Garry Chirwa in BLANTYRE, Malawi
ZIMBABWE turned on the goals, in the second half, to hand new Malawian coach, Young Chimodzi, a baptism of fire as Ian Gorowa’s project to turn the Warriors into a very competitive team continued to gain momentum with yet another impressive result on foreign soil here yesterday.
The Flames also had a new leader on the field, with veteran left wingback Moses Chavula, scorer of their priceless goal when they beat the Warriors 1-0 at Kamuzu Stadium during the 2008 Nations Cup qualifiers, being handed the captaincy in Chimodzi’s new regime.
But it was a horror start for the new coach and his skipper as Malawi were overwhelmed, especially in the second half, by a Zimbabwe team that severely punished the hosts’ alarming defensive shortcomings and left the Flames with more questions than answers ahead of the 2015 Nations Cup qualifiers.
It was the biggest victory margin for the Warriors over their opponents since a crushing 4-0 win for the Zimbabweans, in their backyard at the National Sports Stadium, on April 14, 1991, during the qualifiers for the ’92 Nations Cup.
Henry McKop scored a brace on a day when the iconic Moses Chunga, playing probably his best game for his country, imposed himself throughout and was also rewarded, for his excellent performance, with a goal.
It was by no means a fluent performance for the visitors yesterday but, to their credit, they made the most of the chances that were presented to them by a Malawian team that looked rusty in their first international match in six months.
The last time the Flames had played an international game was on September 6, last year, when they crashed to a 0-2 defeat at the hands of the Super Eagles of Nigeria in a 2014 World Cup qualifier in Calabar.
That World Cup campaign brought to an end coach Tom Saintfiet’s short spell in charge of the Malawians and opened the door for Chimodzi, a former Malawi international footballer, who is now in his second stint in charge of the Flames.
In sharp contrast, the Warriors have been active and the home-based members of the team they fielded yesterday impressed during the 2014 CHAN finals were they went all the way to the semi-finals only to lose, on the penalty shootout lottery, to eventual winners Libya.
With the ’keeper of that CHAN team, George Chigova, unavailable for this match because of club commitments with Dynamos, who are preparing for a Champions League tie in the Democratic Republic of Congo this weekend, Gorowa turned to Washington Arubi, one of a number of South Africa-based players who turned up for this mission.
Willard Katsande, the tough-tackling Kaizer Chiefs midfield anchor, was preferred for that role, understandably so given that Gorowa saw a lot of Danny Phiri at the CHAN finals, while his Kaizer Chiefs’ teammates — Knowledge Musona and Kingston Nkhatha — were also given starting roles.
With the forward line having struggled in South Africa at the CHAN finals, Gorowa must have had special interest in how his changed attack, which featured Musona and the recalled Nkhatha, would fare and while there were a lot of gifts from the Malawian defence yesterday, there was also a lot of encouragement from what the coach might have seen in his twin forwards.
The poster boy of Zimbabwe’s 2014 CHAN finals show, Kuda Mahachi, was given a place in the starting XI, alongside teammate at club and country — Peter “Rio” Moyo and Pascal Manhanga — just days after they escaped with their lives from a road accident in Kadoma on Sunday on their way to join the national team camp for this trip to Malawi.
There were goals for Moyo, Mahachi, Milton and Nkhatha.
Somehow, in such a goal harvest, the only surprise was that Musona didn’t score but, maybe by design, he kept drifting far back into the heart of the field, rather than concentrating at the tip of the attack.
But there will be bigger and more important battles, in the future, where Gorowa will need his main striker to deliver the goals and, in that gold shirt of the Warriors, Musona has a tendency of doing just that for his country.
Peter Moyo pushed the Warrior into the lead in the 20th minute when the hosts’ defence, at sea all afternoon, was asked questions that they failed to answer by a long throw and Moyo took full advantage to push his team into the lead.
Having fluffed a number of chances that came his way, including missing in the penalty shoot-out against Libya, it must have been a refreshing feeling for Moyo to get onto the scoresheet for his country and his goal came at a time when the game, which was crying out for something given the scrappy nature of proceedings until then, badly needed a goal to bring it to life.
Shortly before the visitors struck, the Malawian defence showed its vulnerability, when dealing with balls that cut across their face of goal, as they presented the Warriors with a good chance, to break the deadlock, but the visitors fluffed their opportunity.
The Warriors were clearly comfortable, with very little coming from the hosts, and one would have been mistaken to think that they were the ones who were at home.
The visitors went into the break leading 1-0 but the hosts quickly hit back, shortly after the interval, when Atusaye Nyondo sneaked in at the near post to connect a cross swung in from the left by Chimango Kayira, after the Flames had been gifted possession by Hardlife Zvirekwi and counter-attacked down that channel, and give Arubi no chance.
But the Malawians restored parity for just a few minutes as the Warriors regained the lead in the 54th minute when Mahachi, who is turning into a good goal-scoring midfielder for Gorowa, tucked home after questionable defending by the hosts once again.
There were goals, too, for Manhanga and Nkhatha, as Zimbabwe went into overdrive, in terms of scoring, and left their hosts shell-shocked.
Even the Flames fans appeared to appreciate that the better team had reaped due rewards, for their performance, and they warmly cheered the Warriors off the pitch after their destruction of their men in red.
Warriors coach Ian “Dibango” Gorowa said the result was of little significance.
“For us it was more about preparing the team for the 2015 Afcon qualifiers and I believe we achieved that,” said Gorowa.
“In the first half we were in control, but in the second-half Malawi came out strongly, but we enjoyed the game.”