Malawi National Football Team Under-17 on Monday gave away a lead to lose 2-1 to e-Swatini (formerly Swaziland) in their second group-A match of the Cosafa Under-17 Youth Championship at Mpira Stadium in Blantyre.
The loss to a side that suffered a 6-0 defeat to group leaders Zambia means Malawi will bank on mathematical chances to make the last-four as either group winners or second best team.
Thus, tomorrow they must beat rampant Zambians, who have so far scored 13 goals and conceded none in two games following a 7-0 thumping of South Africa yesterday.
The hosts must also hope that if e-Swatini beat South Africa in their last group match tomorrow, they should do so with a narrow margin.
At present, Zambia lead the four-team pack with six points from two-straight wins while Malawi and e-Swatini are tied on three points.
However, Malawi lie second on superior goal difference of two against e-Swatini’s minus five.
Yesterday, Malawi enjoyed possession and forced e-Swatini’s into rear-guard action for the better part of the match, especially in the first half where they had at least seven shots on target but goalkeeper Siyabonga Magagula, who was named man of the match, was always up to the task.
In the second half, Malawi started with all guns blazing and it did not take long before they scored in the 61st minute through Noel Sakala, who sold e-Swatini defenders a dummy before curling a long-range shot from the left flank into the far post.
But as all seemed to be going well for the Young Flames, the visitors restored parity seven minutes later through their captain Colani Dvuba.
Defensive errors gave him space to take a long-range drive from outside the box and Malawi goalkeeper Wongani Chimkonde was left helpless between the posts.
E-swatini pounced again and made it worse for Malawi when they took the lead in the 73rd minute. Khayalethu Zitha headed home a well-delivered cross from substitute Bongani Mhlanga.
Malawi Under-17 national team coach DeKlerk Msakakuona said it was a painful loss.
“We came into the game to win, but it was unfortunate that things did not happen the way we wanted. After scoring our goal, we relaxed and it was painful to give away the lead. All the same, we will try our best to win our next game,” he said.
On his part, e-Swatini coach Gcina Collen Dlamini attributed their victory to discipline among his charges.
“We knew Malawi would come hard on us as they have very intelligent players, therefore, we told our boys to keep discipline at the back and they played according to plan. We are looking forward to our last group match against South Africa,” he said.