Two first half goals by Mbwana Samata and Thomas Ulimwengu gave Tanzania the edge when they beat Malawi 2-0 to get their 2018 FIFA World Cup qualifying campaign off to a promising start at the National Stadium in Tanzania on Wednesday afternoon.
Although the hosts started better as they moved the ball around chasing the Flames defence, it was Robin Ngalande who first threatened as he took a shot in the 11th minute but the goalkeeper Mustafa parried it over the posts for a corner.
In the 14th minute, Kaonga saw his effort flying over the bar after outpacing the Tanzanian defence, with the follow up header going wide.
In what could be considered a goal against the run of play, the Taifa Stars netted first through Samata on a counter attack when Ulimwengu turned his opponent on the right before setting up the goal scorer, who beat the oncoming Nthala with ease in the 18th minute.
After 23 minutes of action, the hosts doubled their lead through Ulimwengu after Nthala failed to hold onto the cross down the left and it fell for the TP Mazembe striker, who easily scored.
Towards the 40th minute, the visitors struck a beautiful shot through John Banda in the box, but Mustafa stood his ground by making a save.
Five minutes into the second stanza, Malawi’s Banda failed to direct his set piece to the goals as he missed wide. A few minutes later Ernest Mtawali brought on Frank Mhango for Ngalande, hoping to unlock the hosts’ defence.
Malawi’s Kaonga found himself free in the penalty area following a set piece on the right but his free header could not trouble Mustafa in the 66th minute.
Tanzania continued to move forward chasing their third goal, but Mrisho Ngassa saw his header hit the woodwork five minutes later with Nthala beaten.
In the dying minutes of the match, Malawi tried all they could but the likes of Mhango and Phiri failed to unlock the defence.
Despite the win for the Taifa Stars, both sides are set to renew their rivalry in the second leg in Blantyre, Malawi, on Sunday October 11 and the Flames will hope to get a win.