It all started with Malawi captain of the day Lucky Malata incoherently reading a prepared anti-xenophobia message, then his own goal and that of Limbikani Mzava culminating in a 2015 Cosafa Cup quarter-final exit at Royal Bafokeng Sports Palace on Monday night.
“We captains of national teams condemn xenophobia…” partly states the script which the Silver Strikers skipper struggled to read.
Well, Malata also struggled to lead and give shape to his defence which emulated his catastrophic 10th minute own goal with Mzava erasing the lead he had granted a minute later when slicing the ball past Mcdonald Harawa on the stroke of full time.
With a minute to full time, Malawi let Mozambique off hook to force a 2-2 draw and win 5-4 on post-match penalties.
Handful of Malawi fans here in South Africa’s North West Province were left stunned. The stadium was shocked and coach Young Chimodzi could not believe it as Saddan Guambe overlapped. Yamikani Fodya, visibly struggling with pace of the game, allowed Guambe space to cross the ball across the Malawi goal-mouth.
“We have travelled all the way from Johannesburg to this stadium [two hour drive] and this is what we get paid,” South Africa-based Malawian sports journalist Benjamin Nyirenda said after Monday’s game.
Mzava, for all his experience, stood facing his goal alongside Malata and deflected the ball to the bottom right corner. It all spoke of defensive frailties of the Flames who have in the last three games in all competitions conceded six goals, or two per game against Zambia 2-0, South Africa 2-1 and Mozambique 2-2.
The Flames defence lacks physical presence and leadership and is notorious for back passes. Mzava’s fourth minute back pass could have gifted Mozambique’s Isaac a goal.
In front of the defence, hard-working Chimango Kayira can pick loose balls and mark space, but he lacks complete defensive midfielder attributes of breaking attacks by sliding into tackles and winning first balls.
Upfront, Robin Ngalande should have been the false striker behind Sulumba, but the Ajax Cape Town player drifted wide thereby duplicating roles with John Banda, who worked hard alongside Blue Eagles teammate Micium Mhone.
Ngalande was too casual on the ball instead of making complete passes thereby allowing Mozambique, whose defence Momed Hagi led, to clear their lines.
Hagi caged striker Muhamad Sulumba for the better part of the game, but the Wanderers striker delivered by making up for all his absence to thump in an 50th minute header that brought the Flames back into the game.
In final analysis, Phiri is one for the future. Banda and Micium Mhone are pure class. The Flames have a defence, but not defenders. Kayira is in actual fact an attacking midfielder.