A dis-jointed Malawi National Football Team, The Flames were clipped 2-0 to visiting Algeria in the Africa Cup of Nations Qualifiers encounter on Saturday at the country’s Soccer Mecca, Kamuzu Stadium in front of thousands of supporters.
For Algeria’s Desert Fox, the win over the sloppy Flames, who looked as if they had never trained, was sweet revenge to a 3-1 defeat they suffered at the hands of the Flames on January 11, 2010, in Angola during the Afcon.
From the first minute, the body language for Flames’ players left a lot to be desired, as the visitors freely made set pieces and enjoyed possession while the home side chased shadows.
A few minutes into the first half, the number one team in Africa shocked the fully packed Kamuzu Stadium, as one of their strikers headed home a well curved corner kick from the left flank.
The goal sent the whole stadium into a cathedral silence that even the falling of a 20 tambala coin could have been heard from the Biafra stands.
Of course the supporters resumed cheering for the Flames, but they were more disappointed with the striking force, which comprised Chiukepo Msowoya and Atusaye Nyondo.
The two strikers were tamed well by the Algeria defence, which was led by Mandi Issa.
On several occasions, Msowoya found space to score, but alas! he shot three chances wide to the dismay of supporters, who then started chanting for his substitution.
Coach Young Chimodzi, who spends most of his time doing some pep-talk to his charges from the touchline, left Msowoya to play the whole 45 minutes in the first half.
In defence, Limbikani Mzava, Francis Mlimbika and Harry Nyirenda were outstanding except for Bashir Maunde, who failed to overlap and looked jittery each time Algeria possessed the ball.
On the middle, Robert Ng’ambi and Chimango Kayira combined well but both right and left wings were blunt.
As the two teams went for recess, it was 1-0 in favour of the Desert Fox.
Come second half, the Flames’ supporters hoped for a better performance and goals, but the team looked as sloppy as ever.
Despite introducing fresh legs from Moyale Barracks striker Gastin Simkonda for Chiukepo Msowoya and Frank Banda for Atusaye Nyondo, the team continued playing the ‘to whom it may concern’ kind of balls.
In fact, the right flank was as dead as ever as Chimodzi forced Silver Strikers midfielder Frank Banda to operate as a right winger. Banda struggled to find his rhythm because of being mis-used.
Towards the end of the game, Kamwendo released a thunderous shot that nearly kissed the back of Algeria net but it hit the far post and was quickly cleared by the visitors.
As everybody thought the game would end 1-0, and perhaps erase an irritating history of conceding silly goals in the dying minutes, goalkeeper Mac Donald Harawa gifted the visitors a silly goal to make it 2-0.
Fans could be seen leaving the stadium in anger, some even chanted anti- Chimodzi songs, “ Young Achoke pabwere mzungu.”
Some fans went as far as calling for Big Bullets right winger Fischer Kondowe to be included in the squad travelling to Algeria on Sunday.
Singing Analakwanji Anong’a (what crime did Kondowe commit), they moved all the way to the Sports Council to emphasize their point.
40 year old Kondowe is a natural and gifted right winger, and arguably, no player in the current squad matches his acumen.
The Flames leaves Sunday for a return leg to Algeria on Wednesday .
As it stands, Algeria are basking comfortably on the summit of group B with 9 points.
Malawi only has three points and some have questioned whether the trip to Algiers will yield anything or is just fulfilment of fixtures.
In the other Group B match, Mali won 2-0 in Ethiopia to move up to six points. Algeria top the group with a maximum 9 points, Mali are second. Malawi are third with three points and Ethiopia are bottom without a point.