Flames fall

In the end, there was nothing—no fight and no bite, no spirit and only sterility, no spine and absolutely no shine.

The Flames yesterday dropped from first to third position in Group B of the 2021 Africa Cup of Nations (Afcon) following a 2-0 loss to Uganda’s Cranes at Nelson Mandela Stadium in Namboole, Uganda.

Uganda now top Group B. They are tied on four points with second-placed Burkina Faso’s Stallions, who beat South Sudan 2-1 away while the Flames have three points from their 1-0 victory over table anchors South Sudan in their opening match at home.

Mhango in full-flight during the match

A goal in each half from Emmanuel Okwi and Fahad Bayo handed Uganda coach Johnthan McKinstry victory on home debut.

In a match monitored through Facebook live streaming, the Flames looked horribly and repeatedly fragile at the back right from the start and it came as no surprise when the hosts drew first blood in the 29th minute.

Defender Gomezgani Chirwa’s poor timing saw him fail to deal with a long ball that was floated with precision.

Okwi, then pounced from blind side to burst into space and, then, without breaking stride, created a pocket of space for himself before beating advancing Flames’ goalkeeper Brightone Munthali from inside the penalty area.

It was all simple. Nothing was hurried, nothing forced from a side oozing with confidence.

Uganda nearly doubled their lead moments later, but Farouk Miya was denied by the post after beating Lucky Malata to the ball and relief was the prevalent emotion in the Flames camp.

The hosts enjoyed 59 percent of ball possession in the first half in which they forced Malawi into rearguard action.

Just before half time, Malawi’s coach Meck Mwase made a change when he withdrew Chimwemwe Idana for Chimango Kayira.

Later on in the second half, the Flames pulled out Gerald Phiri Jnr for Robin Ngalande and as desperation took its toll towards the end, striker Frank ‘Gabadinho’ Mhango was also taken off for youthful Hassan Kajoke, but the Ugandans held on to their nerve

McKinstry made the first change in the 54th minute when Murushid Juuko limped off and was replaced by Timothy Awany.

Bayo doubled the hosts’ lead in the 67th minute after another concentration lapse in Malawi’s defence allowed him to create space and tuck the ball in past the helpless Munthali. This was Mwase’s first loss in open play since he was hired as Flames mentor.

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