Malawi Under-17 national football team twice gave up the lead to settle for a two-all draw against hosts South Africa’s Amajimbo in their first match of the restructured Cosafa Men’s Under-17 Championship in Port Elizabeth.
Just when it appeared that the Junior Flames would bag full points, Amajimbo struck with three minutes to time to salvage a point in a thrilling contest monitored on Cosafa TV at Galvandale Stadium.
However, Malawi’s coach Deklerk Msakakuona applauded his charges for their fighting spirit.
He said: “We could have taken full points from this one had it not been for some costly defensive errors in the second half.
“Nevertheless, I should applaud my boys for putting up a gallant fight that has earned us a vital point.”
The Malawi Under-17 football national team drew the first blood in the 36th minute through Samson Zakeyu before the hosts restored parity 10 minutes later through Mduduzi Graham Shabalala, who took advantage of a defensive lapse to slot in a loose ball.
The Junior Flames reclaimed the lead in the 66th minute through Steve Banda, but as the result seemed to be going in their favour, South Africa equalised again through Thabang Mahlangu.
Malawi captain Andrew Lameck said they will do their best to win their next round-robin matches against defending champions Zambia tomorrow and Angola on Friday to ensure qualification for the final berth on Sunday and an automatic ticket to the Under-17 African Cup of Nations (Afcon) in Morocco next year.
“We played well in this particular match and it was unfortunate to concede a late equaliser. We will try to correct our mistakes and win our next games,” he said.
Currently, Malawi are second on the four-team log-table with a point while South Africa are third with the same point. Zambia, who beat bottom-placed Angola 2-1 yesterday, lead the pack on three points.
The Council for Southern Africa Football Associations (Cosafa) restructured the competition into a four-team round-robin contest after the Confederation of African Football (CAF) Youth Competitions Committee disqualified Botswana, Comoros Islands, e-Swatini (formerly Swaziland) and Zimbabwe from the tournament for fielding over-age players.
The situation forced Cosafa to nullify matches which were played before the contest was restructured, including Malawi’s two-all draw against Botswana, as mere warm-up matches and have no bearing on the new tournament format.