Perhaps its a jinx. Flames history of unwinning in West Africa continues as they suffer a late defeat at General Lansana Conte Stadium in Conakry.
Liverpool’s midfielder, Naby Keita scored late into added time as hosts Guinea, The Syli Nationale render a painful defeat to Malawi, 1-0 to storm to their first victory in the qualifiers.
The game seemed to be heading for a draw until Keita struck the winner for the home side, earning a well deserved win after putting in the pressure and looking more hungry in the entire 90 minutes.
With the victory, Guinea move to third in the standings below Malawi, with all teams in the group sitting on three points.
However, The hosts were a better side in both halves as once again, Flames struggled to dominate the game in the midfield.
Despite several warnings and suggestions for Marinica to change his midfield, formation and even the system of play, The Romanian deployed the same sloppy midfield-trio of John Banda, Gerrad Phiri and Chimwemwe Idana, who struggled with the Flames’ first game against Ethiopia at Bingu National Stadium on Sunday.
Flames were a team with no tactical advice, strategies as they were just playing without passing and supporting, until 10 minutes of the first half, Malawi were yet to register a single complete pass.
There was a penalty appeal from the host as Polokwane’s defender, Dennis Chembezi seemed to have fouled Guinea’s striker, Guissaery in the 5th minute of the game but the Gambian referee, Lamin Jammey turned a defeat ear to the scream.
Keita had a go at goal in the 27th minute when he stretched out his feet to connect to a cross from the right but it went wide.
Marinica had a unplanned substituion as Gerrad Phiri got injured and he was replaced by Sherrif’s Charles Petro in the 33th minute.
In the 34th minute, midfielder Amadou Diawara had a chance for Guinea when he rose at the backpost to connect to a corner, but he headed just wide.
At the tail end of the first half, Malawi had a chance when Silver’s Stain Davie broke away on the right flank and played through Kudah Muyaba into the box, but his effort opted to force a shot while panic with Mhango in his company.
It was goalless at break. Flames were going for the break with a possession of 23% while the hosts had 77%. Flames had 78 passes in the opening half while the hosts had 271 passes.
Upon sensing danger, Mario made two changes at half time as he brought in Blue Eagles’ Micium Mhone and Bullets’ left back, Alick Lungu for Khudah Muyaba and Stanley Sanudi who picked yellow card in the first half respectively.
Malawi looked an improved team in the second half as they started playing at least some passes before throwing it away. Mhone was palying deep assisting Chirwa who at this point in time is operating as a right back.
It remained a close encounter in the second half. The best chance fell on Guinea, with Serhou Guirassy missing a golden opportunity as he slashed a shot just wide off a cross from the left two minutes after the restart.
Chimwemwe Idana and Stain Davie paved way for Chikoti Chirwa and Yamikani Chester in the 75th minute and Flames were playing with 5 midfielders.
In the 82th minute, Guinea had the ball in the net but it couldn’t stand as it was ruled out for offside.
Substitute Ilaix Moriba for Guinea also had a chance with an 85th minute freekick from range, but he struck it inches over the bar.
The late drive bore fruit, with Keita sending the stadium into frenzy with his late winner to send Malawi to the second place in the Group.
The Flames Head of Technical Panel, Mario Marian Marinica said his charges did not play as how they planned to play.
“We did not play the way we wanted partially the game plan was. In the second half we did a little bit better. We had a couple of chances but my boys failed to utilize it, sometimes when you play against big teams players can lose concentration and they start a little bit panicking instead of pushing. They kept on dropping, inviting opponents to have spaces and obviously you get punished.
“I cannot blame players on the goal conceded in the dying minutes because its a team work,we just need to go to the drawing board and see where we can work better, ” said Marinica
However, the Romanian said despite the defeat, Malawi have chance to qualify for the 2023 African Cup of Nation.
He said, “We have fantastic chance for us to qualify we just need to work hard.”
Following the defeat for Flames, Malawi are now winless in West Africa in their 29 outings. They suffered defeat to Guinea five times in 8 meetings.
In another group D match, Hotessa and Bekele scored in a game that Ethiopia beat Salahless Egypt at Bingu National Stadium in Lilongwe.
Following today’s results, Malawi have gone down to the second place with Ethiopa occupying the top spot. Guinea are on third while Egypt anchor the 4-team group Log table. All the teams have three points but they differ on goal difference.
The teams will return in actions in September as Malawi will be travelling to Cairo to play against Egypt before a return leg some days later while Ethiopia will play back to back against Guinea.