Nomads’ worst enemy
TNM Super League’s first phase is gradually getting to its logical conclusion. It might not be premature for optimists to start sieving the chaff from the wheat and for the pessimists to look warily over their shoulders at the bottom half of the 16-member log table.
Because this is not a splint but a marathon, expect more twists to the tale along the humps and bends on the highway to the championship. Especially in the second round.
Premature as it might seem, it is safe to suggest that a leading batch is breaking clear from the rest, giving a picture of title hopefuls and relegation hopeless ones.
So be careless a little bit and take the risk of appraising the first round. Kamuzu Barracks (KB) look every bit a pale imitation of their championship self.
Last year’s runner up, Nyasa Big Bullets, are surprisingly yet to come out of their blocks. Bullets are misfiring dangerously. Silver Strikers have started strongly, but too many draws may prove to be their undoing. Moyale Barracks and Blue Eagles are the dark horses. Be Forward Wanderers are, on paper, favourites but…
Silver, having captured the inaugural Airtel Top 8 Cup from the noses of the cup specialists Wanderers, have not hidden their desire to make it a double with the league gold, but they need to score more, grind out results and, more importantly, minimise draws.
Motivating a team after winning a cup is also not easy. Three wins and five draws in eight games is costly. Little wonder, despite being the only unbeaten team in the league, Silver are ninth on the table with 14 points.
Moyale, KB and Eagles can win it but it is not in their hands. They should pray that the big three—Silver, Bullets and Wanderers—should stumble as was the case last year.
Bullets are way too inconsistent. They look weak in defence and upfront with few players in form. Three defeats by 2-1 margins against Moyale, Eagles and Silver on the road sum up it all for the People’s Team. Last season, Bullets lost twice only and still, they could not win the championship.
The return of Chiukepo Msowoya and the signing of Nelson Kangunje could see Bullets find their feet, but time is not their ally, considering they have already dropped 15 points.
Nonetheless, caretaker Coach, Elia Kananji, is still optimistic of good results, saying “there is no need to panic. There is still a long way to go and I hope we will recover in time.”
In-fighting, the closure of the favourite hunting ground of Kamuzu Stadium plus poor transfer business in the pre-season might have contributed to Bullets’ struggles.
At Nankhaka, under Audloy Makonyola, Eagles have taken time to click into attacking gear, and, in the likes of Micium Mhone, Ackim Kazombo, Maxwell Mwanyongo, Steve Chagoma, Gilbert Chirwa and John Soko, Eagles have the experience and quality to stage a late coup for the championship.
For KB, the reality of last season’s shock title seizure has not sunk in them. They are still on a honeymoon. Last season, they also had a slow start, but 11 points from nine games means 16 points dropped. Coach, Billy Phambala, needs plan B to get things sorted out before it is too late. If it is not too late already.
Moyale, with Deus Nkutu, back in the scoring business, joining Khuda Muyaba, are playing with all the freedom knowing few expect them to win the championship. Moyale seem to have drawn inspiration from KB and are ready to pounce in case the so-called favourites stumble along the way.
So while it is risky and careless business ruling them out of the championship equation, Silver, KB, Bullets and Moyale, there is every reason to stick the favourites’ orange/blue tag on Wanderers.
The Nomads are dictating matters, having collected 22 points from a maximum 27—by kilometres their brightest start to the league since 2006 when they last won it.
Last season, Wanderers finished on sixth place with 49 points after losing seven games. In 2015, Wanderers finished on fourth place with 45 points, having lost nine games. Some 11 defeats in 2014 when they finished on ninth place with 37 points was the Nomads’ worst form in the league’s history.
This is why, this season, the Nomads are favourites. They have hit 22 points already and if they finish the first round with 35 points or more, then the blue side of town can start believing that they can win their long-awaited sixth league title.
To win the league, you need to hit the 60-point mark. In 2016, KB won the title with 61 points, Bullets did it with 66 and 62 points in 2015 and 2014 seasons.
However, while the scales seem tipped in Wanderers’ favour, the Nomads are their own worst enemies. They have a bad habit of winning games before they play.
A six-game run without conceding all ended in a 2-1 win over Red Lions, followed by the loss of the perfect record after losing 2-0 to revived Civil Sporting Club in Lilongwe over the weekend.
Strikers Amos Bello, Peter Wadabwa and Ishmael Thindwa are out injured but such is the depth in quality at Coach Yasin Osman’s disposal that the Nomads are capable of fielding two strong teams in the league.
It is just the finer details that tend to betray the Lali Lubani Road. A surprise goalless draw against depleted Azam Tigers was followed by yet another struggle in 2-1 win over Lions before the wheels came off in the loss to Civil.
The trend continued in midweek when they survived the scare of Fish Eagles in a performance that did not please Osman.
“I am not happy with our performance. We underrated and underestimated them. They played better than we expected. We need to change our mentality. We must never undermine any team,” Osman said in a post-match interview at Balaka Stadium.
Wanderers’ players have an attitude problem and this weekend’s clashes against bottom-placed Chitipa United today and Eagles tomorrow are a litmus test. The league title could be for Wanderers to lose.
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