Coach Kinnah Phiri can now af¬ford a sleep without nightmares knowing his job is safe after the Flames managed a vital 2-0 win over Chad to qualify for the second round of the 2013 Africa Cup of Nations on Saturday at the Kamuzu Stadium in Blantyre.
After drawing eight times nothing could be so pleasing to his employers and Malawians than winning this all impor¬tant game that has made the Flames claim a place among 30 teams who are now set for the last lap towards qualification.
Thanks to a John Banda's first half beauty and a Joseph Kamwendo 35 me¬tre screamer that had no response from the pompous visitors who humiliated the Flames 3-2 in the first leg.
Unlike last week when Malawi domi¬nated Nigeria, this time it was a game that could have gone either way as the visitors equally played with determination.
Taking advantage of their height, the visitors forced a physical game and Ma¬lawi struggled to put the ball on the turf.
Chad's first chance came inside 10 minutes after they wasted a free kick right on the edge of the corner flag.
Midfielder John Banda, who is fast becoming a national asset after he also saved Malawi in the game against Nige¬ria, responded with a clever shot that went wide just outside the box.
The stubborn visitors still proved they were on a mission and Foster Namwera was forced to take down their marksman Karl Max Barthelemy, forcing the referee to caution him with a yellow card.
But Chad wasted the set piece again.
Then the most depressing moment of the game came in the 30th minute when a Chad defender handled the ball in the box but Kamwendo who stepped out to take the spot kick saw his shot go wide and hit outside of the right post with Chad goalie Armel Koulara fully stretched.
Just when Chad were still celebrating the penalty miss, their defence was caught napping three minutes later when man of he moment John Banda exploded from right wing and curled the ball over the goalie just after taking a deflection from a defender.
The first half ended with the Flames now in full control, Kamwendo pulling the strings in the midfield and Chimango Kayira, Dave Banda hard working as usual.
Sensing that the Flames' firepower was Robin Ngalande and Banda, the visitors tar¬geted the duo and just some ten minutes into the second half the two were stretchered out to the field due to injuries.
Pindani replaced Banda while Frank Banda came in for Ngalande.
Meanwhile, Chad coach Modou Kouta realized he had to abandon his defensive game and attacked with numbers.
This exposed his defence.
However, Chad came close to equalizing in the 68th minute when Simplex Nthala had to stretch and paw off a Kevin Nicaise volley from afar.
Their captain also saw his free kick tamed.
But rejuvenated Kamwendo put the game beyond Chad when he made it 2-0 with his trademark thunderbolt just a few metres from the centre circle.
The ball hit the left corner leaving the Chad goalkeeper gasping for air.
From then onwards, it was all over for Chad.
And when the referee blew to mark the end of the game, the players hoisted their coach Kinnah sky high.
What sweet revenge for the Flames who failed to go to Gabon/Equatorial Guinea Afri¬ca Cup of Nations qualifier because of Chad.
"We dedicate this victory to all Mala¬wian supporters who have been supporting the team all the way despite some problems here and there. Our main setback was scor¬ing goals but the goals have now started com¬ing," Kamwendo said after the game.
Goalkeeper Nthala said the Chad game was much tougher.
"For me its double celebration since it's a win and I have kept a clean sheet," he said.
Malawi and other 14 winners now join seeded 16 teams that qualified for the 2012 Africa Cup of Nations.