After going three matches without a win since his appointment as Flames coach , Ronny Van Geneugden (RVG) yesterday finally got it right with 1-0 victory over Comoros Islands in 2019 African Cup of Nations (Acon) Group B qualifier at Bingu National Stadium in Lilongwe.
After referee Denis Dembele blew the final whistle, RVG who before this match had lost to Madagascar back-to-back in Championship of African Nations (Chan) and drew against Kenya in a friendly, punched his fist in the air and hugged members of his technical panel in relief.
Malawi started the match conservatively, passing the ball around and sometimes, to the spectators’ annoyance, played the ball back to defence.
But after 20 minutes they pushed forward constantly with Gabadinho Mhango, playing the free role, and Gerald Phiri Jnr coordinating the attack.
The pressure paid off when, after the half-hour mark, Phiri Jnr was fouled just on the edge of the 18-yard box.
Phiri Jnr, who earlier saw his low free-kick fumbled by goalkeeper Ali Ahamada, was more clinical this time as he cleverly arrowed the ball into the top corner to put Flames in the lead.
Comoros responded with their own attacks, but the Limbikani Mzava-led defence, with the aggression of defending midfielder Chikoti Chirwa, soaked the pressure.
Later, forward Jabulani Linje wasted a massive scoring opportunity when he robbed Mohamed El Fardou of the ball, raced forward and, with all time in the world, failed to beat the goalkeeper.
The second half was a balanced match with both sides attacking at any given chance. Gabadinho had the most glorious chance after eyecatchingly dribbling past Comoros defence, but his finishing was disappointing.
On the other end, the visitors’ substitute Nasser Chamed headed inches wide from a teasing cross. Substitute Richard Mbulu should have killed the match later, but there was lack of firepower in his close range shot which was easily saved by the Ahamada.
RVG was all praise for his players for sticking to his game plan.
“Our trick was to be offensive from the start we did quiet impressively. I am more happy because we played a passing game,” he said. Comoros coach Amir Abdou blamed injuries to some of his players that were ruled out.
“Injuries affected us somehow. Nonetheless, I think Malawi played well,” he said.