Mhango’s brace fires Flames to a perfect Afcon qualifiers start

Gabadihno Mhango’s first-half brace Sunday afternoon steered Malawi National Team aka the Flames to a 2-1 victory over much impressive, Ethiopia in the Group D Africa Cup of Nations (AFCON ) qualifiers played at Bingu National Stadium in Area 48, Lilongwe.

President, Dr. Lazarus Chakwera and his Vice, Dr. Saulos Chilima watched the encounter which saw 40,100 seater capacity packed replicating what happened on June 1, 1996, when Malawi hosted the then reigning African Champions, South Africa in Blantyre.

Both teams had to score through penalties in each half and South African referee, Abongile Thom was on the spot when awarding them.

President Chakwera captured cheering the Flames during the match

The game was of two halves where Malawi dominated play in the first but was wasteful at times while Ethiopia seemly looked dangerous in their attacks with the passing game which was putting the hosts on receiving end in the last half.

Flames went into the lead in the 10th minute when Mhango converted a penalty sending Ethiopian keeper, Bereket Kidanu the wrong way when Stain Davie was brought down in the penalty box by Ethiopian central defender, Yared Belay.

Mhango doubled the lead in the 33rd minute when he scored from the spot-kick after Mhango floored in the penalty area by Ethiopian defender, Mignot Dada.

With six minutes to break, Ethiopia nearly pulled one back through striker, Abubeker Ahmed when midfielder, Surafel Mengistu’s free-kick was fumbled by Flames keeper, Charles Thom, and the ball was cleared to safety.

Ethiopia once again silenced the packed house with another in which Mengistu’s powerful header was parried over the crossbar by Thom.

Two teams went to break with Malawi leading 2-0 to the delight of all Malawians that have wanted to register victory at home.

Gabadinho (c) celebrates his second goal with teammates Lawrence Chaziya (l) and Stain Davie (r)

The second half saw Ethiopia making a substitution they brought in the midfielder, Gathuoch Yiech, and pulled off Mengistu to the surprise of many as he was in total control of the midfield in the first half.

In the last half, Malawi was so wasteful which near-missed by Davie, Khuda Muyaba, and Mhango at the mercy of the Ethiopian custodian, Kidanu.

The Stadium went into a dead silence in the 58th minute when Ethiopia’s Ahmed hit the woodwork eluding Thom in goals.

The Visitors pulled one back in the 68th minute through Ahmed after Captain, John Banda had fouled Chernet Beshah in the D- zone.

Malawi made a triple substitution; they brought in Charles Petro, Francisco Madinga, and Chiukepo Msowoya for Davie, Chimwemwe Idana, and Gerald Phiri Jnr respectively.

The Stadium went into an uproar in the 74th minute when Mhango's header hit the back of the net but it was ruled out for an offside.

Ethiopians made late substitution by introducing Amanuel Gamo and Suleman Sueleman for Dawa Dukele and Asrat Toylo respectively in order to put more pressure on Malawi and paid dividends where they nearly leveled the scores in the dying minutes, thanks to the much-improved defender, Dennis Chembezi’s clearance.

Muyaba was rested for Micium Mhone in the 83rd minute and Mhango was brought out for Chikoti Chirwa.

The Flames Coach, Mario Marinica admitted that it was a tough game adding Ethiopia was a fantastic team that played good football with skillful players.

Flames' Gabadinho Mhango and Gerald Phiri Jnr disposed by Ethiopia's defence

He said they managed to utilize the game plan which saw them getting a win with three points in the bag.

“I would like to congratulate the Malawi team on the win. We conceded two penalties which spoiled our game plan,” Ethiopian Coach, Wubetu Abate said.

He said the situation changed for the better in the second half and managed to pull one back but they were keen to force a draw that has failed to come back.

With the win, the Flames have gone top of the group following Egypt's 1-0 victory over Guinea in Cairo.

Flames will play  Guinea in Conakry on Thursday, June 9, 2022, as Ethiopia will host Egypt at Bingu National Stadium in Malawi.