Flames beat Ethiopia in Afcon opener game


The Amazulu-bound lethal forward, Gabadinho Mhango bagged the brace that he promised before the game to give Flames a positive start in the 2023 Afcon Qualifiers.

Mhango converted twice from the sport in the first half to put Flames in front in game that Ethiopia played a world-class football.

In the game, Flames Head of Technical Panel, Mario Marian Marinica opted for a 4-3-3 formation, a system that allows teams to create a number of chances in the game but Flames were unable to adapt the system.

Malawi were sitting back planning to catch Ethiopia on counter and indeed the system worked as Flames were given the penalty as Silver Strikers’ danger man, Stain Davie was fouled by Debebe in the penalty area that referee Abongile Thom from South Africa pointed to the spot.

It was a build up from the heart of the pitch as Captain John CJ Banda combined with Chimwemwe Idana, Gerrard Phiri, Gabadinho Mhango and Stain Davie.

Gabadinho Mhango took the 17 Million population of Malawi into his own hands when he stepped up to take the penalty.

He made no mistake, put to send the Ethiopian goalminder the wrong way just after 9 minutes from the first whistle.

Despite leading within 10 minutes, Malawi were not at there best as the midfield was very disjointed with Gerrad Phiri Jr who was deployed as the playmaker hiding in the game.

The Al Hilal’s midfielder was failing to link up the midfield and the offensive players as he was sitting deep as if he was a box to box midfielder.

This invited pressure to Malawi, full backs were lacking support hence playing underpressure.

Ethiopia saw the weakness as they were trying to penatrate through their wings but thanks to Stanley , Gomezgani Chirwa with support from the two centre half.

Gabadinho Mhango wanted to replicate the famous goal that he scored in Cameroon against Morocco when tried to chip the ball from the centre circle as he saw Gebremichael off his line but it went over the bar in the 25th minute.

Two minutes later, Idana combined with Stanley Sanudi on the right flank and the earlier’s cross passed through the mouth of the goal as Davie’s effort to find it turned futile.

Again a Mhango and Davie’s deadly combination saw Malawi being awarded the second penalty after Mhango brought down by Ethiopia’s defender, Y Belay in the 33th minute of the game.

Mhango for the second time, stepped up and beat the goalkeeper on duty with delicious goal to put Flames two up in the first half.

Ethiopia had a chance to pull one back after 42 minutes as they penetrated through their right flank before A. Gebremichael sending a beautiful cross that finds their marksman, Aboubakr Nassir whose header was world-classly saved by Silver Strikers’ number one shotstopper.

Flames were hanging on to their two-goal advantage at the break.

In the second half, the head coach for Ethiopia, W Abate made two changes at the break as he brought in Egypt based midfield, Bekele and Panom to ignite the game.

The two midfielders gave the Walyas an extra energy as they completely took the game from Malawi. They controlled the midfield, the game and trimming Flames into their own half.

Khuda Muyaba could have registered his beautiful header as he was set by Stain Davie from the right flank but his effort flew over the bar in the 51st minute.

Super play from the Walyas, exposing Malawi’s Banda-led midfield, making Flames’ full backs to open the spaces for the Walyas to attack from the wing.

No wonder in the 65th minute, Ethiopia pulled one Back through Aboubakr Anassir from the spot after being fouled by Flames’ Jordan based defender, Lawrence Chaziya.

Chiukepo Msowoya, Charles Petro and Francisco Madinga were introduced for Stain Davie, Chimwemwe Idana, and Gerrad Phiri Jr respectively.

In the 77th minute, Gabadinho Mhango could have bagged his hat-trick when he headed home Madinga’s cross but the assistant referee, Kgala Makoena’s flag was up for offside, of course it was a controversial one because Chiukepo Msowoya was the one on an offside position. It was a sumptuous header from the rejected man.

In the 88th minute, Gabadinho Mhango was rested for Chikoti Chirwa as Marinica wanted to defend the goal and indeed it worked.

After 90 minutes plus added time, Flames emerged the victorious and it was a big big victory.

In the post match interviews, Flames Head Coach, Mario Marinica admitted that Ethiopia gave the Flames a good run for their money.

“It was a very tough game. Ethiopia is a fantastic team. They play very good football. They have fantastic players,” said Marinica.

Taking his turn, Wubetu Abate Head Coach for Ethiopia felt their good performance was betrayed by the two penalties from needless tackles from his defenders.

“We played well only that we conceded penalties in the first half that disturbed our plan.

  1. “But congratulations to Malawi. They deserved it,” Abate said

For the second time, Flames starting the qualifiers on positive note as 2021’s Afcon Qualifiers saw Flames beating South Sudan 1-0 at Kamuzu Stadium courtesy of Gabadinho Mhango.

This is 11th game for the Walyas without a win.

The two teams were meeting for the 7th time and the win was Flames third while Ethiopia have one in their record and three matches ended in stalemate.

The win takes Flames to the summit of the table with 3 points waiting for another game in the group as Guiena travel to Egypt to face the Pharaohs in a game to start later today.

Gabadinho Mhango has scored 6 goals for the Flames in his last 5 appearances.

The presence of Malawi’s President Dr Lazarus Chakwera and his vice Dr Saulos Klaus Chilima helped the Flames in one way or another to scorch the Walias as Bingu.

It was for the time in 27 years for President to watch the Flames in a competitive match with Dr Bakili Muluzi to do that as he watched Malawi vs South Africa and Cameroon back in 1995.

The Flames will play against Guinea away from home while Ethiopia will face Egypt at the same venue on June 9.

Teams Starting XIs
C. Thom, L. Chaziya, S. Sanudi, G. Chirwa, J. Banda, G. Phiri, C. Idana, G. Mhango, S. Davie, K. Muyaba

F. Gebremichael, R. Yusef, Y. Baley, M. Debebe, A Tunjo, D. H. Dukele, M. Muhammad, A. Yohannes, S. Dagnachew, A. Gebremichael, A. Nassir

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