The Malawi National Football Team effectively ended their chance to remain in contention for a place at the Qatar 2022 FIFA World Cup following 2-1 defeat away to Ivory Coast in the second leg match played at the Stade de L’amittie General Mathieu Kerekou in Benin.
Flames coach Meck Mwase made four changes to the side that lost 3-0 to the Elephants on Friday by replacing Richard Chipuwa, Limbikani Mzava, Gerald Phiri Jnr and Duncan Nyoni for Brighton Munthali, Peter Cholopi, Chimwemwe Idana, and Chikoti Chirwa whilst Peter Banda missed out of the action due to a suspension.
Within the opening two minutes of the match, the Ivorians found the back of the net through Arsenal winger Nicolas Pepe.
A long ball into Malawi’s half was tumbled by Cholopi who created space for Pepe to shoot at the advanced Munthali into the net, 1-0.
The Flames launched their first offensive move in the 12th minute through Khuda Myaba who dribbled past Eric Bailly but the Polokwane City forward’s weak shot was easily picked by Gbohou in goal for the Elephants.
However, Gbohou couldn’t deny Myaba this time around with his low shot from the edge of the box after a good work from Chikoti Chirwa in the midfield to bring the Flames level in the 19th minute.
With Gabadinho Mhango struggling, Mwase wasted no time by pulling him out for Yamikani Chester just after the half hour mark.
The Flames were playing without fear and should have taken a lead in the 37th minute when Chirwa won the ball in the centre yet again and set up Khuda who was quick to send a through ball to Idana, forcing the goalkeeper to come out to spill the ball in the path of Chester whose first time goal bound shot was cleared for a corner kick by defender Boly. The corner kick was easily dealt with by the hosts.
In the second half, Malawi opted to play deep in their half and ended up inviting pressure from the Ivorians who were desperate for a win to maintain their lead at the top to dislodge Cameroon who had earlier on defeated Mozambique.
In the 66th minute, Gervihno was brought down inside the penalty box and the referee pointed straight at the penalty spot from which AC Millan forward Yannic Kessie stepped up to slot past Munthali, 2-1.
Soon after conceding, Mwase made a double substitution when he brought in Nyoni and Phiri Jnr for Francisco Madinga and Idana to try to force something out of the match.
In 82nd minute, the visitors should have leveled the match through Dennis Chembezi whose header was saved for a corner by Gbohou.
Despite Malawi’s efforts to find the equalizer in the final minutes, the Ivorians stood firm to collect maximum points and cement their position at the top with 10 points from four games, a point above Cameroon who beat Mozambique.
As for Malawi, the defeat means it’s over as they have two games to go and their maximum points are nine, not enough to surpass the Ivorians who have already reached 10 points.
The Flames are third with three points from the same number of games. They will play Mozambique away before hosting Cameroon in South Africa.