lames head coach Mario Marinica has missed his first target of winning the Cosafa Cup as set by Football Association of Malawi (FAM) in his year-long contract.
FAM gave the Romanian three targets: Win the Cosafa Cup, qualify for 2023 Africa Nations Championship and 2023 Africa Cup of Nations finals.
But the Flames yesterday bowed out of the regional tournament after being held 1-1 by e-Swatini in Group B in Durban, South Africa.
The Flames took the lead in the 46th minute through striker Khuda Muyaba, but an added-on time penalty shattered their dreams of making it to the quarter-finals.
The match started on a high note as Malawi took the game to the Group B leaders.
After a 2-1 loss to Lesotho in the opening match, Marinica made five changes to the squad.
Goalkeeper Clever Mkungula was given a start alongside Paul Ndhlovu, Kelvin Kadzinje, Micium Mhone and Peter Banda.
Captain John CJ Banda, Precious Sambani, Stanley Sanudi, Chimwemwe Idana, Gabadinho Mhango and Myaba maintained their first XI positions.
Peter Banda, Sambani and Gabadinho fitted well on the left flank.
However, creating clear cut chances was a problem.
The Flames closest chance was when CJ shot wide with just e-Swatini goalkeeper to deal with.
But the Flames made amends for the first half shortfalls, scoring straight from second-half resumption when Muyaba netted near post.
The Flames managed to hold on to the lead until added-on time when Zambian referee awarded e-Swatini a penalty after CJ fouled Leon Manyisa in the box.
Though Malawi players protested the decision the referee stood his ground.
SabeloNdzinisa stepped up to take the spot kick and coolly buried it.
Marinica shunned a press conference after the match, but in an interview with SuperSport Television earlier on, he said the Flames were robbed of victory through a dubious penalty.
He said: “That’s not the way to win a match…We have a bunch of cheaters. Cheating does not pay.
“The assistant referee said it was a dive and the e-Swatini player should have been punished.”
His counterpart Dominic Kunene said he knew Malawi would come hard.
He, however, said his charges kept pressing on hoping the Flames would succumb to the pressure.
“It was a tough match, it was difficult, but our players showed character against the best team,” he said.