Malawi national football team's hopes of progressing to the next round of the 2018 Championship of African Nations vanished into thin air this afternoon, when the Flames fell 1-0 against lowly rated Madagascar in a second leg tie played at the Bingu National Stadium in Lilongwe.
Carrying a 1-0 deficit from the first leg played in Madagascar, the Flames started with a three-man attacking formation comprising Ishmael Thindwa, Binwell Katinji and Manase Chiesa but still failed to get even an offside goal in front of a partisan home crowd.
The Flames suffered a setback as early as 17 minutes when the towering Thindwa limped off the field of play after getting a knock as he tried to connect the ball towards the opponents' goal.
He was replaced by Muhamad Sulumba, who had a number of scoring opportunities but failed to convert them.
Having failed to punish the visitors in the first half, the Flames were to pay dearly just a minute and some seconds after resumption when striker Rokotoarimaldla Tsilavina scored the lone goal after some poor defending by the Flames
The goal completely destabilized the Flames, who then needed three second half goals to cancel out the 2-0 deficit and proceed to the next round.
With desperation taking its toll, Flames coach Ronny van (RVG) Geneugden pulled out Davie Banda for Chimango Kaira before replacing Joseph Kamwendo with Dalitso Sailesi.
The move never paid any dividend as the visitors cling to their lead.
RVG conceded defeat after the whistle but blamed the Zambian match officials for being lenient with Madagascar players notably goalkeeper Rondrianasolo Donne, who kept feigning injuries to run down the clock.
"The Madagascar goalkeeper was on the ground for more than ten minutes but the referee added only three minutes.
On our part, we had chances to score a number of goals but we messed up all our chances," he said.
The Flames Belgian mentor described Madagascar's early second half goal as the serious blow for the Flames.
Madagascar coach Auguste Raux described the game as good, saying the Flames used all their tactics to win the game but his boys stayed focus.