Algeria began the match as clear favourites, but were 2-0 down by half-time thanks to goals from Russel Mwafulirwa and Elvis Kafoteka. Dave Banda added a third after 49 minutes to end any thoughts of an Algeria comeback.
An early angled strike from Abdelkader Ghezzal was saved by Malawi goalkeeper Swadick Sanudi after five minutes. Ghezzal had another chance moments later but could not find the target. After eight minutes, Russel found a yard in the Algeria box but headed wide under pressure from Madjid Bougherra.
Malawi surprised their opponents in the 17th minute when they took the lead in somewhat fortuitous fashion. Algeria goalkeeper Faouzi Chaouchi attempted to clear a long ball but only succeeded in smashing the ball straight into the advancing Essau Kanyenda. The ball broke to Russel, who gleefully hammered the ball home.
Rafik Saifi had a great chance to level after 24 minutes when he was played through by Karim Ziani's ball over the top but he sent a lobbed effort over the bar.
Ten minutes before the break it was 2-0 as Kafoteka rose highest to head home Hellings Mwakasungula's cross following a short corner. Algeria's day got even worse four minutes after the break.
Chaouchi flapped at a cross and the ball fell to Russel. His shot hit the post and an attempted clearance from Bougherra broke to Banda, who finally smashed the ball home. It was the last action of the match from Banda, who injured himself in scoring and limped off the pitch moments later.
Mustapha Yatabare headed over when he should have pulled one back for Algeria, while at the other end Chiukepo Msowoya headed into the side netting. But it was a deflated Algeria team by that point and they offered little in the closing stages as Malawi went top of Group A.