Perfect 2021 Afcon start for Flames

South Africa-based striker Frank Gabadinho Mhango is not an ordinary player. Those who doubted his skill and nous yesterday swallowed their pride when he rounded off four defenders  to score a master piece to hand Malawi’s Flames a deserved 1-0 victory over South Sudan at Kamuzu Stadium in Blantyre in 2021 African Cup of Nations (Afcon) qualifier.

For a good part of the game, the Flames were all over their visitors, but still they lacked the killer punch that would enable them to unlock the visitors defence and collect maximum points until Gaba, who turns out for Orlando Pirates in South Africa Premier Soccer League, rose to the occasion in the 68th minute with the priceless goal.

Gaba (R) dribbles past his casualty during the match

Coach Meke Mwase only made two changes to his usual squad with Lucky Malata making a return to replace injured centre-back Charles Petro and Gomezgani Chirwa was in for injured left back Precious Sambani, partnering Peter Cholopi and Stanley Sanudi

Otherwise, the tactician maintained the 4-3-3 formation with Gerald Phiri Jnr, captain John CJ Banda and Chimwemwne Idana in midfield while Gaba, Richard Mbulu and Yamikani Chester formed a three-pronged frontline.

While the combination worked well up front where Malawi created scores of scoring opportunities, Malata,  after a four -year absence, struggled to adapt to the fast-paced Flames style.

However, Chirwa and Cholopi covered him well as Malawi took control of the game.

Phiri Jnr had a chance to try towering Sudan goalkeeper Majak Maling Mawith with a hasty long-range shot which the ‘keeper struggled to keep out to force a corner in the 23rd minute

Mbulu’s effort was also kept out by the Sudanese ‘keeper in the 55th  minute after he made a quick turn in the box and unleashed a low shot which Mawith fumbled.

Chester also disappointed the fans when  he hesitated to open fire after being played in by Idana in the 60th minute.

But do not be fooled that the Sudanese were  pushovers as twice the stadium fell silent when they nearly scored.

They hit the post in the first half and also called Malawi goalkeeper Brighton Munthali to duty to make a timely save from the far post to halt a Stephen Pawaar Lony shot.

But all this was forgotten when Gaba nicely controlled a long ball from goalkeeper Munthali’s pin-point pass.

Gaba quickly entered the box, dribbled past his first marker at the edge then the second and two more defenders before diagonally sending a low shot to his opposite direction.

Sudan goalkeeper had a touch on the tricky shot, but it was all in vain as he painfully saw the ball slowly crossing the line.

After the match, coach Mwase was all smiles.

“This gives us confidence in our second game against Uganda [in Kampala] on Sunday,” he said.

The Bright Stars coach Ashu Cyprian Besong did not take the defeat well and shunned the post-match interview.

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