NYASA Big Bullets’ clean-shaven assassin Nelson Kangunje waited for the perfect time and stage to announce his arrival in the red side of town— against his former employers, Civil Sporting Club, formerly Civo United, at Chilomoni Stadium in Blantyre yesterday.
Against the remnants of the Lilongwe team, he led to the now defunct Standard Bank Knock-Out Cup glory in 2015, Kangunje had the cheek to score twice and even wheel his way to the corner flag to celebrate uncontrollably. It was a typical case of utter betrayal.
He celebrated in the presence of his frustrated former coach Oscar Kaunda and team mates who buried their heads in palms in utter dejection. Bullets proceed to the Carlsberg Cup round of 16 to date Kamuzu Barracks whereas Civil are back to the tactical drawing board.
Kangunje scored in the 48th and 79th minutes against his former employers, who netted their consolation through Patrick Thupi in the 66th minute at the venue that teemed with fans.
Civil donned Civo United branded green and gold uniform whereas Bullets wore their TNM Super League uniform.
And the performance of Civil was reminiscent of their old beautiful self— adventurous, purposeful and thrilling on attack, but with no bite in the final third.
Strikers Righteous Banda and Raphael Phiri took turns to expose the diminishing pace of left back Yamikani Fodya whereas Thupi caged out of-sorts Chimango Kayira to leave struggling strikers Chiukepo Msowoya and Diverson Mlozi isolated and clashing with their own shadows.
That both teams went to break goalless was due to Civil’s Joseph Kachule’s terrible wastage in front of goal. He headed over the bar when he met a cut-back before, after the restart, sending his direct free-kick into the side-netting.
On the other end, Bullets lacked pace, width and penetration in Civil’s crowded half as the visitors won all first balls, passed in angles and put numbers behind the ball to close all the spaces.
It was unsurprising that Fischer Kondowe, Mlozi and Kangunje could only have their efforts ruled offside by assertive referee Dennis Ngulube.
Both teams made substitutions. It was Bullets interim Coach, Elia Kananji’s removal of Kondowe, Kayira and Mlozi for McFarlen Mgwira, Kondwani Kumwenda and Mike Mkwate, respectively, that turned the game on its head.
Mkwate kept possession while exploiting gaps and spraying passes across the field. Soon Bullets were in front as Captain John Lanjesi pumped the ball into Civil’s penalty area. Msowoya chested it for Mlozi who, in turn, flicked the ball for a sprawling Kangunje to toe-poke the ball past goalkeeper Tione Tembo.
Kangunje came so mightily close to grabbing his second but Tembo smothered the midfielder’s volley from close range. A few minutes later, Civo levelled matters as Thupi rose the highest to glance in a corner kick from the right.
Eventually, Bullets earned the winner in dramatic fashion as Tembo hesitated to clear a ball which his defender had left for him to deal with, only for the chipped ball from range to bounce past the advancing keeper.
Civil pushed men up in search for an equaliser but substitute Fletcher Banda, who replaced Calvin Thotho, had his effort ruled off side and his other attempts failed to get past Bullets gloveman Ernest Kakhobwe. Civil played and Bullets only scored.
After the match, Civil Coach, Frank Ndawa, accepted the result whereas the rest of his backroom team had no kind words for referee Ngulube for what they felt was his biased officiation in the second half.
“I am very proud of my boys because they played well. There are times when some things happen beyond your control,” Ndawa said whereas Kananji admitted that his charges struggled against the visitors.
Bullets: Kakhobwe, Lanjesi, Maneno Nyoni, Miracle Gabeya, Fodya, Kayira (Kondwani Kumwenda), Kangunje, Mlozi (Mkwate), K ondowe ( Mgwira ) , Benard Chimayimba, Msowoya.
Civil: Tembo, Banda, John Dambuleni, Gomezgani Chirwa, Willard Dickson, Isaac Msiska, Joseph Kachule, Thupi, Calvin Thotho (Bandawe), Phiri, Larence Chaziya. Referee: Ngulube.
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