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Mhango's Malawi Afcon setback also a blow for Orlando Pirates

12:42 GMT+4 10/01/2022
Frank Mhango, Orlando Pirates, January 2021
The former Bidvest Wits and Bloemfontein Celtic marksman was ruled out of the Flames' opening match vs Guinea after testing positive for Covid-19

Orlando Pirates striker Gabadinho Mhango has battled for game-time in the PSL but had been set to potentially star for Malawi at the Afcon tournament in Cameroon.

Mhango was among a group of six Malawian players as well as three technical team members who were ruled out of Monday's Group B encounter against Guinea.

The 29-year-old will now be in a race against time to recover for Friday's encounter against Zimbabwe, which could be pivotal in the Flames' hopes of qualifying for the next round.

With Senegal the group favourites, there will likely be a three-way tussle between Malawi, Guinea and Zimbabwe as to who qualifies for the next round.

Apart from being one of Malawi's best players, more than anything, Mhango needs game-time, after what has been a tough season for him at Pirates.

Two seasons ago he had been the league's top scorer after smashing in 16 goals in 28 appearances for the Sea Robbers.

But last season he managed just five league goals and this term the Chiweta-born striker has totalled just 133 minutes in the league (over four appearances).

His drop in form has highlighted Pirates' shortfall in reliable, experienced goal scorers and it's arguably one reason why the Buccaneers have fallen off the pace in recent years.

The Afcon platform could therefore have been perfect for Mhango to regain some form and sharpness, and no doubt the Bucs technical team would have been hoping for the same.

They’ll now be hoping that the former Big Bullets, Golden Arrows, Bloemfontein Celtic and Bidvest Wits forward recovers in time for Friday's game vs Zimbabwe, and also that the Flames can advance to the next stage – a fit and firing Mhango would be a major boost for Pirates’ aspirations.

There was at least some good news in the striking department for Bucs on the weekend as Boitumelo Radiopane continued his recent good form by netting a brace in Pirates’ 3-2 win over Mamelodi Sundowns in a reserve team game.

In addition, Ghana striker Kwame Peprah was among the goals before Christmas, while Zakhele Lepasa is slowly making his way back from injury.