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How Nyasa Big Bullets painted Malawi red

KINGS OF MALAWI FOOTBALL—Bullets celebrate with the league trophy

Peter Mponda

The curtain on the 2022-23 TNM Super League season came down with Nyasa Big Bullets finally lifting the coveted title in style with a 2-1 victory over Dedza Dynamos at Kamuzu Stadium in Blantyre on Saturday.

Bullets clinched the title for the fourth consecutive year with two matches to spare after nine months of intriguing football.

The feat sees the People’s Team continuing to dominate local football with a record 16th title in 36 years.

The champions amassed 73 points to break their own record of 71 points that they won the title with in 2018.

Since inception of the league in 1986, Bullets have won it more than any other side.

Silver Strikers are second at a distant eight titles with Mighty Mukuru Wanderers having won it on six occasions.

Defunct Escom United lifted the title twice whereas Civil Service United, Mighty Tigers, MDC United and Kamuzu Barracks have won it once each.

Bullets’ march to glory in the 2022 season started on March 19 with a 2-1 win over Mighty Mukuru Wanderers.

Unlike last season when they won with 62 points, just four above Silver, Bullets triumphed convincingly this year.

They were confirmed champions after beating Moyale 3-1, rendering their last two matches ceremonial.

However, Bullets showed no mercy on their opponents despite having already put the title in the bag.

Honestly, very few gave Bullets a chance to retain the title after releasing 11 experienced players including Chiukepo Msowoya, Chimango Kaira, Sankhani Mkandawire, Nelson Kangunje, Miracle Gabeya and Zicco Mkanda at the end of last season.

Bullets promoted several players from their reserve side including Patrick Mwaungulu and Kesten Simbi.

Probably, Pasuwa was playing mind games on his opponents who might have thought that the youngsters would struggle.

But they all hit the ground running to win Bullets the league title and the FDH Bank Cup.

Bullets were on course to finish the season without defeat but their 25-match unbeaten run came to a halt with a 1-0 loss to Mafco, courtesy of Zikani Sichinga.

In the just ended season, Bullets had the best home record with 12 wins and three draws.

On the road, they also collected more points than any other side with 10 wins, four draws and one loss.

Bullets were also the highest scoring team in the season with 69 goals against 21.

Bullets assistant coach Peter Mponda said his charges showed great character throughout the season.

’’Our target was to defend the title which was not easy with a youthful team. But things worked out well for us as the players were able to follow instructions in most of the games,’’ Mponda said.

However, it was not stroll in the park for Bullets on their way to the fourth consecutive title as Eagles gave them a good run for their money.

The Eagles rose from ashes after escaping relegation the previous season to finish as runners-up.

It was an incredible year for the cops who turned Nankhaka Stadium into a fortress with no loss at home.

They managed 10 victories at home with five draws. Away from home, Eagles won eight matches, drew four and lost thrice.

Coach Elia Kananji said he was satisfied with his charges’ performance.

“We tried our best to win the title but things did not work out as planned. We hope to come back stronger next season,” Kananji said.

Eagles, who are yet to win the league title, scored 39 goals but had most organised defence coupled with good goalkeeping as they conceded 10 goals in 30 matches.

Kamuzu Barracks also showed great character for the better part of the season to claim third spot with 57 points.

Wanderers endured another difficult campaign in the just-ended season after last winning the title in 2017.

On paper, the Nomads have a strong team but failed to live up to expectations having finished on position four with 56 points.

At home, Wanderers won nine matches, and drew and lost thrice.

The Nomads were bad travellers having won seven matches and drawn five with three losses.

But they were the second highest scorers with 53 goals, conceding 26.

Coach Mark Harrison said the Nomads are work in progress.

“We need to improve as a team. We will try to sign new players so that we strengthen the team for next season,’’ Harrison said.

The Nomads scored the highest number of goals in a single match when they thrashed Rumphi United 10-0.

For Silver, it was another season to forget as they finished outside the paid ranks for the first time in seven years.

A position five finish with 51 points is surely not what the Central Bankers had wished for in the just-ended season.

At home, Silver only managed six wins, six draws and three losses whereas on the road, they won eight matches, three draws and four losses. In the entire season, Silver scored 38 goals against 26.

The league had to part ways with its worst-performers and these are Sable Farming, Rumphi United and TN Stars.

Sable finished the season on position 14 with 24 points after starting the season with Joseph Malizani as head coach.

He was later replaced by Macdonald Mtetemera in the first round but the change was not enough to save their season.

Stars were relegated after four consecutive seasons with a poor home record of only two wins, four draws and nine losses.

On the road, they won two, drew once and lost 12 matches. Stars finished on position 15 and managed to find the back of the net 24 times but conceded 68 goals.

Rumphi had a debut season to forget, winning only three home matches, one draw and 11 losses. They lost all the 15 matches away from home.

They scored the least number of goals (15) in the entire campaign and had the most porous defence having leaked 73 goals in 30 matches.

The season also produced some moments of brilliance with Wanderers thrashing Rumphi 10-0.

The result saw the Nomads breaking their own record, a 9-1 thumping of University FC in the late 1990s.

Bullets registered the second highest victory after they beat Stars 8-0.

Super League of Malawi (Sulom) president Tiya Somba Banda said the season was one of the most exciting.

“We had a great season for sure. There were no major incidents of violence and hooliganism. We therefore commend all fans and their teams for maintaining discipline throughout. The quality of football was also good,” Somba Banda said.

The battle for the league title might have been decided with two matches to spare but the race for the Golden Boot award went to the wire.

But in the end, Bullets forward Babatunde Adepoju won his first golden boot award in the elite league with 18 goals, three better than Wanderers striker Muhammad Sulumba.

What a season it was.

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