Nyasa Big Bullets summoned an invisible helping hand of the rain, magical goalkeeping and the brilliance of strikers, who rarely strike, to clear perhaps their biggest stumbling block to TNM Super League title retention—Mafco and their Richard Mbulu.
Musa Manyenje and Muhamad Sulumba, strikers whose names have not been synonymous with scoring this season, netted in each half as Bullets rose to second place on the 16-member table with 48 points from 26 games, one point behind surprise leaders, Kamuzu Barracks (KB).
Bullets remain unbeaten at home just like KB, who have also played 26 games.
Bullets and KB’s cause was helped by previous leaders, Blue Eagles’ 1-0 loss to Azam Tigers yesterday. The cops settled for third place with 48 points. Mafco dropped to fourth on 46 points as Silver Strikers remain fifth after a 0-0 draw against Premier Bet Wizards.
At the Blantyre arena, the heavens opened before Evidence Kananji’s opening whistle, rendering the pitch greasy and with it, deciding the course of the game, which was more about efficiency other than substance.
This was a game characterised by directness and mistakes in the penalty area. Mafco committed theirs and got punished. Bullets got away with it.
Manyenje, who only scores beauties, ghosted in the box to fire in an absolute stunner which even Mafco’s goalkeeper, Dalitso Makunganya, admired as it kissed the back of the net in the 27th minute.
The crowd that had defied the rains in the terraces, jumped up in celebration while also keeping themselves warm.
However, there is no doubt that the complexion of the game could have easily changed minutes earlier had Bullets goalkeeper, Ernest Kakhobwe, not produced top-drawer saves that seemed to defy logic and gravity, saving with his hands and feet, not once but thrice.
Bullets survived and Mafco were deflated.
And when Bullets went in front, they had found a way of dealing with Stan Malata’s presence in Mafco’s midfield, which they gladly by-passed knowing that Manyenje was in true element helped by the endless running Sulumba.
Mafco arrived on the pitch with the obvious threat posed by Mbulu, who had in the previous day’s 1-1 draw with Red Lions, registered his 18th goal of the season.
But the problem is that Mafco wasted Mbulu’s energy in asking him to drop deep and chase every ball when it was clear that in the few times, he turned and shot on target, he was deadly lurking in the box.
Saidi Mtekama’s company upfront did not complement Mbulu’s clever runs and shoot-on sight instincts.
Bullets hit long balls upfront, knowing Mafco were wasteful and toothless in attack. The withdrawal of Bernard Harawa for Joseph Donsa solved one problem while creating another for Mafco.
Yes, the big Donsa flicked in the balls for Mbulu, but Harawa’s departure meant there was no one to whip in the balls from the right wing.
Bullets counter-attacking game yielded more dividends as Manyenje picked Sulumba with a long ball in the channels before the big forward raced clear to slot in the second in the 62nd minute.
It was now a question of game management for Bullets. The hosts pulled out Fischer Kondowe for McFarlen Ngwira, but the veteran winger did not like this. He vented his frustrations by throwing water bottles.
However, Ngwira, who was eventually joined by Mike Mkwate killed off the tempo of the game as Bullets earned a lion’s share of possession.
Mafco were never to come back and after the final whistle, their Team Manager, Chawezi Ngwira blamed the loss on alleged harassment by Bullets fans, who he said, locked his team out of the stadium for close to an hour.
“We tried to talk to the players to focus on the game but they were clearly frustrated. Furthermore, we made one or two mistakes which cost us the game and the substitutions came a big late,” Ngwira said.
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