Malawi’s Afcon dream over following goalless draw against Ethiopia


Malawi’s chances of making it to 2023 Africa Cup of Nations finals in Côte d’Ivoire are officially over following a goalless draw away to Ethiopia on Tuesday afternoon at Estadio Nacional do Zimpeto in Mozambique.

The Flames needed to win at all cost in order to keep their qualification hopes alive after Guinea’s 2-1 loss at home to Egypt, a result that opened Group D wide open to the three remaining teams for the second slot.

But Patrick Mabedi’s charges fired blanks as they failed to capitalize on Guinea’s defeat and eventually end their Afcon qualification hopes.

The visitors had an opportunity to open the scoring in the 12th minute when Lanjesi Nkhoma combined well with Chimwemwe Idana to find Chawanangwa Kaonga in the far right and the forward produced a powerful shot that was destined to go in but Ethiopian goalkeeper Seid Habtamu denied him with a fantastic save for a corner kick which the hosts easily defended.

At the opposite end, the Walias created their first chance in the 14th minute through their dangerous man on the field, Kenean Markneh, who saw his goal-bound shot well blocked by Dennis Chembezi.

The match was played at a slow pace, and this minimized chances for both teams, with Malawi’s closest chance coming in the 20th minute through Alick Lungu, who fired over the crossbar from a set piece.

With 26 minutes played on the clock, Chembezi missed a glorious opportunity when he found himself to the receiving end of Lungu’s cornerkick only to send his powerful header over the crossbar for a goalkick.

Flames kept on knocking for the much needed goal and they should have found one in the 36th minute when Stanley Sanudi delivered an excellent cross into the box to Kaonga who was denied by a brilliant block from Yared Baye for a corner kick which was once again cleared by the hosts.

In the additional minutes, Malawi had another opportunity from Kaonga’s well taken freekick to Nickson Mwase, whose powerful header went over the crossbar. The defender was unmarked and should have lowered his head to put the ball into the net.

In the second half, Mabedi introduced Chikumbutso Salima and Gaddie Chirwa for Kaonga and Yamikani Chester to improve Malawi’s attacking prowess.

However, out of the few shots at the goal that the visitors registered, Kaonga was mostly involved, and his substitution was rather surprising.

Ten minutes into the final half, Brighton Munthali was called into action for the first time when he denied Marknesh with a brilliant save after his defense was caught napping in the line of duty.

Mabedi then substituted Richard Mbulu for Chifundo Mphasi in the 58th minute to try to force something out of the match.

The Walias were now all over in search of a goal and kept possession away from Mabedi’s charges, but to unlock Chembezi’s led defense proved to be a very difficult task for them.

In the 62nd minute, Habtamu Tadesse and Duressa Shubisa were replaced by Abel Mamush and Yosef Tarekegn for the Ethiopians who were also desperate for a breakthrough to keep their slim chances alive.

Munthali was called into action again in the 72nd minute to deny Markneh again for a cornerkick, which was easily defended by Mwase.

The hosts brought in Shimeles Bekele for Wogene Gezahegn and should have had a goal in the 82nd minute when Markneh’s through ball was intercepted by John Banda.

It was now or never for the two teams, with Mabedi bringing on board Lloyd Njaliwa for Idana whilst Abebayehu Hajiso replaced Markneh with two minutes left to play off and after 90 minutes, the two teams shared a point each.

The result means Malawi and Ethiopia are third and fourth in the standings, respectively, with four points each.

A win over Guinea in the final qualifying match at Bingu National Stadium will still not be good enough to secure a place at Afcon as they will be a point behind Guinea who, alongside Egypt, have made it to the finals.

The team will return to Malawi on Wednesday morning.

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