free-kick on the edge of the box, beating Kenya goalie Kwamasi Annedy after a foul on China-based captain Tabitha Chawinga.
But the visitors equalised in the 35th minute after Cynthia Shilwatso’s set piece whizzed past Malawi goalkeeper Samir Amidu.
After equalising, the Kenyans took the game to the hosts, much to the chagrin of the crowd that watched the match free of charge.
The visitors almost took the lead but their pint-sized forward Mwanalima Adam shot wide with Amidu beaten.
Relief for the home fans only came in the 37th minute when Tabitha restored Malawi’s lead.
But it was her Sweden-based sister Temwa who made it possible after she beat a forest of Kenya defenders before laying it for her sibling who coolly buried it home with her left foot.
Impressive Tabitha made it 3-1 from the spot-kick in the 40th minute after Kenya defender fouled Temwa in the box.
The first-half ended 3-1 with Kenya coach David Ouma protesting the spot-kick.
He went on to sustain a deep cut on his arm after smashing a changing room door glass in protest against the soft penalty.
Bleeding profusely, he had to be treated by paramedics before the second-half resumed.
In the last stanza, Malawi relaxed, allowing the visitors to come back into the game and it was just a matter of time before they got a second goal.
They were rewarded just after Malawi lost injured sweeper Towera Vinkhumbo who was replaced by Ruth Nyirongo.
Ten minutes before the end of the match, a miscued clearance ricocheted towards Malawi goal area and, with goalkeeper Amidu having left her line, Adam ghosted in the painful second away goal in a goal-line melee.
Demoralised by the goal, Malawi lost the steam and ended up making blunders especially in the midfield.
The visitors continued to pressurise in search for the equaliser almost sending agitated coach Abel Mkandawire into a heart attack.
No wonder when Zimbabwean referee Thanks Nyahuye blew the last whistle, Mkandawire broke into jubilation, running into the field to hug his players.
But his counterpart Ouma warned him to curtail the celebration, saying having bagged two away goals, the return leg at their backyard will be a different ball game.
“If we can get two goals here in Malawi, definitely in Kenya we can do better,” he said.
But still Mkandawire felt he had done enough in the home game.
“At least we have won the game,” he said.
He also downplayed conceding two away goals.
“Our team plays well away,” he said.