Kamuzu Stadium crowd gave Fischer Kondowe a standing ovation as the TNM Super League’s current longest serving player returned to action in Nyasa Big Bullets’ 2-1 win over adventurous Ntopwa FC Sunday.
The introduction of Kondowe, who has played Super League football for 16 years having made his debut in 1997, in the last five minutes of the game for injured Peter Banda was the major talking point for Bullets who labored to see off the rookies.
Striker Hassan Kajoke and substitute Luke Chima struck in each half as Bullets went within two points of leaders Be Forward Wanderers.
Bullets have 46 points from 22 games, whereas Wanderers lead the 16-member log table with 48 points from similar number of games.
When Kondowe, who has played in the Super League from 1997 to 2004 then from 2010 to this year with the rest of the years spent in South Africa, brought life to the stadium—the winger’s every touch of the ball attracted applause.
In the context of the game, Bullets remain in the hunt of the title but the same cannot be said of Silver Strikers and Kamuzu Barracks (KB) whose title hopes faded after losing in separate assignments yesterday.
At Kamuzu Stadium, the meeting was for teams on different missions—Bullets seeking to put back on track their title chase following last week’s 0-0 draw at Mlatho Mponela whereas for Ntopwa, it was about fighting for Super League survival. Ntopwa have since slipped from third to second-from-bottom with 20 points from 23 games while Mponela moved to 14th place after beating fifth-placed KB 1-0 yesterday courtesy of Patrick Banda’s goal.
KB have 39 points from 25 games.
In yesterday’s game, Bullets coach Kallisto Pasuwa changed his starting XI with attacking midfielder Nelson Kangunje and left-back Yamikani Fodya handed rare starts whereas Patrick Phiri partnered Hassan Kajoke upfront.
Bullets were without striker Chiukepo Msowoya, defender Precious Sambani and midfielder Mike Mkwate through injury.
Ntopwa, who stunned Civil Sporting Club 2-1 the previous Sunday at the same venue, missed striker Friday Osagie leaving Raquib Milanzi as the rookies’ focal point of attack.
Bullets took time to come out of their blocks with defender Nickson Nyasulu’s header that flashed off target after connecting Banda’s corner kick from the left in the second minute being the only threat which the champions posed to Ntopwa.
The rookies were increasingly growing in confidence, Chikondi Kamanga and Josaya Duwa stood firm in defence whereas left winger Richard Rabson caused Bullets problems with his bustling runs.
Against the run of play, Kajoke scrambled in the opener in the 35th minute after Ntopwa had failed to clear their lines.
In the second half, Pasuwa pulled out Kangunje for Henry Kabichi before Chima came in for Phiri.
Ntopwa coach Trevor Kajawa withdrew Milanzi for Kudakwache Sauzande to add fire power to the frontline.
However, while Ntopwa delighted neutrals with their intricate passing, runs on and off the ball, the final ball was as poor as the finishing.
However, that changed briefly as Mphatso Magaleta leveled matters from the penalty spot after Nyasulu had fouled Richard in the 64 minute.
Ntopwa continued to dominate but they could not get a goal.
On the other hand, Bullets quality proved decisive as Banda created the second goal which Chima bundled across the goalline in controversial circumstances as Ntopwa thought referee Ishmael Chizinga would blow for offside in the 82nd minute.
Minutes before the goal, Chizinga had flagged Kajoke’s effort offside.
The game finished with the fans cheering whenever Kondowe played the ball.
In other games, hosts Moyale Barracks further dented Silver title hopes beating them 2-1 through Deus Nkutu and Llyod Njaliwa’s goals.
Mphatso Philimon scored the consolation for Silver who remain fourth on the log table with 41 points from 25 games.
Bullets: Rabson Chiyenda, Charles Petro, Nyasulu, Gomezgani Chirwa, Fodya, Chimwemwe Idana, Chimango Kayira, Kangunje (Kabichi), Banda (Kondowe), Hassan Kajoke, Phiri (Chima).
Ntopwa: Richard Chimbamba, Kingsley Beni, Chikondi Kamanga, Duwa, Magaleta, Victor Chirambo, Kondwani Saizi, Levison Chabwera, Rabson, Arthur Moffat, Milanzi (Sauzande).