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Tale of Big Bullets, Wanderers

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By Peter Kanjere:

DROPPING POINTS—Bullets

Nyasa Big Bullets have a pathological hatred for defeats—any loss irrespective of a game. And such hatred takes a desperate turn when the blue-orange side of Blantyre is developing an unusual habit of winning every game.

Unfortunately, such is the state of TNM Super League affairs unfolding in the Bullets camp. Fortunately, winning is becoming Wanderers’ second nature.

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Just 10 games played, eight wins, one loss and one draw— there is no shed of doubt that Wanderers are on the fast lane— cruising on a highway that can lead them to salvation.

Some 11 games played, five wins, two defeats and three draws—there is also no question that Bullets are crawling on a bumpy path that, if still pursued, can lead them to destruction.

But hold your breath. The 2019 Super League season is yet to hit its halfway mark. The last five and four games that Wanderers and Bullets have to play to conclude the first round would tell us the full story.

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At this stage, Wanderers are leading the sprint and it remains to be seen if they would maintain the momentum required in this marathon.

However, Bullets know better that how your start a league campaign is as good as how you finish.

Until this season, Wanderers were slow starters to league campaigns, dropping points unnecessarily only to peak in form late in the season when all is complicated.

So why are Wanderers cruising when all seemed complicated at the start of the season when they suffered three consecutive defeats in games of all competitions—3-1 (against Blue Eagles), 1-0 and 1-0 (both to Silver Strikers)?

For a start, Wanderers started the season in a manner you would expect them. New batch of players thrown into the starting XI. Weakening commitment and morale followed by? You guessed right. Infighting off the pitch leading to the expulsion of assistant coach Allan Kamanga and team manager Steve Madeira.

Coach Bob Mpinganjira survived by the skin of his teeth. The coming in of his younger brother Albert and more importantly, Oscar Kaunda on the coaching panel calmed things up.

Kaunda hit the ground running, taking charge of team selection and finding the right partner for towering striker Babatunde Adepoju whose combination with either Zicco Mkanda or Francisco Madinga was either a source of confusion or duplication.

Against anybody’s expectations, unheralded Vincent Nyangulu was handed starts alongside the Nigerian upfront. Questions of who should partner Alfred Manyozo in midfield ended when Francis Mkonda was entrusted with that job with Madinga pushed wide.

Result? Wanderers might not be at their fluent best but Babatunde, Madinga, Nyangulu and Mkonda’s individual brilliance is winning the Nomads games. And so is Nenani Juwaya’s assured displays between the poles. However, there is a long way to go in the season.

There are times Wanderers’ midfield is unable to find its rhythm as Manyozo and Mkonda appear more of a duplication—sitting too deep.

The Nomads have also benefitted from playing seven games at home against relatively weaker opposition. Apart from away games against Karonga, Chitipa and Civil Sporting Club, the Nomads have been home at Kamuzu Stadium. A trip to face Silver Strikers today is a test for Wanderers’ revival.

There is no shade of doubt that Wanderers are going about their Super League business in efficient fashion that would usually associate with Bullets every season.

But a combination of injuries, and chopping and changing the squad have seen Bullets looking a pale shadow of themselves.

Bullets have never been the same since John Lanjesi got injured. The absence of Miracle Gabeya and Precious Sambani has compounded the problem.

Of course, injuries are, as Bullets administrator Albert Chigoga admitted in an interview with one radio station during the week, “a lame excuse” because the team signed 30 players.

Chigoga believes Bullets’ struggles are due to technical reasons. Very true. Bullets are a team in transition with Coach Calisto Pasuwa so brave enough to feature novices Hassan Kajoke, Peter Banda, Chimwemwe Idana and Charles Petro in the starting 11.

However, Pasuwa had enough time to blend his squad and have it playing his fast-on-the ball and dynamic way of switching positions all the time when in action.

Bullets could have some moment of respite in the last four first-round games as they would be at home against relatively weak opponents.

On the other hand, it would be unfair talking about the league without mentioning Blue Eagles and Kamuzu Barracks (KB).

KB have rediscovered the mojo that turned them into unlikely kings in 2016 whereas Eagles are also very much in the mix alongside the second most winners of the top flight league.

Eagles are specialising in defeating the giants, with Wanderers, Silver and Bullets being their casualties. Elsewhere, KB are consistent; little wonder they lead the standings.

In Area 47, the Bankers have won the Airtel Top 8 but in the league, they are dropping too many points. Overall, there is no doubt that Wanderers are leading the league chase but you cannot rule out Bullets, KB and Silver.

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