Zimbabwe’s excellent 2-1 victory over Guinea may have been in vain with the Warriors already eliminated from the competition, but Malawi gave themselves an excellent chance to advance to the second round after they held giants Senegal to a 0-0 draw in their Africa Cup of Nations Group B clashes on Tuesday.
Senegal win the pool with five points, despite scoring only once in their three matches via a late Sadio Mane penalty against Zimbabwe in their opening game.
Malawi and Guinea have four points each but the latter take second spot in the pool on the head-to-head rule, while the Malawians must now wait to see if they are one of the four best third-place teams who also advance to the second round.
Malawi were left fuming when Cameroon referee Blaise Ngwa initially awarded them a late penalty as Gomezgani Chirwa was brought down in the box by defender Bouna Sarr.
But the decision was overturned on review, though Senegal can regard themselves as fortunate as there was both a pull of the shirt and contact.
Malawi’s president Lazarus Chakwera has offered each of those that played against Senegal a payment of 1-million Kwacha if the team advances to the second round, but the chance to make history and be the first team from the country to do so will no doubt be more rewarding.
Senegal had newly crowned FIFA Best Men’s Goalkeeper award recipient Edouard Mendy back in the team after he missed their first two matches due to COVID-19, and was arguably the busier of the glovemen, certainly in the first half.
Malawi used the pace of Frank Mhango and guile of Francisco Madinga to create a number of chances in the opening period that forced the Chelsea keeper into smart saves.
But the best chance of the half fell to Senegal forward Sadio Mane, who met Sarr’s cut-back but managed only to scoop the ball over the crossbar with the net gaping.
Zimbabwe claimed victory over Guinea to leave Cameroon with some pride and a first victory at the Africa Cup of Nations since a 2-1 win over Ghana in 2006.
Striker Knowledge Musona and midfielder Kudakwashe Mahachi both scored in the first half to hand Zimbabwe a farewell win after losing their opening two matches, but they finished last in the group.
Naby Keita pulled a goal back for Guinea early in the second half but they could not find the equaliser and the Liverpool midfielder was cautioned late in the game for dissent and, in a further blow, for Zimbabwe will miss their next game in the knockout phase.
The match was refereed by the first woman to officiate a game at the finals – the 35-year-old Rwandan Salima Mukansanga, who grew increasingly weary of Keita’s persistent complaints about Zimbabwean time wasting and booked him in the last minute.