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Malawi squander opportunities in 3-0 WCQ defeat to Cote d’Ivoire

Cote d’Ivoire came out with an important 3-0 shutout victory over Malawi to open up FIFA World Cup qualifying action in the CAF region on Friday, keeping the Elephants on top of Group D. Max Gradel, Ibrahim Sangare and Jeremie Boga provided the goals to boost the Ivorians to seven points from three games. Meanwhile, Malawi can take plenty of positives from their performance, but are in danger of dropping out of contention to move into the next round due to poor finishing.

It was a dream start for hosts Malawi in Johannesburg as the Flames took the game to Cote d’Ivoire and proved they were more than worthy of playing on the same pitch as the decorated Ivorian stars. In the opening twenty minutes, Malawi had two opportunities to take a surprise early lead. In the 7th minute, Frank “Gabadinho” Mhango weaved his way into a promising shooting position and his effort was deflected into the air before Gerald Phiri Jr. leaped up to head the ball over the bar. Seven minutes later, Ivorian keeper Sylvain Gbohouo was forced into action when Simba SC midfielder Peter Banda came up with some smooth dribbling to open up a shooting lane, but Gbohouo got down to save.

The visitors finally got their first looks at the Malawian goal just before twenty minutes were up. Jean Evrard Kouassi got free at the near post to meet a Gradel cross, but his header was deflected over the bar. The ensuing corner kick from Gradel found a wide open Sinaly Diomandé, but the Olympique Lyonnais defender headed over from six yards out with the goal begging.

Gradel’s class emerged in the 35th minute to put the Ivorians into the lead. A curling cross from Serge Aurier on the right flank bounced high in the air and Stanley Sanudi failed to deal with it, allowing the ball to bounce over him and right to a waiting Gradel for a smashing finish past Flames custodian Richard Chipuwa.

After going into halftime down 1-0, Malawi once again started on a bright note in the second half and created another couple of chances that should have seen them equalize. Mhango had a golden opportunity in the 52nd minute when Phiri played an aerial ball over the top to find the Orlando Pirates hitman. Gbohouo was too enthusiastic in charging out of his box to close down, and Mhango had plenty of real estate to lift a shot over the keeper but put the ball just over the bar and on the top netting. A few minutes after, John Banda was set up by a lay off from forward Khuda Muyaba, but his shot was well saved by Gbohouo.

Cote d’Ivoire’s quality would make the Malawians pay for not taking advantage of their chances, and a couple of goals late on made the result look more decisive than it was in reality. 34-year-old Ivorian legend Gervinho came on as a 71st minute substitute for Gradel and made a notable impact, setting up Ibrahim Sangare with a defense splitting pass for the PSV Eindhoven midfielder to finish inside Chipuwa’s near post in the 85th minute. Another substitute, Sassuolo’s Jeremie Boga, created havoc by finding his way past a couple of Flames defenders before finishing with a shot to the top corner in the last seconds of the match and the Elephants had the result they desired.

Highlights are in the button link below.

Highlights from FIFA TV


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