Flames coach Ronny van Geneugden started his job with a goalless draw against Kenya’s Harambee Stars at Machakos County Stadium in Kenya in a match watched by Confederation of Africa Football (CAF) president Ahmad Ahmad.
The game played in the eastern town of Machakos, means the Flames have stretched their unbeaten run since September 2016 when they beat Swaziland 1-0 at Kamuzu Stadium in 2017 African Cup of Nations (Afcon) qualification.
Van Geneugden said he was impressed with the performance of his charges.
“I am very proud of the performance of the team. Our average players age was younger than Kenya. They [Kenya] were strong and powerful. They played kick-and-rush with long balls. We tried to create our own passing game, but it was difficult because they [Kenya] were strong. The pitch was also not so good to play a passing game, but we kept on trying.
“I think we gave a good performance. At half time we made some changes tactically and I think second half was much better. The substitutions changed the game and we were a better team. We worked very hard in training and you saw today how these young players can withstand the pressure of playing very physical and strong opponents. It gives great confidence for the future,” he said.
It was the performance of up-and-coming Dalitso Sailesi, Simeon Singa, Yamikani Chester and Stanley Sanudi that impressed pundits and even stole the hearts of the locals, according to reports from Kenya.
The Flames, playing a 4-5-1 formation, started with Ernest Kakhobwe in goals, Sanudi, Francis Mlimbika, Lucky Malata and John Lanjesi in defence.
The coach packed the midfield with five players—Davie Banda, Chimango Kaira, Singa, Kelvin Hanganda and Gilbert Chirwa—with Muhammad Sulumba as the lone striker.
The hosts’ coach Stanley Okumbi, on the other hand, featured a strong squad with Patrick Matasi in goals, Jockins Atudo, Robinson Kamura and Bolton Omwenga and Simon Mbugua in defence.
Duncan Otieno marshalled the midfield alongside Victor Majid, Samuel Onyango and Kennedy Otieno.
Strikers Darius Msagha and Calvin Odongo played upfront.
After a barren first half, Geneugden made some changes, according to a live feed from www.skysports.com.
Sailesi replaced Singa in 64th minute while Harvey Nkacha came in for Hang’anda.
Chester had his debut for Malawi after replacing Chirwa in 82nd minute.
Kenya also made several changes. Daniel Mwaura replaced Msagha while Amos Asembeka came in for Odongo.
Brian Birgen replaced Mbugua. Okumu Collins Odhiambo came in for Otieno.
Orven Otinya and Geoffrey Omusula Kataka replaced Onyango and Majid, respectively.
However, both sides played it safe as the match ended goalless.
Leader of delegation James Mwenda, who is FAM vice-president said Malawi were a better side.
“We played better than them [Kenya]. We had more shots on goal and better possession. The lads played good football to the extent of winning the hearts of Kenya supporters, especially Sailesi, Singa, Chester and Sanudi,” said Mwenda.
The match was a build-up for Malawi’s 2018 Championship of Africa Nations (Chan) qualifier against Madagascar.
Malawi play Madagascar this Saturday in the competition’s preliminary round while Kenya already qualified as hosts for the tournament’s final next year.
Harambee Stars plan to play a friendly for local-based players each month in the build-up, according to Football Kenya Federation (FKF).