National Elephants march past The Flames

Guinea picked up their first win in eight competitive matches as they got their Africa Cup of Nations (AFCON) campaign off to the perfect start, beating Malawi 1-0.

Kaba Diawara’s men enjoyed plenty of possession early on, but Malawi had the better chances. Guinea goalkeeper Aly Keita atoned for a poor pass by saving Micium Mhone’s venomous strike from range, before Yamikani Chester was unable to capitalise on two opportunities. Having cut out Mohamed Camara’s pass, the attacker could only muster a weak shot, then lost balance when played through on goal moments later. ‘Syli Nationale’ got a hold on the half as it progressed, with Ibrahima Conté crashing a header against the post and José Kanté unable to connect with a dangerous Naby Keïta free-kick.

Kanté played a crucial role in the opener in the 35th minute, however, getting away from Gomezgani Chirwa in the box to tee up Issiaga Sylla for a simple finish. The ‘Flames’ responded well before HT, forcing Keita to produce brilliant stops to deny Limbikani Mzava and Peter Banda, while Malawi shot-stopper Ernest Kakhobwe made a fantastic double stop to halt Aguibou Camara at the other end. Shortly after the break, Khuda Muyaba completely missed his flick before Mhone failed to find the target with his own effort.

Mamadou Kané came agonisingly close to doubling Guinea’s lead in the 53rd minute, but saw his first-time strike from range whistle past the post. Keita was soon called into further action, the goalkeeper bravely stopping Chester when the latter latched onto P. Banda’s defence-splitting pass before Mhone’s follow-up was blocked. Malawi only had four available substitutes but one of them, Richard Mbulu, had a glorious opportunity to restore parity, only to send a tame shot into Keita’s grateful arms.

Guinea substitute Mamadou Diallo also couldn’t get a clean connection on his strike when a late chance came his way. However, the West African outfit maintained their lead to draw level with Senegal in Group B ahead of the duo’s meeting on Friday. Meanwhile, Malawi will be looking to get something against Zimbabwe to avoid finishing bottom of the group, as they have done in their two previous AFCON appearances.

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