Ernest Kakhobwe produced a man of the match performance as Malawi National Football team played to a goalless draw against Eswatini in the first leg first of the 2020 Championship of African Nations (Chan) qualifier at Mavuso Sport Complex.
The hosts were the better side in the first opening minutes as they kept Malawi under siege but Njambuli Ndlovu’s shot went wide off Kakhobwe’s goal mouth.
From there, Meke Mwase’s men settled down and created back to back corner kicks but the hosts were very alert to clear the danger away.
It was a well-balanced affair with both teams creating fewer chances than expected.
However, Eswatini should have opened the scoreline just after the half hour mark through Sandile who was found one on one with Kakhobwe but the former Mighty Tigers shots stopper produced a world class save to deny them from taking the lead.
The visitors were dealt with a massive blow when defender Gomezgani Chirwa was substituted for Charles Petrol after sustaining an injury.
Malawi’s last opportunity in the half fell through Khuda Muyaba who received a pass from Patrick Phiri only for the Silver Strikers forward to send his effort wide when passing to unmarked Chiukepo Msowoya was the best option.
After the recess, the visitors created their first goal scoring opportunity when Phiri’s corner found Alfred Manyozo Jnr unmarked in the box only for the midfielder to head straight at Eswatini’s goalkeeper Mathabela.
At the other end of the half, Kakhobwe was called into action again, this time around, producing another fine save to deny Ndzinisa whose goal bound bullet header was tipped over the bar by the Flames goalie.
The hosts were living dangerously at the back as Malawi created a clear cut chance when Muyaba had another selection headache only to pass the ball instead of taking a shot as the hosts’ defence was caught napping in the line of duty.
Mwase then brought in Mike Mkwate for Phiri as he tried to win the midfield battle in search for the much needed away goal.
It was becoming a Kakhobwe show as he made another save to deny Dlamini whose freekick almost ended up in the back of the net.
Dlamini was causing a lot of havoc inside Malawi’s defense and he was almost gifted a goal when Lanjesi’s led back four was caught ball watching only for the Eswatini forward to fire wide in unbelievable circumstances.
Malawi’s closest chance arrived in the 66th minute when Stanley Sanudi forced his way into the hosts’ defense and found Chikoti Chirwa who switched the ball to Micium Mhone. The Blue Eagles Captain wasted no time as he sent a low drive pass into the box for Msowoya to make a simple tap in only for the forward to shoot over the bar, leaving everybody surprised as it was easier to miss than to score.
The miss was his last action of the day. He was taken out for Chimwemwe Idana as Flames coach Mwase was more interested in earning a draw than to concede in the dying minutes of the match.
With fewer chances created, the two teams could only manage a goalless draw before the second leg in the coming weeks.