A First half free kick from Gerald Phiri Jnr inspired Malawi to a hard-fought 1-nil victory over Swaziland in a 2017 AFCON qualifier at Kamuzu Stadium on Sunday afternoon.
Being Nsazurwimo Ramadhan’s first game in charge as caretaker coach, he fielded a strong squad with the likes of Robert Ng’ambi, Chimango Kayira, and Steve Chagoma all making returns to the starting eleven.
However, it was the visitors who had the closest chance when Limbikani Mzava slipped but Mnthunzi Mkhotfo failed to beat Charles Swini in a one on one situation.
The visitors paid dearly for that miss as Phiri Jnr scored a stunning free kick following a foul on John Banda by Sanele Mkhwelu.
Moments later, Gabadinho Mhango dribbled past three Sihlangu defenders before releasing a thunderbolt only to be denied by the upright.
Mhango was at it again, this time, forcing Mhlanhla Gwebu to produce a fantastic save for a corner.
Phiri Jnr almost doubled his tally from another free kick that hit the upright midway through the half.
The Flames should have scored more goals in the half but failed to convert their chances as Mhango terrorized the visitors’ defence without mercy.
Banda had his effort well saved by Gwebu before another miss by Francis Mulimbika.
In the additional minutes, Wonder Nhleko was substituted for Sabelo Ndznisa and it was 1-nil at half time.
Come second half, the visitors were the dominant force to reckon with, forcing the Flames to retreat further and further in defence as the match wore on, but Swini produced two saves in succession to frustrate Swaziland’s Technical Panel.
Ramadhan then made a double substitution, bringing on Rafick Namwera and Peter Wadabwa for Phiri Jnr and Gasten Simkonda while Mkhotfo was taken off for Zweli Nxumalo.
Wadabwa had his header well saved by Gwebu and moments later, Mhango’s long range effort was also saved by the shot-stopper who was lively towards the end of the match.
At the other end, Miracle Gabeya, who put on a man of the match performance at the back for the Flames, made a fantastic clearance to deny Nxumalo from levelling the scoreline. As the match was nearing to an end, Swini saved Malawi from conceding in the last stages when he stretched off to save Nhleko’s powerful header and it ended 1-nil in favour of the hosts who have now finished with 5 points, 3 behind Swaziland.