MZUZU–The Malawi national team on Wednesday showed their resolve that they are in Tanzania not just as guest participants but serious contenders for the East and Central Africa Football Associations (Cecafa) Tusker Senior Challenge Cup when they ambled closer to the quarter-finals after forcing Group C favourites Sudan to a goalless draw in Dar es Salaam.
It was a great relief for coach Kinnah Phiri, who quickly assembled the youthful team, which is mainly composed of local players from the national TNM Super League, at the eleventh. The lads trained for barely a week before travelling to Tanzania to participate in the ongoing annual tournament as guests along with Zimbabwe.
The coach had, earlier before departure, not promised the moon, saying Malawians should not expect too much from the new-look Flames.
He said, however, their participation would afford the youngsters an opportunity for exposure as he builds a team for the future to replace the old guard.
But with a 2-0 win in their opening game against Kenya’s Harambee Stars on Monday to go top of the group with three points, the lads went flat out to hold the Sudanese on Wednesday to a barren draw, a result which leaves them perched on top of the group with four points from two games ahead of Kenya who have three points.
The Harambee Stars earlier in the day beat Ethiopia 2-0 to occupy the second slot on the table. Sudan, who have qualified for the 2012 Africa Cup of Nations finals, are third with two points after their two draws—against Ethiopia on Monday (1-1) and Malawi (0-0).
Beamed live on SuperSport 9, the game on Wednesday failed to rise to exciting levels with both sides playing cautiously seemingly without real purpose. The Malawians misplaced a lot of balls and lost possession needlessly, especially in the midfield where only skeeper Joseph Kamwendo seemed to be in control.
The nearest the Flames came to scoring was a minute before half-time when John Banda, of all the people, unbelievably failed to tap the ball into the yawning net from point blank range after the Sudanese goalkeeper fumbled a Kamwendo free-kick in his path.
The Sudanese players were also guilty of missing a number of clear chances in front of goal through wild shooting, especially in the second half where Flames ‘keeper Charles Swini was called on serious duty just once to pull off a fantastic save from close range.
In Malawi’s defence, Emmanuel Zoya was a tough and uncompromising customer and was supported well by the contingent’s only professional player, Angola-based James Sangala, to thwart all dangerous moves by the Sudanese towards goal.
Flames coach Kinnah said in a post-match television interview that he was satisfied with the result as he was aiming for either a win or a draw, saying he was looking forward to a better game against the Ethiopians on Friday to end the group at the top.