BY PETER KANJERE & MABVUTO KAMBUWE
The TNM Super League championship race looks certain to go down to the wire after defending champions Nyasa Big Bullets and their close pursuers Be Forward Wanderers won their respective games yesterday.
Midfielder Chimwemwe Idana and substitute striker Chiukepo Msowoya’s second half goals inspired Bullets to a hard fought 2-0 win over Kamuzu Barracks (KB) at Kamuzu Stadium yesterday whereas Wanderers breached Masters Security FC 1-0 through left-back Ted Sumani’s effort at Nankhaka Ground in Lilongwe.
Bullets have 58 points from 26 games, one point ahead of Wanderers who are yet to meet Mponela Mlatho, TN Stars (away), Mighty Tigers and Karonga United (at home) whereas the People’s Team’s remaining assignments are against Civil Sporting Club, Silver Strikers (away), Moyale Barracks and Stars (at home).
What mattered in both games yesterday was about getting over the line. With 39 points from 28 games, KB are out of the race that is now between the Blantyre rivals.
At the giant stadium where a sun-kissed afternoon was softened by rains, it took Bullets coach Kallisto Pasuwa’s inspired substitutions to see off KB through Idana’s cheeky chip from a 60th minute rebound that broke the resistance of man-of-the-match goalkeeper Bonage Lweya for KB.
Hopes of KB, who beat Bullets in the first round, coming back into the contest were dashed as Msowoya atoned for his earlier shocking miss to power into the net a thumping diving header with two minutes to full-time.
That the first half ended goalless was down to the inspired and sometimes breath-taking saves of the towering Lweya.
However, the keeper’s hard-work was undone by Idana who sent into the net an audacious chip after Lweya had gone down hoping to grab Bullets striker Hassan Kajoke’s low onto the path of Idana who finished with ease.
Earlier, Lweya dived to his right to punch Bullets winger Peter Banda’s curling free-kick straight on the feet of Msowoya, who sent his rebound against the post and out of play.
However, there was eventually no denying Msowoya as he guided a cross from the left into the net with the ball slipping through Lweya’s palms due to its sheer raw force and power.
The goals changed the complexion of the game which KB controlled in the first half when Ephraim Mpachika, Harazi and Harvey Nkacha combined to thwart Bullets playmaker Mkwate’s efforts.
Bullets suffered a set-back early in the first half as defender Sankhani Mkandawire was replaced by Yamikani Fodya after suffering a shoulder injury.
However, all the struggles changed after the second half turn around which assistant coach Heston Munthali, in a post-match interview, attributed to the substitutions.
“In first half, they marked us tightly and that is why we made three changes in the second half that helped us to get back into the game. Anything can happen now. We just have to focus on our assignments,” Munthali said.
KB assistant coach, Ted Kalinda, said their last four hopes are over.
“I salute the boys who had a good first half but in the second half they relaxed and this cost us the game,” Kalinda said.
In Lilongwe, Wanderers built on their 2-0 win over Dwangwa United on Sunday to see off Masters, thanks to Sumani’s strike from a goal-mouth scramble which came from an Isaac Kaliati’s corner kick.
In a post-match interview, Wanderers coach, Bob Mpinganjira, described the game as one of the toughest this season.
“They came with a plan to frustrate us but we got the chance and scored the goal. We have four games remaining and we will work hard to get good results,” Mpinganjira said.
Masters assistant coach, Jabil Maliro, said his charges put up a gallant fight.
“We conceded a silly goal but all is not lost. We have to fight in the remaining matches so that we should survive in the league,” he said.
The race continues this weekend when Bullets face Silver at Silver Stadium whereas Wanderers host Karonga United at Kamuzu Stadium.