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Madinga and Mhango spur Malawi to victory

Zimbabwe let their guard down at crucial moments on Friday, allowing a scrappy Malawi side to claw back and win 2-1 over the Warriros in Group B play at the 2021 Africa Cup of Nations. Frank “Gabadinho” Mhango was the hero upon his return to the Flames starting eleven, striking twice on both sides of halftime to lead Malawi back and into contention for a spot in the knockout rounds. Ishmael Wadi opened the scoring for Zimbabwe, who now need to defeat Guinea to have any chance of advancing.

The Warriors showed the early desire Zimbabwean supporters demanded, and were the better team throughout the first half. In the 15th minute, Zimbabwe captain Knowledge Musona received a pass from Kundai Benyu and burst into the Malawian penalty area before defender Gomezgani Chirwa made a timely intervention for the Flames. Zimbabwe’s breakthrough came in the 38th minute when Bruce Kangwa played a combination with Musona to find space on the left wing. Kangwa’s cross found Wadi, who looped his header over Malawi keeper Ernest Kakhobwe for the opener.

Zimbabwe’s celebrations were triumphant, but gave way to a critical loss of focus that allowed Malawi to equalize five minutes later. FC Dila Gori midfielder Francisco Madinga found room on the left wing and curled in a perfect cross to find Mhango at the far post. The Orlando Pirates hitman connected with the bouncing ball to send a low shot past Petros Mhari in the Zimbabwe goal, leveling the match.

Malawi did excellently to capitalize on their momentum, coming out of halftime in an attacking mindset. In the 50th minute, Madinga drove forward into the left side of the Zimbabwean penalty area and unleashed a powerful shot that beat Mhari and nicked the post as it went wide. Before the hour mark, the Flames completed their comeback and took the lead. Zimbabwe center back Teenage Hadebe did well to win the ball on a tackle in his own area, but he and Mhari miscommunicated as Mhango snuck in to claim the loose ball and the Player of the Match lifted his finish over the advancing Mhari.

The Flames and their stubborn defense held out as Zimbabwe failed to recapture the momentum they worked so hard to build in the first half. Following only their second AFCON win and first since 2010, Malawi now will face Senegal with a result guaranteeing them a spot in the knockout stages. Highlights are below.

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