By Isaac Salima:
Red Lions learnt a bitter lesson when they gave away a 1-0 lead to allow Nyasa Big Bullets to equalise and wing into the semifinals of the Carlsberg Cup courtesy of a 4-3 win on penalties at Kamuzu Stadium in Blantyre yesterday.
Lions returned to Zomba having learnt that football is about making the most of scoring chances and not faking injuries to kill time.
The soldiers came with guns blazing and looked geared to become only the second team to inflict defeat on Bullets when they settled down quickly and dominated the proceedings.
Lions took the lead 22 minutes in the first half when Royal Bokosi finished off a curling cross from the right.
Bullets were second best on the day as the fast, aggressive and tough soldiers did their homework well by closing all the spaces to keep the People’s Team in their own half.
The second half provided nothing new with Bullets failing to create scoring chances as Chikoti Chirwa, McPeter Makwale and Willard John combined well to smother their opponents’ attacking machinery.
Just as a historic victory looked imminent for the soldiers, referee Godfrey Nkhakananga added 11 minutes and Bullets started believing in their ability to turn things around.
As pressure continued to mount, a Lions defender handled the ball in the danger zone and Nkhakananga immediately awarded a spotkick.
Defender Yamikani Fodya made no mistake to send Bullets fans into wild celebrations. The game then went into penalty shootouts with Bullets scoring four times.
Lions’ Ernest Nkasauka and Cester Khemula saw their kicks going the wrong way to give the Bullets the ticket to the last four.
Red Lions Coach Stereo Gondwe had no kind words for the officiating personnel as he faced the reality of getting booted out from the cup.
“We played well and we should have won the game but the referee wanted Bullets to proceed and that is exactly what he has done. Delaying tactics are part of the game and you cannot blame any team for deploying them. We are not happy with what he has done,” Gondwe said.
Bullets coach Rodgers Yasini said his team was lucky to win the game: “We did not play well today but the most important thing is that we have made it.”
Meanwhile, Hangover have caused another upset in the Carlsberg Cup after beating TNM Super League side Blue Eagles by one goal to nil.
In a match played at Balaka Stadium, Hangover scored with just a minute to go before full time through Rabson Richard to condemn Eagles to their third consecutive loss.
Hangover pulled the first shock in the competition’s round of 16 after beating another Super League giant Moyale. The semifinal draw will be conducted today during the game between Be Forward Wanderers and Tigers at Kamuzu Stadium.
Mafco and Masters Security also meet at Civo Stadium in Lilongwe to determine the other semifinalist.
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