Flames lackadaisical performance in the 2018 World Cup preliminary round first leg against Tanzania came back to haunt them as they bowed out of the global showcase on Sunday despite a 1-0 victory over the Taifa Stars at Kamuzu Stadium in Blantyre.
Flames coach Ernest Mtawali knew it was going to be tough to get three goals against a disciplined side such as Tanzania to offset the deficit they incurred in the first leg, so he desperately threw in his entire arsenal in search of goals, unleashing Chiukepo Msowoya and Schumacher Kuwali upfront.
He maintained goalkeeper Simplex Nthala, Limbikani Mzava, Stanley Sanudi, Yamikani Fodya and Miracle Gabeya in defence while the midfield had Chimango Kayira, Gerald Phiri Jnr, Micium Mhone and John Banda.
The introduction of Chiukepo and Kuwali added firepower upfront.
No wonder, Chiukepo provided the assist for the Flames’ goal as he dropped to win a ball in midfield before laying it for John Banda, whose 42nd minute outside box volley was just too good for Tanzania goalkeeper Ally Mustafa to keep out.
The Flames dominated possession and moved the ball around with remarkable grace and intelligence. It was sweet to the eye and at some point the home crowd rose to salute their promising youthful side, but as usual, it was a case of so near and yet too far as Malawi failed to utilise several scoring opportunities.
Painfully, it was the visitors who came out of the Kamuzu Stadium celebrating after progressing to the second round of the preliminary round.
Mtawali admitted that they lost the plot in Tanzania after conceding those two “silly” goals in the first leg.
“We have won, but we were supposed to score more goals. We tried to bring in three strikers, but we still couldn’t get the goals because they defended well,” Mtawali said.
“The goals that we conceded in Tanzania have affected us today. It’s a pity we did not qualify because we needed to progress to the next stage of the competition.”
For his counterpart Charles Mkwasa, it was mission accomplished, although he admitted that it was a tough game for the Taifa Stars.
“In fact, today we didn’t play well because of the tension of the game,” the coach said. “Malawi played well today. They are a very strong side and they have young dynamic players. It was a very difficult game for us.”