The Fennecs of Algeria took on the Flames of Malawi in the African Nations Cup today, and it was the southern Africans who surprisingly triumphed with a trio of unanswered goals against the World Cup bound Algerians.
Malawi coach Kinnah Phiri looked nervous on the sidelines, but his side soon found an opening on the counter attack, as a cross found a darting Russel Mwafulirwa whose header under pressure went just wide of Fawzi Chaouchi’s goal.
In the 15th minute Algeria showed how dangerous they could be with a clever team move that saw Rafik Saifi crack a volley from just outside the box, but an alert Sanudi saved the ball well. Less than a minute later it was Russel who scored the opening goal of the game, as a mix up between Algerian ‘keeper Chaouchi and Madjid Bougherra forced the latter to blast his clearance onto a Malawi player before Russel slotted into the back of the net.
Algeria attempted to respond quickly, but Saifi wasted a chance when he found himself one on one with the Malawi ‘keeper, hitting his lob over the bar. The passing of the Malawians improved over time, with confident strides forward becoming more frequent.
A disappointingly empty stadium produced little in terms of atmosphere, with a few drums and vuvuzelas filling the air as Malawi built on their lead, scoring a surprising second with a fine header from Elvis Kafoteka after Algeria were slow to react to a short corner.
The second half saw Malawi looking increasing confident on the ball, with players like Josephy Kamwendo attempting to create more up front. Sloppy defending from Algeria allowed Malawi to score a third, as a scramble in the box saw Russel hit the post before Dave Banda received the ball and slotted into the bottom corner of the goal, getting injured in the process after a fierce tackle from an Algerian defender.
The Algerians went into this tournament expecting little and aiming only to get out of the group, but they were not looking like the same side that guaranteed a spot in the World Cup after a hard fought play-off against Egypt.
In the 54th minute it looked like Algeria would pull one back with a header from Ghezzal, but Flames keeper Sanudi did extremely well to stretch and tip the ball out for a corner before the Serie A based player could redirect it towards goal.
On the hour mark both teams made a flurry of substitutions, but Algeria could only muster a few half chances against an increasingly solid defensive unit that began the game looking nervous. Algeria’s best chance of the game fell to substitute Abdelmalek Ziaya in the 65th minute, with a cross finding him unmarked in the area, but his header went over the bar.
With just under twenty minutes remaining Malawi went close to making it 4-0, but Peter Wadabwa’s shot was saved, before the rebound was headed into the side netting. Algeria continued to play like a team that had accepted defeat, getting away with a potential penalty call as Bougherra appeared to handle the ball in the area before clearing.
Malawi defended well to keep Algeria from getting on the score sheet, and at the end of 90 minutes it was the Flames of Malawi who found themselves with three points in the bag after an impressive 3-0 win. Considering the fact that Malawi's best result in the competition was a 2-2 draw with Nigeria, this is a wonderful win for a deserving Malawi side.
Peter Pedroncelli, Goal.com