Winger Khama Billiat’s stunning 82nd minute goal earned Zimbabwe’s Warriors a 2-1 win over disappointing hosts Malawi in a Group L qualifying match of the 2017 Africa Cup of Nations at the Kamuzu Stadium in Blantyre on Saturday afternoon.
The win put Zimbabwe second in the group on three points whereas Swaziland are top after also winning away 2-1 against Guinea at the neutral venue of Morocco on Friday.
Despite going into the game amid financial problems and enduring a bus break-down on Friday afternoon while travelling to Blantyre, it was Zimbabwe that had a dream start.
From the first whistle, the visitors won three consecutive corner kicks. The Warriors eventually got a reward when Cuthbert Malajila made the most of Malawi defender Harry Nyirenda’s blunder to score in the 20th minute.
A minute later Malawi counter-attacked and scored through John Banda from close range. The Flames finished the second half strongly as Micium Mhone was denied a point-blank header by goalkeeper Tatenda Mkuruva’s finger-tip save.
In the second half the Warriors still looked better — their cause helped by Malawi coach Young Chimodzi’s questionable substitution of hard-working striker Zicco Mkanda for Esau Kanyenda while leaving on the pitch anonymous Atusaye Nyondo.
Right back John Lanjesi was also pulled out for blunder-prone defender Lucky Malata, who eventually misplaced a pass onto the path of Billiat.
The Mamelodi Sundowns man sped clear on the left before stabbing his shot to the top right corner to stun the home fans.