Flames’ qualifying hopes for the 2019 Africa Cup of Nations (AFCON) are almost over following the team’s 1-0 defeat away to Cameroon on Friday evening.
Unlike in previous matches where Malawi would concede many goals against West African opponents, Ronny Van Geneugden’s men put up a gallant fight but they were very unfortunate to concede a goal in the second half to reduce their qualification chances.
RVG made changes to the squad that lost 3-0 and 1-0 to Morocco and Kenya respectively, with Chikoti Chirwa, Jabulani Linje, John Lanjesi, Yamikani Chester and Peter Cholopi all making it into the first eleven.
The Indomitable Lions created their first goal scoring opportunity in the 11th minute through Pierre Kunde who was denied by Charles Swini in a one on one situation.
Moments later, Swini was at it again, this time producing fantastic clearances to deny the hosts from scoring through set pieces when Malawi’s defence was caught napping in the line of duty.
The visitors had to wait for twenty minutes before attacking their opponents through a free kick which was easily cleared by the hosts’ defense.
Cameroon were in control of the midfield but their front men were frustrated by Malawi’s defence on several occasions, with Lanjesi blocking Fabrice Olinga’s shot outside the penalty box.
With less than ten minutes to play on the clock, Malawi, through Chirwa and John Banda, stringed together a couple of passes but failed to capitalize when Banda blasted his effort over the cross-bar to disappoint RVG on the technical area.
The Indomitable Lions almost got their opener on 38th minute from Eric-Maxim Choupo-Moting’s free kick which was easily saved by Swini.
In the second half, Malawi launched their first attack through Gabadinho Mhango but the former Nyasa Big Bullets and Bloemfontein Celtic forward saw his last touch being cleared by the Cameroonians for Malawi’s first corner which was floated by Linje but loosely cleared by the hosts.
RVG made his first change of the day, bringing on board Richard Mbulu for Linje but just when the visitors started pressing forward, the home side got their goal.
A brilliant move from the defence saw Cameroon opening up Malawi’s midfield before feeding Choupo-Moting who dribbled past Dennis Chembezi before firing past Swini from outside the penalty box to arouse the home fans who kept waiting for the goal, 1-0.
The goal was a wake-up call to Malawi who should have levelled the scoreline moments later but Mhango’s free kick posed no threat as it was easily saved by the hosts’ goalkeeper Obama Onana.
Chembezi was stretched off in the 75th minute for Chiukepo Msowoya to make his way in while Mhango was replaced by Frank Banda as the visitors were pushing for the equalizer which never came.
With two minutes to play, Chester was brought down by the hosts’ defence but Banda blasted his effort over the cross bar as Malawi went on to lose 1-0.
The two teams will square off for the return leg on Tuesday at Kamuzu Stadium.
The result sees the Indomitable Lions extending their lead at the top to seven points from three games while Malawi are still stuck on third position with three points from the same number of games.
The Flames’ chances of making it to Cameroon next year looks very minimal following the defeat which gives massive advantage to the second placed Morocco who have a game on Saturday to Comoros Island.
Under the Belgian tactician, Malawi have lost seven games, drawing nine times and winning only twice and they have the lowest goal scoring tally of 6 goals in 18 matches.