2015 Africa Cup qualifier - Malawi, Benin begin with victories
Malawi began their campaign to reach the 2015 Africa Cup of Nations finals in Morocco with a 2:0 win over visiting Chad on Saturday. Gabadinho Mhango, who plays for Bloemfontein Celtic in South Africa, was the hero for the Flames scoring both goals of the first round first leg tie. In front of a capacity crowd in Blantyre Mhango tapped in from a rebound in the seventh minute after the Chad keeper Mbiramanji Dilla had tipped Joseph Kamwendo's free kick onto the post. Mhango's second came with 21 minutes left on the clock with a solo effort that saw him go past the Chad defence before beating the advancing keeper.
Despite the loss Chad coach Emmanuel Tregoat was still confident his side can come back in N'Djamena in a fortnight. "I think we can win in a fortnight- and we can win 2:0 or more perhaps, or penalties, it's not finished for us," he insisted. While his opposite number Young Chimodzi added his side would not be trying to defend their two goal advantage. "We will devise a plan for how we can approach the game - because what we need is to get a goal," he told BBC Sport. "If we get a goal then we are safe and and that's what we are aiming for - not just to go there and defend and defend."
The winners of the tie will play either Benin or Sao Tome Principe. Benin produced a vital 2:0 victory in Sao Tome to take a big advantage into their home leg. Also on Saturday Namibia edged past Congo Brazzaville 1:0 with a last minute goal in Windhoek. Another South Africa-based player Rudolf Bester latching onto a long ball from the back to seal the victory. Bester, a second-half substitute, thought he had scored minutes earlier with a header but he was ruled offside.
Mauritania also have a slender advantage after Saturday's first round first leg match are they defeated Equatorial Guinea 1:0 in Nouakchott. The only goal of the game was scored in the 76th minute by Ismael Diakite, who plays his club football in Tunisia for Hamman Lif.
Meanwhile on Sunday unlucky Libya begin their journey to try and reach Morocco as they face Rwanda. The Mediterranean Knights were ranked 12th in Africa this month by Fifa, but that placing does not count when it comes to the premier Confederation of African Football national team competition. Instead, results from the past three Nations Cups and the 2014 World Cup qualifiers determine which countries play in the preliminaries and which get byes to the group stage.
Sudan, who are 21 places below Libya in the Fifa rankings, pipped Libya for the last of 21 automatic entries into the mini-leagues. The countries had identical points on the rankings table, and the Sudanese went through because they performed better than the Libyans at the 2012 Nations Cup. If Libya overcame Rwanda and then Namibia or Congo-Brazzaville they will go into Group A with Sudan, defending champions Nigeria and South Africa.
Security issues in Libya means the Knights must host the Rwandan Wasps in Tunisia. However, Libyan footballers are used to such difficulties having qualified for the 2012 Nations Cup after playing home games in Mali and Egypt. Libya will be boosted by winning the African Nation Championship for home-based footballers in South Africa last February under Spanish coach Javier Clemente. Goalkeeper Mohamed Abdaula, defender and captain Ali Salama and midfielder Mohamed El Gadi were included in the CHAN team of the tournament. A setback for the Knights is the absence of players from Al Ahli Benghazi because the Nations Cup qualifiers clash with match-day 1 of the Champions League.
The Nations Cup second and third round dates fall outside the Fifa calendar so neither local nor foreign clubs have to release players. DR Congo outfit TP Mazembe initially refused to release Tanzanians Mbwana Samata and Thomas Ulimwengu as they have a Champions League date in Sudan. But the club has since gone back on that decision and the pair have been given the all clear to travel straight after the match from Sudan to Dar es Salaam in time to face Zimbabwe on Sunday.
The Warriors have been less fortunate and must do without striker Edward Sadomba, who is needed by Benghazi, and an injury to Simba Sithole further depletes their firepower. Bostwana have also been affected and will be without Galabgwe Moyana, who will instead play for his South African club Polokwane in their relegation play-off.
Sierra Leone and Uganda are other nations among the top 20 African countries in the Fifa rankings playing preliminary ties. A Leone Stars side guided by young Northern Ireland coach Johnny McKinstry visits Swaziland while the Cranes travel to Indian Ocean island Madagascar. The rankings suggest comfortable overall victories for Sierra Leone and Uganda with both ranked more than 30 places above their opponents.
Nations Cup debutants South Sudan are away to Mozambique, whose captain Elias Pelembe has played down the absence of key players. "I don't think out team will be weakened, we already won games without some players - and everyone who is available is just as important," he told BBC Sport. "We know it will be an open game and we want to score enough goals to end the tie after the first leg."
Kenya are expected to build a comfortable lead when they host the Comoros Islands. Seychelles received a walkover into the third round when The Gambia were banned from all Caf competitions for two years over age cheating in the African youth championship.
First Round First Leg ties
• 17.05.2014: Mauritania vs Eq Guinea 1:0
• 17.05.2014: Namibia vs Congo 1:0
• 17.05.2014: Sao Tome vs Benin 0:2
• 17.05.2014: Malawi vs Chad 2:0
• 18.05.2014: Liberia vs Lesotho
• 18.05.2014: Kenya vs Comoros
• 18.05.2014: Madagascar vs Uganda
• 18.05.2014: Libya vs Rwanda
• 18.05.2014: Burundi vs Botswana
• 18.05.2014: CAR vs Guinea-Bissau
• 18.05.2014: Swaziland vs Sierra Leone
• 18.05.2014: Tanzania vs Zimbabwe
• 18.05.2014 : Mozambique vs South Sudan