Wasteful Flames were yesterday held to a goalless draw by visitors Zimbabwe’s Warriors in an international friendly at Mpira Stadium in Chiwembe Township, Blantyre.
The match, played in an empty stadium as a preventive measure against the spread of the Covid-19 pandemic, exposed Malawi’s age-old fragility when it comes to making the most of scoring opportunities.
The Flames had at least five opportunities in which scoring was easier than missing.
But lack of precision, composure and confidence in front of goal manifested heavily in Malawi’s attackers.
Captain John ‘CJ’ Banda supplied the much-needed balls through the wings where Yamikani Chester and Schumaker Kuwali operated in coach Meck Mwase’s 4-3-3 formation.
In the first-half, Kuwali, striker Frank ‘Gabadinho’ Mhango and midfilder Chimwemwe Idana were the culprits.
Kuwali’s low shot from outside the box—just a minute into the game—caught Zimbabwe goalkeeper Talbert Shumba by surprise, but he was quick to recover and save the situation.
In a match beamed live on Mibawa Television, Idana broke the hearts of Malawians when he blasted over the bar after a nicely cut in cross from Chester.
Mhango, known for his mastery at scoring when inside the box, also shot over the bar after rounding off defenders Malcove Phiri, Devine Lungu with Shumba already down.
It was the same story in the second-half when substitutes Richard Mbulu and Micium Mhone failed to get the better of the Zimbabwean ‘keeper.
Mbulu’s close range shot was miraculously saved by Shumba before Mhone also saw his near post effort blocked.
The visitors, whose attack centred on Kaizer Chiefs star Khama Billiat, were left frustrated by defending midfielder Chikoti Chirwa, who gave him no chance, making midfielders Teenage Hadebe and Marvelous Nakamba’s effort to feed him balls fruitless.
With the visitors also failing to penetrate Malawi’s area, goalkeeper Ernest Kakhobwe, who made the first 11 at the expense of first choice Brighton Munthali, was rarely troubled.
He was called to serious duty twice stopping a lazy shot from Billiat and a close-range header from Evance Katema
After the game, Mwase said he was not surprised with the wasted opportunities which he attributed to the rustiness since his charges were inactive due to Covid-19.
“We are playing these games to prepare for Afcon [2022 Africa Cup of Nations] qualifiers. In this game, we said let’s not concede and if possible let’s score. Unfortunately, we didn’t utilise our chances. But that’s football. It happens,” he said.
For Zimbabwean tactician Zdrevko Logarusic, the draw was more than what he bargained for after shoddy preparations.
He said: “For me I am happy with the result because we did not train. We just had one or two days. This is good for me. Also Malawi surprised me because they are much better than I expected.”
Both teams are preparing for next month’s 2022 Afcon back-to-back qualifiers. The Flames face Burkina Faso’s Stallions while the Warriors date reigning African champions Algeria’s Desert Foxes.