The Flames of Malawi have been slaughtered 3-nil by the Warriors of Zimbabwe in the 2017 Group L African Cup of Nations (Afcon) qualifier played at National Sports Stadium on Sunday afternoon.
Flames mentor Ernest Mtawali used a 4-3-3 formation, with Rafick Namwera and Wonder Jeremani being handed their full national team debuts.
From the word go, Zimbabwe dictated the pace of the game while applying pressure on the Flames’ defence in the opening stages of the encounter.
Minutes later, the visitors settled down through Joseph Kamwendo, the only creative player on the day for Malawi, but was let down by Chiukepo Msowoya and John Banda who were having a bad game on the day.
Fourteen minutes later, Zimbabwe got their opener through a penalty scored by Knowledge Musona.
A silly back pass by Namwera was intercepted by Tendai Ndoro who released Musona upfront before being fouled by Charles Swini in the penalty box, leaving referee Justie Ephraim Vio from Burkina Faso with no choice but to penalize Malawi from which Musona easily converted.
At the other end, Kamwendo won a free kick just outside the penalty box but Peter Wadabwa failed to connect before Banda fired wide minutes later.
With some few minutes to play before the interval, Malawi conceded again.
The Warriors’ pressure paid off on 33rd minute when Khama Billiat received the ball inside the Flames’ box and he scored to make it 2-nil.
The visitors’ coach Ernest Mtawali brought in Gabadinho Mhango for ineffective Banda just few minutes before the interval.
Come into the second half, Malawi’s depleted defence improved, with John Lanjesi and Harry Nyirenda making some stunning clearances to deny the Warriors from doing further damage.
Micium Mhone was then introduced for Jeremani but this did not help at all as Willard Katsande in the midfield outsmarted the visitors.
Musona and Billiat were causing havoc as Malawi failed to tame the duo’s pace.
Billiat almost doubled his tally on 69th minute when he dribbled past Lanjesi only to fire wide from close range.
Minutes later, Billiat was at it again. Nyirenda failed to clear the ball, allowing the Zimbabwean to overtake him before being denied by Swini.
Mhone was substituted for Muhamad Sulumba, who had his head cleared by the hosts’ shot-stopper.
Msowoya received a million dollar pass from Mhango but the latter’ shot was blocked by Warriors’ defender.
Cuthbert Malajila, who came in for Ndoro, sealed the victory for the Warriors with a powerful header from Musona’s cross to put the match beyond Malawi’s reach and after the final whistle, it ended 3-nil.
The victory sees Zimbabwe qualifying for the continental showpiece next year for the first time in years following Guinea’s 1-nil defeat away to Swaziland.
Malawi are still winless in all their five matches in the qualification phase.