The visitors needed a point to progress but an early goal gave the home side the advantage which secured them a ticket to Cameroon
Uganda failed to secure a third straight Africa Cup of Nations ticket after they were humbled 1-0 by Malawi at Kamuzu Stadium in Blantyre on Monday.
Malawi needed a win to join the Cameroon party and a goal – by Richard Mbulu – in the first half coupled with resilient defending earned them the victory over Uganda, who were participants in the 2017 and the 2019 Afcon finals.
Uganda won a third-minute free-kick but Mustapha Kizza, who was operating deep in Malawi’s area, saw his effort collected easily by goalkeeper Ernest Kakombwe.
Kakombwe had to be attended by the medics in the ninth minute but he was cleared to proceed with the match after a short break as no side looked more dominant than the other in the opening 10 minutes.
After a cautious but clinical move from the right flank, a Peter Banda cross into Uganda’s area found Mbulu who headed past Denis Onyango to give The Flames a dream start in the 15th minute.
Mbulu would have registered his second in the 22nd minute but Onyango was alert to deny him this time around with a quick reaction towards his right to collect the headed ball and save the moment for under pressure Uganda.
The scorer’s moves and positioning made the Cranes recognise him as Malawi’s dangerous man thus more men marked him.
Uganda would have equalised in the 33rd minute had Emanuel Okwi was not alert enough with the ball in a promising position. The Al Ittihad star lost possession at a very critical stage to deny the Cranes a chance to restore parity.
The former Simba SC winger thereafter saw his penalty appeal dismissed in the 35tth minute as Uganda settled into the game and started direct attacks. Meanwhile, Ibrahim Orit was flagged for offside in the 38th minute after he had been set through on goal by Moses Waiswa.
Gavin Kizito, who was in Uganda’s squad for the U20 Afcon in Mauritania which reached the final phase, was given his debut in the 44th minute when Ronald Mukiibi got injured and was unable to continue after medical attention.
Malawi’s Kakombwe went down injured inside the added two minutes of the first half as the Cranes piled more pressure on their hosts. Malawi headed into the break leading after dealing capably with Uganda’s late attacks in the opening half.
As the second half began, Abdallah Mubiru introduced Allan Okello and Taddeo Lwanga – who had to deal with health issues after Fufa claimed results from a local hospital had found he was Covid-19 positive. However, after push and pull, he was cleared and started from the bench.
Another chance for Uganda to equalise came in the 57th minute but Orit’s free-header went out. The Vipers SC’s man had received a fine cross from the left delivered by TP Mazembe’s Joseph Ochaya.
Francisco Madinga failed to control the ball while unmarked in the 64th minute after he was picked by Mbulu from the left-wing while inside the Uganda box. The wasted chance came as determined Uganda pushed forward and pressed The Flames in search of an equaliser on the other end.
Malawi made a tactical change in the 66th minute when striker Khuda Muyaba was withdrawn for midfielder Rafiq Namwera. Precious Sambani was unlucky in the 71st minute when – after making a long run from the midfield – saw his low drive from a tight angle blocked by Onyango. The Ugandan skipper, who was quite isolated at the time, went down enough to deny Malawi from doubling the lead.
The Flames’ Charles Petro blocked Allan Okello in the 72nd minute from launching an attack as Uganda looked more desperate to find an equaliser against the unrelenting home side.
Malawi made another change with the introduction of Dennis Chembezi for Peter Banda in the 75th minute as they resorted to consolidating their defensive midfield against the Cecafa champions.
The remaining minutes were not enough for Mubiru’s side to find an equaliser that would have given them a point that they needed to qualify. Malawi did not sit back entirely as they resorted to intermittent attacks against the East Africans but were unlucky to find the second goal.
Uganda’s loss to South Sudan in November 2020 and a 0-0 draw against Burkina Faso at home in March are the results that made their journey quite complicated. On the other hand, a win over the Bright Stars gave The Flames a qualifiers’ lifeline before the hard-fought win over the Cranes.
Senegal, Tunisia, Algeria, Mali, Burkina Faso, Guinea, Comoros, Gambia, Gabon, Egypt, Ghana, Equatorial Guinea, Zimbabwe, Morocco, Ivory Coast, Nigeria and Sudan are the nations that will square it out in the 2022 edition.
Malawi XI: Ernest Kakombwe, Stanley Sanudi, Charles Petro, Limbikani Mzava, Precious Sambani, John Banda, Gerald Phiri, Peter Banda, Robin Ngalande, Richard Mbulu, Khuda Muyaba.
Subs: Brighton Munthali, William Thole, Dennis Chembezi, Chikoti Chirwa, Chimwemwe Idana, Rafiq Namwera, Francisco Madinga, Chimango Kayira, Vincent Nyangulu, Peter Cholopi, Micium Mhone.
Uganda XI: Denis Onyango, Nicholas Wadada, Joseph Benson Ochaya, Ronald Mukiibi, Murushid Juuko, Mike Azira, Moses Waiswa, Ibrahim Orit, Faruku Miya, Emmanuel Arnold Okwi, Mustafa Kizza.
Subs: Salim Jamal, Charles Lukwago, Tadeo Lwanga, William Luwagga Kizito, Daniel Isiagi Opolot, Garvin Kizito Mugweri, Bobosi Byaruhanga, Allan Kyambadde, Abdul Lumala, Allan Okello.