FRANCISTOWN: Belgian, Adel Amrouche started his journey as Zebras coach on a low note when his side played to a goalless draw against the Flames of Malawi on Saturday in a 2022 World Cup qualifier at the Francistown Sports Complex on Saturday.
As compared to previous matches played at the Francistown Sports Complex, the weekend encounter was poorly attended. The atmosphere was also very dull. Some cited the cold weather and a political rally addressed by former President Ian Khama amongst reasons the match attracted a paltry crowd.
After the match, a visibly frustrated Amrouche went straight to the dressing room leaving his assistant Mogomotsi ‘Teenage’ Mpote to conduct post match interviews. Earlier, Amrouche had also cut a very frustrated figure on the touchline as his charges failed time and again to convert their chances.
Malawi coach, Meck Mwase also made his debut on the sidelines just months after he took over from Belgian Ronny van Geneugden.
It was a match in which the Zebras could have easily won had it not been for their wastefulness.
In addition, the match marked the return of goalkeeper Kabelo Dambe and midfielder Mogakolodi Ngele who have been out of the team for some time. However, Ngele had a very a dull first half. He was eventually substituted early in the second stanza of the match. The first chance of the match fell to Joel Mogorosi in the 10th minute.
His well-curled shot hit the lower side of the left post after he had a neat interchange with Thero Setsile. Defender Simisani Mathumo’s well-taken header hit the post in the 14th minute with Malawian goalkeeper Brighton Muntali looking well beaten.
The Zebras missed the most notable opportunity of the match on the 28th minute. Mogorosi released Mpho Kgaswane but the latter’s
Malawi seldom created chances in the first half. The only time they came close to scoring was in the 11th minute when Gerald Phiri’s shot went inches wide with Dambe looking well beaten.
Malawi had a much-improved second half. They were very lively when going forward. Zebras’ defenders struggled to contain Phiri and left-winger Richard Mbuli. The visitors could have found the lead in the 58th minute through the South African based Phiri but his well-taken free kick hit the woodwork.
The Zebras did have two notable chances to score towards the dying minutes of the match. In the 89th minute substitute Onkabetse Makgantai’s header rebounded off the crossbar. Muntali acrobatically collected Omaatla Kebatho’s stoppage time header destined for goals. It was 0-0 at fulltime.
The winner of the two legs will join the group stages to produce Africa’s best five teams to earn the ticket to Qatar 2022 World Cup finals. The second leg is billed for tomorrow at Kamuzu Stadium in Blantyre.
The group stages would feature 14 preliminary round winners plus 26 teams that were on bye and all these will be split into 10 pools. Group winners will then go into five-two legged qualifiers.
Zebras: Dambe, Thabo Leinenyane, Thero Setsile, Mogorosi, Ngele, Mathumo, Mosha Gaolaolwe, Lebogang Ditsele, Mothusi Cooper, Mpho Kgaswane
Malawi: Brighton Munthali, Stanley Sanudi, Charles Petro, Peter Cholopi, Dennis Chembezi, Precious Sambani, Gerald Phiri Junior, John Banda, Chimwemwe Idana, Richard Mbulu, Gabadinho Mhango