Malawi coach Marian Marinica has praised the performance of striker Gabadinho Mhango despite his team losing 2-1 to Morocco in their Africa Cup of Nations Round of 16 fixture on Tuesday.
The Flames’ fairy tale run in the 33rd edition of the competition in Cameroon was brought to a halt after the Atlas Lions came from a goal down to win the heated battle at Ahmadou Ahidjo Stadium in Yaounde.
It was Mhango, who plays in South Africa for Orlando Pirates, who struck the opener for the Flames in the seventh minute after he made no mistake from outside the box, curling in a shot that evaded Morocco goalkeeper Yassine Bounou and sailed into the top corner.
However, the Flames’ tempo of attacking faded after the goal, and they allowed Morocco back into the game. It was no surprise when Youssef En-Nesyri made it 1-1 for the Atlas Lions in the 45th minute after he headed in a well-taken corner-kick from Sofiane Boufal.
The Atlas Lions then won the game in the 70th minute when defender Achraf Hakimi scored from a beautifully taken free-kick that beat the hands of Flames goalkeeper Charles Thom to hit the back of the net.
Marinica has singled out the 29-year-old Mhango, who scored three goals in the tournament for praise, describing him as a very good player.
“We worked and were very close, personally, I tried to exploit the opportunities I had, and we played against a very good team,” Marinica told the media as quoted by CafOnline.
“However, I am proud of the performance of my players. Gabadinho [Mhango] is a good player and, as you saw, each player gave his best. I believe Gaba has the potential to play at the highest level.
“Our game plan happened as we wanted, but I have to admit that we played against a fantastic opponent.”
Mhango’s other goals at the Afcon came in their second Group B fixture against Zimbabwe where he scored a double as they beat the Warriors 2-1.
Apart from Pirates, Mhango has also turned out for other clubs including Brave Warriors, Nyasa Big Bullets, Bloemfontein Celtic, Lamontville Golden Arrows, and Bidvest Wits.
Last season, Mhango scored six PSL goals for the Buccaneers from 32 appearances, and in the current campaign, he is yet to find the back of the net after making six appearances.