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Saturday, December 2, 2023

Second half comeback sees Zimbabwe earn draw against Malawi in COSAFA Cup thriller

Malawi looked to have a win in their 2021 COSAFA Cup opener on Friday but the Flames squandered a 2-0 lead to Zimbabwe in the second half to give the Warriors their second draw from two games. Following the result Group B remains wide open as Namibia still lead with three points from their opening day win against Senegal but there is still much to play for with no clear favorites in the group.

It was an evenly matched affair, with Zimbabwe making four changes from their opening match lineup against Mozambique while Malawi were playing the first match of their campaign. The first opportunity fell Zimbabwe’s way when one of the players inserted into the starting eleven, King Nadolo, did excellently to slip away from a defender as a pass came in and found Blessing Sarupinda for an open look, but the Caps United player sent his shot wide of Malawi keeper Ernest Kakhobwe’s near post. Later in the half Sarupinda had another look when Ovidy Karuru sent him in on goal but once again Sarupinda shot wide.

Malawi found the opening goal in the 27th minute following a quick and precise attack. A run into the box was laid off to the right flank where right back and captain Stanley Sanudi lobbed a cross to Polokwane City forward Khuda Muyaba, who took the ball down off his thigh and quickly lashed his finish past Washington Arubi in the Zimbabwe goal.

The first half picked up as it progressed and then after halftime with Malawi in the lead, both teams continued to press forward for more entertaining football. Zimbabwe were caught sleeping on the defensive end in the 50th minute when Malawi forward Muhammad Sulumba collected the ball at midfield and slipped a through ball behind the high defensive line to find Schumacher Kuwali on the run. Kuwali dribbled in and slipped a low finish past Arubi to make it 2-0 to the Flames.

Finally Zimbabwe were awakened and started to take control of the match as they searched for a way back into contention. Veteran attacker Karuru played a precise low pass to the edge of the Malawi penalty area for a shot that was well saved by Kakhobwe. The rebound fell to halftime substitute Farau Matare whose effort was also saved by Kakhobwe, but the rebound went across the goalmouth and fell for an easy tap in by Sarupinda into the empty net and the Warriors were back into the game.

Zimbabwe continued to push as Malawi generated less going forward and the equalizer was deserved when it came in the 78th minute. With a free kick on the edge of the area, Karuru tapped the ball over to midfielder Patrick Ben Musaka who blasted a brilliant strike into the top corner, leaving Kakhobwe helpless as his wall split apart looking to close down Musaka’s effort. The result was justified in the end as both teams had their spells of control.

Highlights from the thriller are below.