The Malawi National Football team started their 2021 Africa Cup of Nations (Afcon) qualifying campaign with a hard-fought 1-0 victory over South Sudan at Kamuzu Stadium in Blantyre on Wednesday afternoon.
A second half strike from Gabadinho Mhango was enough to seal all the three points for Group B opening game before Malawi’s trip to Kampala on Thursday for their second qualifying game.
Flames mentor Meke Mwase handed Lucky Malata his first start to the senior team in more than five years as he replaced Charles Petro who is nursing an injury.
It was a lacklustre performance from the hosts who struggled to settle down against the visitors who had a height advantage over the hosts.
The visitors created the closest chance of the half when Jose Kuch Nyuar’s header came off the post with the Flames’ back four was caught napping in the line of duty.
At the other end of the field, Mhango was having a game to remember as his pace was just too much for the visitors to handle and he should have put the hosts ahead but his goal bound shot was well blocked by Peter Maker Manyang.
In the second half, the visitors made two quick changes, bringing on board Emmanuel Thomas Lumeri and Michael Marko Achul for Yach Mayom Bol and Khamisi Leon Uso.
The visitors almost silenced the home fans when Nyuar saw his effort hitting the upright in an unbelievable circumstances.
In the 68th minute, the home fans celebrated.
Mhango showed individual brilliance to dribble past three defenders before unleashing a low drive to beat Majak Maling Mawith in goals for the visitors, 1-0.
The hosts then survived minor scares at the other end of the field when Kenjok Wal Athiu combined well with Nyuar to release Dominic Pretino who saw his goal bound shot well blocked by Malata.
With less than 15 minutes to play, Chimango Kayira replaced Gerald Phiri Jnr while Chok Daniel Dau came in for Jackson Morgan for the visitors.
The visitors tried their level best to force something out of the game but the hosts stood firm to collect maximum points before their trip to Uganda on Thursday.
The home fans witnessed Mhango who was in prime form and confidence as he terrorized the visitors’ defence like nobody’s business.
Malawi will play Uganda on Sunday for their second qualification match.