When the final whistle was blown by the Mozambican Referee Celso Alvacao, there was massive celebration by Malawians as the Malawi National Football Team had defied all odds to beat Uganda 1-0 to qualify for the 2021 Africa Cup of Nations slated for Cameroon next year.
A 15th minute header from Richard Mbulu sealed Malawi’s victory to make it to the tournament for the first time in eleven years.
Before the match, Meck Mwase’s men knew that anything rather than a win could automatically end their qualification dream.
Only one change from the team that beat South Sudan last week, Robin Ngalande perfected the art of play as he combined well with the Mbulu, John Banda, Gerald Phiri Jnr and Peter Banda.
In the 15th minute, Malawi rose to life.
An exchange of passes between Khuda Muyaba and Ngalande released Stainley Sanudi who made no mistake by delivering a million dollar cross into the box from which Mbulu outsmarted Murushid Juuko to head past Dennis Onyango who could only watch the ball hitting the back of the net.
The goal forced The Cranes to open up, from a defensive formation to an attacking formation and they almost responded in style when Mustafa Kizza was found unmarked in the box only to see his goal bound shot hitting the post before a clearance from Charles Petro.
Moments later, Mbulu was at it again, this time, sending his header into Onyango’s hands.
The hosts were dealt with a massive blow when Ngalande was substituted after he was fouled by Moses Ndhondhi and he was replaced by Francisco Madinga.
The Flames won a freekick in the attacking half which was delivered into the box by Phiri Jnr to meet Mbulu who sent his effort over the cross bar.
After the recess, the visitors made two quick changes, taking off Kizza and Faruku Miya for William Luwaga and Allan Okelo.
Malawi opted to sit back to defend their lead and this invited more pressure from the visitors who were looking to find the equalizer but their finishing was poor to the relief of the home team.
In the 60th minute, Sanudi dribbled past three Ugandan defenders before unleashing a shot which came of the post in an unbelievable circumstances.
The Flames were now looking forward to add another goal but Mbulu and Banda weren’t clinical enough to pile more misery on the visitors who were now racing against time.
Banda had another opportunity to seal the win for the Flames but his goal bound shot was blocked for a corner before another miss from Muyaba who failed to connect a Mbulu’s cross.
Mwase then introduced Rafiq Namwera for Muyaba whilst Ibrahim Orit paved the way for Sentamu Junior Yunus.
With 15 minutes to go, The Cranes were under siege as Mbulu and Banda had shots at goal but were denied by Onyango who produced two saves.
Banda was forced out due to an injury in the 76th minute and he was replaced by Dennis Chembezi.
Time was clicking very fast for the Ugandans who threw everybody up front to try to find the equalizer as one goal was enough to send them through but Malawi defended with everything to frustrate the West Africans in an empty Stadium.
The visitors tried their level best to force something out of the match but it was never meant to be as referee blew his final whistle to send Malawi into massive celebrations.
It was tears of joy, fans came out in large numbers to wait for the team as the bus was coming out of the Stadium on it’s way to Golden Peacock Hotel which is just metres away from the match venue.
Ladies and gentlemen, for the first time in eleven years, The Flames of Malawi will represent the nation and Southern Africa at the tournament.