Conventional football wisdom says to win a league championship you must, at all cost, avoid defeats at home and to fellow title contenders.
Silver Strikers, last season’s third-placed and eight-time champions, just lost on both fronts when the TNM Super League season kicked off last Saturday after going down 1-2 to holders, Be Forward Wanderers, at Silver Stadium in Lilongwe.
The Bankers surrendered a 1-0 first-half lead earned through Mphatso Philemon’s goal, before Peter Wadabwa’s brace brought relief to Coach Yasin Osman.
“I salute the boys for a good performance. They really showed character to come back from one goal down,” Osman told the press in a post-match interview.
The Nomads’ win proved that a week is too long in football as, before the game, there was talk that the team’s management had issued an ultimatum to the Osman-led coaching panel following two losses during the Charity Shield matches played at Bingu National Stadium in Lilongwe.
The poor pre-season performance came on the back of well-chronicled squabbles over the captaincy between Esau Kanyenda and Joseph Kamwendo. The questionable behaviour of Stanley Sanudi and Jafali Chande simply made matters worse.
Perhaps that explained why against Silver, Osman featured more hungry-for-action youth in his starting XI namely William Thole, Precious Sambani, Denis Chembezi and Peter Cholopi.
Wanderers host financially-troubled Masters Security at Balaka Stadium this afternoon.
Silver were the only member of the league’s big-three that stuttered in the opening week as the following day, Nyasa Big Bullets saw off Kamuzu Barracks 1-0 through Chiukepo Msowoya’s first-half header.
So, the microscope that had pointed to the Lali Lubani Road after a sloppy pre-season showing has shifted to Area 47.
Pressure should be on the Bankers this weekend when they welcome 2016 surprise champions, Kamuzu Barracks tomorrow, the same day that other giants Bullets entertain Moyale Barracks at Kalulu Stadium in Nchalo, Chikwawa District.
After assembling a strong squad with the likes of Jack Chiona, Philemoni, Lazarus Nyemera, Newman Mwamsamale, Zikani Kasambara, Collen Nkhulambe, Prince Phiri and Khuda Muyaba, more was expected from Silver who are the league’s second highest winners.
Silver Team Manager, Francis Songo, after Saturday’s game, refused to read too much into the result, saying it did not reflect their lion’s share of the proceedings.
“It is just that the rains affected our rhythm of play and that is why Wanderers scored both goals when the rains started,” Songo insisted.
Elsewhere, Bullets Coach, Rodgers Yasini, looks set to play his cards around experienced players, as apart from Bright Munthali, the rest of the squad that defeated Kamuzu Barracks comprised seasoned campaigners such as John Lanjesi, Pilirani Zonda, Yamikani Fodya, Chimango Kayira, Nelson Kangunje, Msowoya and Fischer Kondowe.
If Msowoya can continue banging them in and Fodya and company keep it watertight at the back, then Wanderers and Silver have their work cut out in the championship race.
So going into the second week, Bullets look sharp upfront and strong at the back, Wanderers showed character to ease their crisis talk, leaving questions of pedigree on the door of Silver.
In other games played on Saturday, Nchalo United travelled to Mzuzu where they beat Mzuni FC 1-0 courtesy of Ishmael Ziyembe before drawing 1-1 with Moyale Barracks the following day after Gastin Simkonda had put the hosts ahead only for Ian Banda to level matters.
However, Nchalo returned home with just a point after Super League of Malawi docked the team three points after being found guilty of attempted match-fixing last season.
On the same day, rookies TN Stars lost at home 4-1 to Blue Eagles whose John Malidadi Junior scored a brace while being joined on the score-sheet by Gregory Nachipo and Dennis Nandolo.
John Maludzi scored Stars’ consolation, the absence of Coach Meke Mwase was clearly felt by the rookies.
“It hurt so much learning that we lost by that margin at home but there is nothing I can do since I am on national team duty,” Mwase, who is with the under-20 national team, said.
Still in the Central Region, Red Lions beat Dwangwa United 2-0 with Benesi Kaisi and Matthews Simbeye on target before forcing a 2-2 draw with Mafco the following day at the same Chitowe Stadium.
Alexander Sikwambe and Gift Soko scored for Mafco whereas Royal Bokosi provided the response for the Lions, who lead the standings with four points from two games, followed by Wanderers.
Elsewhere, Masters and Civil Sporting Club drew 1-1 whereas newcomers Karonga United and Tigers settled for a scoreless draw.
Logistically, teams from the Southern Region are likely to dig deeper to fulfil games as all major stadiums in the region are undergoing renovations, meaning that they will be playing all their matches away this season.
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