Malawi national football team, the Flames’s journey at the 2021 Africa Cup of Nations (Afcon) finals started with a hitch after losing to Guinea’s Syli Nationale 1-0 in Group B at Bafoussam Omnisport Stadium.
The result means Guinea lead the group followed by Senegal, who beat fourth placed Zimbabwe 1-0 as well earlier while Malawi are third.
With senior players Stanley Sanudi, Robin Ngalande, Chikoti Chirwa, Charles Petro and striker Frank ‘Gabadinho’ Mhango and head of technical panel Mario Marian Marinica having tested positive, the Flames had to improvise.
Assistant coach Meck Mwase found himself at the helm with just three defenders Limbikani Mzava, Dennis Chembezi and Gomegzani Chirwa.
Most of the players fit for the match were midfielders.
Mwase deployed John Banda, Chimwemwe Idana, Peter Banda, Francisco Madinga, Micium Mhone and Yamikani Chester in midfield with Khuda Muyaba as the only striker.
On the bench the Flames had Richard Mbulu and Zebron Kalima and goalkeepers Charles Thom and William Thole.
Yet the Flames created more chance but lacked precision in front of goal .
They paid for this as experienced Sly Nationale scored with their first shot on target in the 35th through a Issiaga Sylla.
Chester should have opened the score sheet in the 16th minute after intercepting a pass from Guinea defender, only to shoot straight to the goalkeeper Aly Keita in one-on-one situation.
Malawi were lucky not to conceded a minute later when Guinea captian’s header hit the post.
Captain Limbikani Mzava and Peter Banda also were denied by Guinea goalkeeper.
Guinea almost doubled the lead but thanks to goalkeeper Ernest Kakhobwe who twice denied Aguibou Camara in first-half added on time.
In second-half, the Flames continued from where they stopped.
But it was the same story of lacking precision in front of goal.
Frustrated by failure to get a goal and visibly physically worn out with no substitutes on the bench, the Flames slowly gave up the fight.
In post-match interview, Mwase bemoaned the missed scoring chances, saying they cost the Flames the game.
He said: “We created a lot of scoring opportunities, but unfortunately we did not utilise them.”