Hassan Kajoke netted a hat-trick to take Nyasa Big Bullets top of the TNM Super League with a 3-0 win over Ntopwa at Kamuzu Stadium on Wednesday afternoon.
The forward opened the scoreline in the 18th minute before registering a double in the second-half to give The People’s Team a comfortable victory against the Amagheto Kids.
From 20 games Bullets now have 42 points, two ahead of Silver Strikers, who come second in the standings with 40 points from 19 games.
In the midweek fixture, Kalisto Pasuwa handed left-back Erick Kaonga his first start since joining The People’s Team from Ekwendeni Hammers a fortnight ago, whilst Zicco Mkanda replaced Chiukepo Msowoya in the First XI that beat Mighty Tigers a week ago, with Mike Mkwate returning to the starting lineup after missing the previous game due to an injury.
Blessings Mpokera also started in central defence as he partnered Nickson Nyasulu while Precious Phiri took injured Gomegzani Chirwa’s position on the right side of defence.
The first-half proved to be a closely contested affair and despite dominating the opening minutes, the hosts could not find the back of the net as Nyasulu’s led defense stood firm to protect Richard Chimbamba in goals for the defending champions.
Bullets threatened early and went close to grabbing the lead in the 13th minute of play as Chimwemwe Idana found Mkanda unmarked in the six-yard box, but the forward saw his weaker shot going wide for a goalkick to the relief of Ntopwa.
Kajoke put Bullets ahead five minutes later when Kingsley Ben and Lloyd Mugala failed to communicate to lose the ball to Mkanda, who wasted no time to release his partner and the striker volleyed past the advanced goalkeeper Richard Mwaila, 0-1.
Idana should have made it 0-2 when he overpowered Ben to find himself one-on-one with Mwaila, but the goalkeeper came out top as he saved the situation for the hosts.
At the other end, Chimbamba produced a fantastic save to deny Hendrix Misinde from scoring after he was set through by Mphatso Magaleta.
The hosts introduced Ellard Chigwetsa for Kondwani Saizi in the 34th minute to try to improve their attacking options.
However, the visitors almost doubled their lead in the 38th minute when Kaonga and Meshack Seleman exchanged passes to release the left-back, whose shot was well saved by Mwaila for a corner kick which had no impact as Lameck cleared the ball away from the 18-yard box.
After the recess, both teams made changes, with Ntopwa introducing Happy Kasamba for Ben whilst Bullets brought on McFallen Mgwira for Mkanda.
It was the hosts who continued from where they stopped in the first-half, however Bullets defended their goal with everything to frustrate Karren Chauya’s led technical panel.
Bullets posted a response a few minutes later, but the chance came to nothing, Kajoke firing wide of the left-hand post with a speculative shot from outside the box.
At the other side of the field, Misinde tried his luck from 35 yards out in the 58th minute, but Chimbamba was alert to the danger, saving the ball in the top-left corner.
As Pasuwa’s men tried to attack in search for another goal, the hosts made things very difficult as they kept Kajoke at bay, clearing every dead ball away from their area.
Sensing danger, Pasuwa made a double substitution by introducing Alick Lungu and Paul Kansungwi for injured Seleman and Mkwate in the 65th minute.
Once again, Bullets created another goal scoring opportunity in the 67th minute but Kaonga’s shot inside the box was well-saved by Mwaila for a corner.
Bullets nearly got punished for their wastefulness in front of goals in the 70th minute when Magaleta rose to the occasion with a brilliant header which missed Chimbamba’s left-hand post with just an inch to the relief of the defending champions.
Ntopwa made another change in the 78th minute by introducing Clever Chikwata for Arthur Moffat.
It was Bullets who nailed the result in their favor in the 81st minute from the spot following a hand-ball by Lameck, allowing Kajoke to step up before slotting the ball past defenseless Mwaila, 0-2.
Pasuwa brought in Ben Manyozo for Chimango Kayira in the 87th minute to assist in the defensive phase of the match.
And it was Kajoke who completed his hat-trick in the third minute of the added time with a scintillating finish after he was found unmarked outside the penalty box to send the ball past Mwaila into the bottom corner, 0-3. The striker has since taken his tally to 10 goals in the current season.
The People’s Team has scored 37 goals and conceded 11.
Bullets will this week travel to Lilongwe for another league clash against Civil Sporting Club at the Civo Stadium on Saturday afternoon.