Malawi Under-17 football team’s dreams of winning the Cosafa Youth Championship on home soil are up in smoke after a 3-2 loss to favourites Zambia at Mpira Stadium in Chiwembe, Blantyre.
After a 2-1 loss to e-Swatini (formerly Swaziland) in their second group game, Malawi needed to beat their neighbours to make it to the semis.
But a sloppy start cost the hosts as Zambia took an early lead through Lasmond Phiri with just six minutes into the match.
Moses Mulenga did well to keep the ball from Malawi defenders Andrew Lameck and Akuzike Lifa on the edge of the box before cutting it inside to Rickison Ng’ambi, who laid it for Phiri to tap it in, beating Malawi goalkeeper Wongani Chinkonde.
But Malawi levelled in the 29th minute through Frank Mahowa after the Zambia defence failed to clear a long ball into the box, allowing the striker to turn before left footing it near the post.
Cheered on by a sizeable crowd, the equaliser revitalised Malawi’s dream of beating Zambia for the first time in the age group competition.
But just like at the beginning of the first half, Malawi messed up again just three minutes into the second half.
Kelvin Mwanza surged forward and delivered a perfect through ball for Mulenga, who made no mistake to restore Zambia’s lead.
A lucky goal in the 58th minute gave Malawi another hope of coming back into the game when a mistake by Zambia goalkeeper David Minganja, who missed the ball after coming out of his line allowed Chikumbutso Salima to ghost in the equaliser.
But instead of building from the second goal momentum, Malawi conceded the third in the 65th minute.
Substitute Peter Chikola curled it in straight from a corner-kick with his left footing to beat outstretched Malawi goalie.
E-swatini having managed a draw against South Africa at Kamuzu Stadium, join Zambia in the semi-finals.
For Zambia coach Osward Mutapa it was a perfect group stages having won all their matches.
“It’s great victory. We made six changes. It’s not easy to win after making such changes. We are happy that they did well,” he said.
Malawi coach Deklerk Msakakuona faced another failed attempt to reach the semi-finals.
“It’s painful to bow out of the tournament at this stage,” he said. However, he looked at the bright side of the tournament having built a completely new team after last edition players graduated.