Flames’ eight game unbeaten run in the FIFA World Cup qualifiers has come to an end after they were hammered 3-0 by the Elephants of Ivory Coast on Friday afternoon at Orlando Stadium in South Africa.
The Malawi National Football team were unbeaten in the last eight games since their 2009 home loss to Tunisia and were just coming from a 1-0 victory over Mozambique at the same venue.
Head coach Meck Mwase was forced to make a change to his line up when Richard Mbulu fell sick soon after arriving at the Stadium and was replaced by Duncan Nyoni.
The first chance of the match was created by Peter Banda in the 15th minute when he dribbled past Odilon Kossonue who then conceded the corner which had no impact as Serge Aurier made a clearance.
In the 18th minute, Gabadinho Mhango had another chance to put the visitors to the sword but he opted to shoot at goal instead of passing to Khuda Myaba who was well positioned for a goal.
As Malawi controlled the earlier proceedings of the match, it was Max Gradel who opened the scoring the in 35th minute.
A cross into the box was misjudged by Stainley Sanudi, who, instead of retrieving, jumped as one of the ways to clear the ball away from the box only for the ball to bounce over him before landing straight at Gradel who made the first time connection to beat Richard Chipuwa in goal for the hosts, 0-1.
The first half ended Malawi trailing 1-0.
After the recess, Mbulu was introduced for the ineffective Nyoni to try to improve Mwase’s attacking options.
Myaba had his shot well saved by Sylylan Gbohouo in the 48th minute after the forward was found unmarked closer to the penalty box before forcing the goalkeeper into making the save for a corner which was easily cleared by the Ivorians.
The Flames had another chance in the 52nd minute through Mhango who did everything right only to see his well taken shot going over the cross bar when the goalkeeper was already beaten.
It was another save from Gbohouo, this time around, denying John Banda from finding the equalizer after brilliant work from the hosts as they dominated ball possession in the opening ten minutes of the final half.
The Flames were dealt with a massive blow in the 61st minute when Captain Limbikani Mzava was stretchered off for Peter Cholopi after sustaining an injury.
In the 68th minute, Malawi was awarded a freekick after a foul on Banda few meters from the box and Phiri Jnr stepped up only to send his effort over the bar.
The hosts kept on pushing and should have equalized in the 71st minute through Myaba whose shot missed the goal mouth with an inch.
Moments later, Mhango’s powerful freekick was blocked by the Ivorians as Malawi kept on pushing for the much-needed equalizing goal.
Malawi’s hope was completely dashed in the 84th minute when Ibrahim Sangare doubled the Elephant’s lead after he was found unmarked to the far left to smash past Chipuwa, 0-2.
Peter Banda was then replaced by Yamikani Chester in the 90th minute who was only welcomed by a third goal from the visitors through Jeremie Boga who dribbled past Charles Petro and Cholopi before releasing a thunderous shot past Chipuwa, 0-3.
The defeat sees the Ivorians maintaining their position at the top with seven points from three games whilst Malawi are still third with three points from the same number of games.
The Flames will proceed to Benin for the return match against Ivory Coast on Monday.