Malawi national football team, the Flames have qualified for the AFCON 2021 after a 1-0 victory over Uganda at Kamuzu Stadium in Blantyre on Monday afternoon.
Baroka FC striker Richard Mbulu scored the all-important goal for Malawi in the 15th minute to earn Malawi a third AFCON qualification after 2010 and 1984.
Flames coach Meck Mwase maintained the team that lined up against South Sudan with just midfielder Robin Ngalande replacing suspended Frank Gabadihno Mhango.
Malawi dominated the match in search for an early goal and got it within a quarter-hour mark, thanks to Mbulu’s diving header beating experienced Mamelodi Sundowns goalkeeper Dennis Onyango after Ngalande released overlapping right back Stanley Sanudi on the far right flank.
Uganda almost cancelled the lead in the 19th minute when Malawi goalkeeper Ernest Kakhobwe was beaten, but Emmanuel Okwi’s effort bounced of the post before Mzava cleared the ball.
Mbulu should have doubled the lead in the 22nd minute when yet another Sanudi cross picked Mbulu again in the box, but this time the experienced goalkeeper was alert to collect the header.
Malawi were dealt a blow in the 30th minute when Ngalande was forced out of the match after twisting an ankle. He was replaced by midfielder Francisco Madinga.
Uganda Cranes also lost defender Ronald Mukiibi through injury and was replaced by Murushid Juuko.
In the second half the Cranes made more changes as midfielder Tadeo Lwanga and Allan Okello were brought on for Mike Azira and Faruku Miya. Yunus Ssentamu was introduced for club-mate Ibrahim Orit.
Uganda survived in the 64th minute when the impressive Sanudi hit the wood-work from a long range effort with Onyango already beaten.
Onyango also came to the rescue of the visitors twice as he left his line to stop Mbulu’s close range shot and midfielder Peter Banda’s rebound in succession.
Mwase replaced striker Khuda Muyaba with holding midfielder Rafiq Namwera while defender Dennis Chembezi came in for Peter Banda as Malawi opted to seal the game at 1-0.
As time wore on frustration was all over the visitors as Malawi edged close to qualification.
Malawi join 18 other teams that have already qualified for the finals including COSAFA neighbours Zimbabwe and Comoros
Malawi first XI:
Ernest Kakhobwe (GK), Stanley Sanudi, Charles Petro, Limbikani Mzava (C), Precious Sambani, John Banda, Gerald Phiri, Peter Banda (Dennis Chembezi), Robin Ngalande (Francisco Madinga), Richard Mbulu, Khuda Muyaba (Rafiq Namwela)
Uganda First XI
Dennis Onyango (GK) (C), Nico Wadada, Murushid Juuko, Ronald Mukibi (Murushid Juuko), Joseph Ochaya, Moses Waiswa, Mike Azira (Tadeo Lwanga), Ibrahim Orit (Yunus Ssentamu), Faruku Miya (Allan Okello), Mustafa Kizza, Emmanuel Okwi