Malawi 1-2 Zimbabwe
KHAMA Billiat scored the winner in the 81st minute as Zimbabwe beat Malawi in the opening Group L Africa Cup of Nations 2017 qualifier at Kamuzu Stadium in Blanytre on Saturday.
After arriving in Malawi on the eve of the match after a 10 hour road trip, the Warriors defied all odds with a spectacular performance.
Although showing clear signs of fatigue, Cuthbert Malajia thrust the Warriors into the lead after poor defensive work by the Malawi defence left him clear on goal after 17 minutes to slot home with his left foot.
But they could not hold on as John Banda struck the leveller barely two minutes later after Patson Jaure had fluffed his clearance.
Warriors goalkeeper Tatenda Mukuruva then produced save after save as the Flames sought the lead before the break but the goal would not come.
Then against the run of play in the second half, Billiat was fed on the left and charged towards goals.
Spotting Malajila running into the box, Billiat squared the ball but it flew over the Malawian keeper and nestled into the nets for the Warriors winner.
From there, coach Kalisto Pasuwa withdrew Kuda Mahachi and replaced him with Eric Chipeta to fortify the defence as the Warriors closed off all Malawi attacks for a deserved win.
The victory is a huge boost for Zimbabwe following their problems over players’ match fees that had put the fixture in doubt.
Pasuwa told BBC Sport after the match: “We put our problems aside and we got a win.
“We need to bring Zimbabwean people together to help improve our football.
“We wanted to put our country on the map. We are having problems but let’s consider our country in terms of football.”
The squad had initially refused to travel, citing concerns that they would not receive their money from the cash-strapped Zimbabwe Football Association (Zifa).
Walter Magaya, the Prophetic Healing and Deliverance Ministries leader, stepped in to provide the $42,000 needed to cover the trip to Malawi.
We need to come together to help improve our football … Kalisto Pasuwa