The Flames took their opening Africa Cup of Nations (AFCON) Group A opener against Guinea with verve and vitality; caught their experienced opponents off guard with their offensive play; forced the best out of the Guinean goalkeeper but unfortunately lost 0-1.
Even pre-match, halftime and full time SuperSport analysts, former internationals — South African Andre Arendse and Ghanaian Asamoah Gyan — doffed their hearts off the Flames and acknowledged that the Guineans used their experienced to ward off an ambitious Malawian side that was positively offensive.
Coach Meck Mwase only had four substitutes — two goalkeepers William Thole and Charles Thom and two in-field players Richard Mbulu and Zobran Kalima — as six others (defenders Peter Cholopi, Lawrence Chaziya, Stanley Sanudi; midfielders Chikoti Chirwa and Robin Ngalande and striker Gabadinho Mhango) were unavailable after testing positive of CoVID-19.
He had to make do of what he had available when he started with Ernest Kakhobwe in goals; defenders Dennis Chembezi, Limbikani Mzava, Gomezgani Chirwa; midfielders Francisco Madinga, John Banda, Chimwemwe Idana, Micium Mhone, strikers Peter Banda, Khusa Muyaba and Yamikani Chester — in a 3-4-1-2 formation.
They went on the onslaught right from the first whistle and won a free kick close to the box in the 3rd minute but the effort by Muyaba couldn’t find Peter Banda and Chester in right position in the box.
Their second free kick almost in similar spot went straight at the well positioned goalkeeper Keita.
As the Flames went on the offensive, the Guineans were dangerous on counter attacks led by Liverpool’s Nabi Keita and eventual scorer Sylla Issiaga.
Yamikani Chester had a golden chance when he dispossessed a defender and ran forward to face one-on-one with goalkeeper but instead of lobbing the ball over to the any of the goal’s up corner, he rolled his shot and straight at the goalkeeper.
Seconds later Chester was also on the run and again faced the goalkeeper one-on-one but as he tried to fire he stumbled and fell.
Several other chances came their way; two free kicks were ballooned over the bar and other attempts brought the best out of the Guinea goalkeeper until the experienced west Africans hit where it hurts most.
Issiaga — who had ran into the box with a Flames defender well off him — poked in the ball from a shot pass from Comte to take the lead and probably breathed a huge sigh of relief that energized them to contain further onslaught by Malawi.
The Flames were not undone yet as they brought the best out of the goalkeeper, who seemed to be on the right place all the times unexpected shots came his way and it seemed like it was the Flames up against the goalie.
In stoppage time of the first half, Flames goalkeeper made a double save in one-on-one situation to go into half time trailing 0-1.
The Flames kept flaming into the second half but coach Meck Mwase was forced to bring in Richard Mbulu for Chester, who got a knock after a collision with the goalkeeper also on one-on-one situation in the 55th minute.
After picking up, Chester was later forced to be pulled out 10 minutes later for Mbulu to take his place.
This was before Muyaba had back-heeled a tricky shot at goal which the goalkeeper parried away onto the path of Peter Banda, who unfortunately was blocked by a defender as he tried a shot.
Guinea made some three substitutions as fatigue seemed to be catching up with the Flames in what commentators described as a humid afternoon with temperatures at 32 degrees Celsius.
Mwase then pulled out Peter Banda for Kalima in the 79th minute to continue some semblance of more onslaught but the experienced Guineans were technically superior to ward off the Flames.
Both Arendse and Gyan said they were impressed with the Flames’ performance as they were not intimidated but took the game to the west Africans.
Earlier on, Senegal edged Zimbabwe 1-0 in the other Group B match through Mane’s late penalty from their talisman Sadio Mane.
A report on CAFonline said the Teranga Lions started the better side with Bouna Sarr and Sadio Mane pulling the strings but the Zimbabwe Warriors held on till the last minute when Senegal won a late penalty.
Senegal and Guinea — who meet next on Friday as the Flames date fellow Confederation of Southern African Football Association (COSAFA) side, Zimbabwe — share three points and one goal each.
The 2021 AFCON kicked off on Sunday with the hosts Cameroun securing a 2-1 victory over resilient Burkina Faso in the opening match of the tournament through goals from the Indomitable Lions’ captain Vincent Aboubakar.
The hosts came from a goal down after Gustavo Sangare gave the Burkinabes the lead with a ferocious volley after 24 minutes following a defensive howler in the Cameroon box.
The goal shocked the home fans who rallied behind their team and 12 minutes later they were in wild celebrations after Traore brought down André Anguissa in the box for a Cameroonian penalty.
Aboubakar calmly slotted in the equaliser sending Burkina Faso’s goalkeeper Koffi the wrong way to get his side into the game.
Vincent Aboubakar dispatched a second penalty on the stroke of half time when Fai Collins was fouled by Dayo in the area.
In the other Group A, the Blue Sharks of Cape Verde needed a first-half stoppage time goal to beat Ethiopia 1-0 and tie on points with Cameroun but the hosts lead Group A over goal difference.Follow and Subscribe Nyasa TV :