All ended square in Francistown as Malawi managed to hang onto a goalless draw after and impressive showing from hosts Botswana in a FIFA World Cup Qatar 2022 qualifier where both rattled the woodwork. A flurry of late chances saw both sides arguably feel they should have picked up a vital lead heading into Tuesday’s return leg, but it ended honours even.
For the hosts, Tumisang Orebonye and Omaatla Kebatho both went close – the former thumping the bar as the Zebras looked a real aerial menace during a second half which they were the dominant outfit. However, Malawi’s Richard Mbulu so easily could have snatched a precious advantage as he nodded just wide with the final touch of the game.
The pair had already rattled the woodwork, with Botswana going inches away from a spectacular opener after just five minutes, courtesy of Joel Mogorosi’s sharp turn and volley from almost 30 yards out. Brighton Munthali in the Malawi goal, who was a thorn in the side of the hosts throughout, could only scramble across and watch it cannon off the upright.
Come the second period, the Flames – ranked 21 places above Botswana in the FIFA/Coca-Cola World Ranking in 126th – likewise went agonisingly close. Gerard Phiri’s left-footed free-kick left Kabelo Dambe with little chance, but the post came to his rescue. They will decide who proceeds when they lock horns in Blantyre (15:00 local time kick-off).
Sunday will see the first quartet to teams seal their place in the second round of African qualifying for Qatar 2022, with so much to be decided in some keenly-contested games.
All four will be streamed live on FIFA.com and our YouTube channel: