Richard Mbulu scored after 16 minutes to give Malawi a 1-0 Group B victory over Uganda on Monday, and qualification for the 2021 Africa Cup of Nations.

The 27-year-old forward headed powerfully past Uganda goalkeeper Denis Onyango off a cross from former Atletico Madrid youth squad member Robin Ngalande.

It was the second time in six days that a goal from the South Africa-based attacker proved decisive as he also scored in last Wednesday’s 1-0 win over South Sudan.

The son of a former footballer, Mbulu was based in Mozambique twice and Portugal before signing a three-year contract with South African Premiership club Baroka in 2019.

Hosts Malawi needed maximum points at Kamuzu Stadium in commercial capital Blantyre to secure a first appearance since 2010 while a draw would have sufficed for Uganda.

Victory temporarily took Malawi to the top of the table with 10 points — they were overtaken three hours later when fellow qualifiers Burkina Faso defeated South Sudan 1-0 in Ouagadougou.

Aston Villa forward Bertrand Traore scored the Burkinabe goal on 50 minutes as the team finished unbeaten a six-match qualifying campaign spanning 17 months.

Popularly known as the Flames, Malawi are ranked 123rd in the world, 40 places below Uganda, and will be making a third appearance at the finals after first-round exits from the 1984 and 2010 editions.

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