The Flames yesterday started their 2022 World Cup qualifiers and 2021 Africa Cup of Nations finals’ preparations with a 2-0 defeat to Tanzania’s Taifa Stars at Benjamin Mkapa Stadium in Dar es Salaaam.
The result should give the Malawi national football team coaching panel some food for thought ahead of the two competitions.
In a match monitored on Tanzania Football Association’s Facebook live streaming, after a goalless first half in which both teams missed a catalogue of chances, the hosts turned on the heat in the second half when captain John Bocco led by example to draw first blood in the 67th minute when he was invitingly fed into his path by substitute Kibu Benisi.
As the Flames fought for an equaliser, the hosts doubled the lead eight minutes later through substitute Patrick Mwenda’s free kick.
He curled it past Flames’ goaltender Brightone Munthali, It was a wonder to behold.
Despite the loss, Scotland-based Flames left-back Kieran Ngwenya stood up to be counted with a five-star show in his debut.
Second assistant coach Bob Mpinganjira rang a number of changes in the second half, including giving Mighty Wanderers midfielder Vitumbiko Kumwenda his debut, but it was too little too late as there was nothing he could do in the last five minutes of the game as desperation took its toll.
Towards the end, Mpinganjira also substituted Rafick Namwera, Frank ‘Gabadinho’ Mhango and goalkeeper Brightone Munthali for Tawonga Chimodzi, Vincent Nyangulu and Ernest Kakhobwe, in that order.
Earlier on, Khuda Muyaba paved the way for Yamikani Chester.
The Taifa Stars are also tuning up for the 2022 World Cup qualifiers, having failed to qualify for 2022 Afcon.
Mpinganjira said after a good performance in the first half, Malawi lost the plot in the second half.
“But it was also an opportunity to assess some new players. Ngweya was outstanding in his debut and we hope for the better in upcoming matches,” he said.
Malawi travelled to Dar es Salaam without head coach Meck Mwase and his assistant Lovemore Fazili who tested positive for Covid-19.
The team also missed the services of some key players such as captain Limbikani Mzava, vice-captain John Banda, left-back Precious Sambani, Gerald Phiri Jnr, Robin Ngalande and Francisco Madinga.
Mzava, Sambani, Phiri and Ngalande are nursing injuries while Banda and Madinga were excused due to club commitments.
Tanzania were also without some of their key players notably their Turkey-based talisman Mbwana Samatta who is on loan from English Premiership side Aston Villa.