A headed goal apiece saw visiting Malawi dump Swaziland out of the qualifiers in a closely contested first round, second leg qualifier played before 1000 fans at Somhlolo National Stadium on Sunday afternoon.
The visitors grabbed easy passage to the next round where they will meet Angola and a tribute to the late striker Abel Mwakilama who passed away last Friday (20 April 2018) - having played in the goalless first leg in Malawi a fortnight ago.
An away goal is all the Meck Mwase-coached side needed, no doubt they settled first thanks to Chinsinsi Maonga head off a corner after just 14 minutes and at that juncture the tie was reduced to a Malawi to lose than Swaziland to win.
However, the home boys tried to fight back with caution and they were duly rewarded when Leon Manyisa headed in an inch perfect searching cross to reignite the little hope that had remained for the Dumsane Makhanya guided team.
Staring exit, 'Sihlangwana' as the Swazis are nicknamed threw away caution mounting sporadic attacks and twice the woodwork saved the visitors with goalkeeper Charles Thom beaten by Manyisa in the 55th and 64th minutes respectively.
This saw the visitors sitting back to absorb the onslaught relying chance to counter attacks and in one such with just five minutes on the clock to play Peter Banda had his one on one break saved by Lwethu Simelane.
Malawi coach Mwase said the home team was always going to be difficult.
"I must pay tribute to the home team, they gave us a scare in Malawi and today they were literally over us and with luck they could have won this tie. I must thank my boys for getting that early goal which gave us an advantage," said Mwase.
His Swazi counterpart, Makhanya said his lads had given it they all.
"I want to praise my boys for giving it their all and twice denied by the post. Unfortunately, some decisions did not go away. I also felt we deserved a penalty when our player was pushed in box something that is a direct offense but such is football," said Makhanya.
Seven teams from the qualifiers will join host Niger for the final tournament scheduled for 2-17 February 2019.
Saturday, 21 April 2018
Morocco 1-0 Mauritania (0-2)
Sierra Leone 0-0 Guinea Bissau ((0-1)
Tunisia 1-2 Algeria (1-3)
Rwanda 0-0 Kenya (1-1)
Burundi 1-0 Ethiopia (2-0)
South Sudan 0-3 Uganda (1-5)
Mozambique 6-0 Seychelles (0-0)
Sunday, 22 April 2018
Togo 2-1 Gabon (0-4)
DR Congo 0-0 (5-6pen) Tanzania (0-0)
Swaziland 1-1 Malawi (0-0)
Namibia 1-1 Botswana (0-0)
Qualified teams: Algeria, Botswana, Burundi, Gabon, Guinea Bissau, Malawi, Mauritania, Mozambique, Rwanda, Tanzania, Uganda