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How Civo stunned Big Bullets

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To Big Bullets supporters’ credit, they spared time in the deserted Kamuzu Stadium eastern terraces to salute their players—even at this darkest Thursday hour when a Standard Bank Knock- Out Cup dream vanished into the looming dusk.

It was in Bullets’ technical director, Billy Tewesa’s own admission, a bad day at the office for Bullets as they lost 2-1 to Civo United in the cup’s semifinal.

“We were not ourselves. We did not play as a team. We cannot blame a particular player. It was just a bad day for us. Credit to Civo. They played well. We will just concentrate on the league,” Tewesa admitted in a post-match interview.

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A fair share of credit goes to Civo mentor Oscar Kaunda, who got his tactics spot-on, set a trap in which Bullets played in vain.

Civo stifled Bullets’ creativity in midfield and crippled their wingers. The rest of the plan of winning all first balls, outmuscling Bullets and pressing all over pitch worked with aplomb for Civo.

It was, in one analyst’s observation, a fine line between Bullets coaches watching the game and Kaunda reading the game.

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“The guys worked really hard,” Kaunda said.

Yet, in the build up to this game, the mere thought of defeating Bullets at home in a competitive outing this season, was until Thursday, so remote a fantasy to most opposition.

Bullets had been unbeaten at home for a long time and remain so this season in the TNM Super League, so when Civo ousted Bullets from the cup they have never won, the context was there for all to see.

Civo won the game just when they conceded Chiukepo Msowoya’s goal in the 17th minute.

The visitors won it when they refused to drop their heads, give way to a torrent of frustrations and, as most visitors at the stadium do, ‘fight with’ referee Dennis Nguluwe.

Bullets’ former player Blessings Kawanga was tasked with policing Msowoya, but for a moment he allowed him free and he headed in the opener from Yamikani Fodya’s free-kick.

Immediately, a crow landed on the pitch, Bullets winger Dalitso Sailesi who was enduring a miserable outing on the field, grabbed the bird and threw it back into the terraces. All seemed fine for Bullets.

However, Civo shifted responsibility of marking Msowoya to Emmanuel Zoya then John Lanjesi who completely frustrated the big centre forward.

Sailesi and MacFarlen Ngwira were having no room to dance in the wings, Dan Msimuko and Nelson Kangunje stifled the Bullets midfield. Msowoya, was using his big frame and power, fighting a lone battle.

And when Thoko Harrison arrived as a substitute on the left wing, Bullets even after pulling out Ngwira for Fischer Kondowe, had no reply. Harrison and Isaac Msiska stretched Bullets. Zoya and Wyson Nkana thwarted all Bullets wingers.

Civo were fitter and won all first balls.

“We followed the coach’s instructions to the letter. We were to frustrate them and not allow them to cross the ball. The initial plan was that they must not score first early in the game. Even when they did, we kept our cool,” captain Zoya explained.

So when Raphael Phiri rose the highest to head into the net from Zoya free-kick, Bullets’ makeshift central defensive partnership of hesitant Chikondi Likwemba and out-of-depth Miracle Gabeya was exposed.

Having failed to penetrate through the wing largely due to a lack of a big centre forward, Civo were now slicing the Bullets defence in the middle open with quick decisive through balls.

Phiri added the second goal and Bullets were never to come back.

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