The red carpet was rolled out for top striker Peter Banda but, in the end, it was another little genius, Patrick Phiri, who hogged the limelight with a brace in a 3-2 win over Swaziland in a Group A tie of the Cosafa Youth Championship at Arthur Davies Stadium in Kitwe, Zambia, yesterday.
Banda opened the scoring for Malawi in the 14th minute before Phiri stepped in to grab a brace in the 53rd and 64th minutes.
Malawi started with an irony as the player who nearly cost the Junior Flames an early goal seconds from kick-off— Precious Sambani—was the most impressive at left-back.
Malawi finished the half strongly, with goalkeeper Mlamuli Lukhele blocking Banda in a one-on-one.
Swaziland came with new ideas in the second-half when they resorted to quick counter-attacks and long balls that often breached Malawi’s defence.
In a swift counter-attack, the Swazis reduced the arrears when Muzi Tsabedze outpaced Malawi’s defence, rounded off advancing goalkeeper Charles Thom before shooting into an empty net in the 51st minute.
However, against the run of play, Phiri reacted the quickest on the other end in Swaziland’s penalty box to score two minutes later.
The drama continued as Malawi defender, Hajison Wali, failed to mark advancing Gamedze and, in trying to avert danger, Thom ended up fouling the Swaziland striker to concede a penalty.
Gabedze stepped forward to send Thom, who was yellow-carded for the foul, the wrong way in the 58th minute.
Malawi did not give up as, after a Swaziland defender had fouled Levison Maganizo, Phiri nodded the ball into the net in the 64th minute from a freekick rebound.
The junior Flames held on to the lead until full time to win the match.
Swaziland Coach, Mandla Dlamini, said he was happy with the performance of his charges.
Taking his turn, Phiri said: “We are happy that we have won. We knew it would be tough, being first the game. Although we struggled, it was part of the game. We hope to play better in the next game.”
Malawi: Thom, Maganizo, Wali, Idana, Mike Mkwate, Phiri, Sambani (Petro), Nyasulu (Chambulika), Charles Petro, Mwaila, Banda (Manyozo)
Swaziland: Lukhele, Sacolo, Msimbi, Shabalala, Tsabedze, Gamedze, Dlamini, Mamba, Mabuza, Magagugla, Mzwandile.