Bullets draw Wanderers in Airtel Top 8 semis

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Nyasa Big Bullets will face Mighty Wanderers in the semi-finals of the Airtel Top 8.

The People’s Team on Sunday afternoon came from behind to beat MAFCO 1-2 in the second leg tie of the Airtel Top 8 quarter-finals at Chitowe Stadium to book a place in the semis against the Nomads, who beat Moyale Barracks at the same venue on Saturday.

Bullets had a 3-1 advantage heading into the match away to the Salima-based side, but needed to do more as their opponents came flat out in search of an early goal.

Kalisto Pasuwa made a single change to the side that won 3-1 in the reverse fixture at Kamuzu Stadium a fortnight ago by replacing Eric Kaonga with Sankhani Mkandawire.

From the word go, the hosts attacked from all cylinders through Paul Phiri, Yohane Malunga and Vitumbiko Phiri, but Miracle Gabeya’s led defence did well to avoid conceding an early goal.

In the 13th minute MAFCO were forced to make a change when they brought in Walusungu Mpata for injured Calisto Kalinda.

At the other end, Bullets created their first clear-cut chance in the 15th minute when Lanjesi Nkhoma made a brilliant run before releasing a square ball that found Chimwemwe Idana who failed to utilize from a tight angle for an easy save by Ronald Khunga.

The hosts broke the deadlock in the 17th minute when a ball from the left flank to Peter Kasonga created space for Paul Phiri, who wasted no time by releasing a strike which was just too much for Ernest Kakhobwe in goals for Bullets, 1-0.

The visitors were leaving dangerously and it took Gabeya’s brilliance to stop Malunga from doubling his side’s tally with a brilliant tackle.

Bullets should have leveled in the 28th minute through Hassan Kajoke, who connected well Ernest Petro’s corner kick only to be denied by Paul Ndhlovu’s clearance when Khunga was already beaten in the line of duty.

There were few chances created by both teams in the last five minutes of the opening half and they headed to the dressing rooms for a break at 1-0 in favor of the home side.

After recess, Maurice Chiumia was replaced by Ben Mbewe as the hosts looked to increase their attacking options in search for a second goal that could have put the game in their favor.

Bullets had a chance in the 57th minute when Nkhoma made another run to the far right, but his final touch let him down, allowing the hosts to recover before making a clearance.

Pasuwa made his first change when he introduced Alick Lungu for Kajoke, who had picked up a knock in the early minutes of the match.

The hosts had a penalty shout turned down by referee Mercy Mziya in the 64th minute, before she made a similar call at the other end when Babatunde Adepoju was brought down by Ndhlovu inside the penalty box.

Pasuwa made another change in the 68th minute when he introduced Bright Munthali for Ernest Petro.

This change brought some rhythm to Bullets, who were now in control of the midfield after they struggled to stop Phiri who was in complete control of the center cycle.

Munthali created his first chance in the 74th minute when he dribbled past Kingsley Nkhonjera, however his attempt went straight at Khunga.

Stain Malata and Martin Masoatheka replaced Malunga and Vitumbiko Phiri, whilst Chiukepo Msowoya came on for Lanjesi Nkhoma, who had picked a muscle cramp with 15 minutes to go.

Just when the hosts thought they were in control of the match and pushing for another goal, Bullets rose back to life in the 80th minute.

Munthali outsmarted Nkhonjera before he delivered a brilliant cross to Msowoya who headed past Khunga, only to be denied by the upright, but Babatunde was very quick to slot the ball home from a rebound, 1-1.

This meant Bullets were now one leg into the semis as the hosts were now required to score more than a goal to sail through.

The comeback was completed in stoppage time when Msowoya was brought down by Ndlovu inside the six-yard box, forcing Mziya to point straight at the penalty spot.

This decision did not go well with the hosts, who surrounded the center referee and vowed never to allow Bullets to take the penalty.

It took more than five minutes for the penalty to be played and Babatunde stepped up to score his second goal of the day past Khunga in the 98th minute and give Bullets a hard-fought 1-2 victory and a 2-5 goal aggregate.