Nyasa Big Bullets bowed out of the CAF Champions League following a 1-3 loss to AmaZulu FC in the second leg of the first preliminary round played at Bingu National Stadium on Saturday afternoon, to go down 2-3 on aggregate.
The People’s Team needed at least a draw to proceed to the next phase of the continental club championship after registering a 0-1 victory over Usuthu away in the first leg a week ago.
But Bullets were two-nil down inside the opening 15 minutes courtesy of a brace from Bonginkosi Ntuli, who opened the scoring from the spot in the 4th minute before grabbing a brace seven minutes later.
Mozambican referee Falcao awarded Ben McCarthy’s side a penalty after Sankhani handled the ball in the box as he attempted to clear it off the line.
One turned into two as Luvuyo Memeya dribbled past Nickson Nyasulu before sending a dangerous ball into the box which was flipped into the net by unmarked Ntuli who beat Richard Chimbamba from close range, 0-2.
Sensing danger, Kalisto Pasuwa had to sacrifice holding midfielder Chimango Kayira for Chiukepo Msowoya in the 19th minute to add firepower in attack.
The visitors looked nippy and full of energy and were always first on the ball as Bullets struggled to cope with Memela’s pace especially on the left flank where he was operating from against Nyasulu.
Pasuwa had to make another substitution in the 31st minute when he brought in Meshack Seleman for McFallen Mgwira.
It was about attacking with the hope of reducing the affairs but to unlock Tapelo Xoki and Sandile Khumalo’s defence proved too difficult for Pasuwa’s men.
The hosts had a chance in the final minutes of the half but Veli Mothwa produced a save to deny Msowoya from finding the back of the net.
In the second half, Alick Lungu replaced Nyasulu and Chirwa switched back to his natural right-back position as Lungu replaced him on the left side of defence. Makhehleni Makhaula replaced Philani Zulu for the visitors in defense.
Bullets were back in the game when Henry Kabichi netted a fantastic freekick in the 48th minute to reduce the deficit after Khumalo had brought down Msowoya few yards from the edge on the penalty box, 1-2.
But just when Bullets thought they were now taking the game away from the visitors, Siphelele Mthembu hammered the final nail on the hosts’ coffin.
Another brilliant work from Memela saw him dribbling past defenders Chirwa, Miracle Gabeya and Sankhani Mkandawire before sending another low cross into the box to find Mthembu, who had plenty of time to decide which side of Chimbamba’s goal to slot the ball into the back of the net, 1-3.
This was a blow to Bullets, who only needed a goal to progress into the second preliminary round before conceding the third goal.
Knowing that a victory was certain, McCarthy brought in the likes of Tsepo Masilela and Lehnonolo Majolo for Nkosi and Kgotso Molepo, whilst Pasuwa introduced Precious Phiri for Hassan Kajoke.
In the 74th minute, a sole attempt from Bullets debutant Alick Lungu nearly went in when goalkeeper Mothwa failed to clear the ball away from his area, but was lucky as the ball came off the woodwork to deny the youngster his first goal in the red and white colours.
Moments later, Mothwa was called into action again to deny Msowoya from scoring with his powerful shot saved near post for a corner and with nobody inside AmaZulu FC survived the scare.
With the clock ticking very fast, the onus was on Bullets to score two quick goals in order to remain in the competition but Usuthu were tactically good as they also frustrated the hosts with delaying tactics.
Despite pushing for goals, Bullets were unable to reduce the arrears and exited from the competition in the preliminary stages for the third time in a row.
Pasuwa rued defensive mistakes by his players to give away cheap goals against the visiting South African Premier Soccer League outfit.
“We didn’t show up for the party. Those childish mistakes at the back have cost us the game and at this level of a competition, you cannot afford to do these kind of mistakes. He said in a post-match interview. “We are out, we have to move on.”
His opposite number said his game plan was to attack and look for a quick goal to destabilize the hosts.
“Playing away from home with a one-nil deficit was a very difficult task, but I told my players to push in search of an early goal and we did that in style. When we scored the second, I knew it was possible to get a result and just like that we won to progress to the second round, so I am happy with this result,” said McCarthy.
Bullets will now focus on domestic football and the next assignment is a league encounter against Mafco FC at Kamuzu Stadium on Wednesday.