Second-half strikes from Chimwemwe Idana and Precious Phiri gave Nyasa Big Bullets a 2-1 victory over Silver Strikers at Kamuzu Stadium on Friday afternoon as The People’s Team reclaimed the TNM Super League top spot.
It was a sweet revenge for Bullets, who suffered a 1-0 defeat away to Silver Strikers in Lilongwe in the first-round.
Assistant coach Peter Mponda maintained the same team that won against Mighty Tigers in the FDH Cup last weekend, but welcomed back Hassan Kajoke who was on the bench following his return from South Africa where he underwent trials.
Bullets were in total control of ball possession, but to unlock the visitors’ defence proved futile as Herbert Wayekha, Nickson Mwase, Mark Fodya and Mike Robert covered Charles Thom to frustrate the home team.
Meshack Seleman weaved his way into the Central Banker’s box in the 18th minute, before reeling off a shot which missed Thom’s goal mouth with an inch.
In the 26th minute, Eric Kaonga delivered a super cross into the box and nearly landed on the head of McFallen Mgwira, but Wayekha was on point as he made a massive clearance.
Twice in a row, Bullets had won set pieces, however Mgwira and Kaonga failed to capitalize to the relief of Daniel Kabwe’s led technical panel.
At the other end, Blessings Tembo beat the offside trap in the 34th minute, but he was late as he allowed Bullets to regroup before clearing the danger away from Rabson Chiyenda’s goal area.
In the 45th minute, the visitors took a surprising lead against the run of play.
Kaonga had conceded a corner after he stopped Frank Banda from delivering a cross and it was from the same setpiece that Silver scored their only goal through Wayekha, who headed past Chiyenda into the corner, 0-1.
That was all for the half as the teams went into recess with the visitors leading.
In the second half, it only took Bullets one minute to level the scoreline in brilliant fashion through the Man of the Match Idana.
The People’s Team started the match with high intensity, which saw the ball played to Mgwira, who wasted no time by sending a cross into Silver Strikers’ half and Mwase failed to clear the ball that landed into Idana’s path and the midfielder released a thunderous shot past defenseless Thom to make it 1-1.
Bullets should have taken a lead in the 53rd minute when Lanjesi Nkhoma overpowered Wayekha, but his shot was well blocked by the defender for a corner which was eventually cleared by the Bankers to safety.
Mponda brought in Chiukepo Msowoya for Nkhoma in the 58th minute to try to force something out of the game and Bullets kept on attacking from all cylinders in search for the much-needed winner.
In the 63rd minute, Idana’s brilliance saw him unlocking the Bankers’ defence before releasing a shot outside the penalty box, but Thom was equal to the task when he produced a fantastic save for a corner.
Bullets made a double substitution in the 69th minute when injured Paul Kansungwi and Mgwira paved way for Ernest Petro and Precious Phiri, whilst Maxwell Gasten and Duncan Nyoni were replaced by Chinsinsi Maonga and Zebron Kauma.
The hosts nearly took a lead in the 78th minute when Kaonga delivered a cross into the box to find unmarked Msowoya, who unluckily saw his header missing Thom’s goal post with just an inch.
However, The People’s Team rose to the occasion in the 81st minute when a long range ball from Mkandawire’s freekick was missed by the visitors’ defence and landed straight at Phiri, who made a first-time connection to send the stadium into massive celebrations, 2-1.
The end was near for the visitors who were now just ball-watching as Bullets kept on knocking the ball at will.
Seleman was replaced by Bright Munthali whilst Stain Davie replaced Chimodzi Jnr in the 85th minute.
Msowoya saw his long range effort from a very difficult angle missing Thom’ goal posts with an inch before taking a deflection for a corner.
As Silver Strikers threw every player forward to try to force a point, Bullets defended jealously to collect maximum points and climb to the top of the summit with 48 points from 22 games, a game less than the Central Bankers, who have 46 points from 23 games.
A sweet victory for The People’s Team before leaving for the CECAFA Kagame Cup in Dar es Salaam on Saturday, a day before facing Tanzania’s Young Africans on Matchday 1 of the tournament.