Nyasa Big Bullets registered a 1-0 win over Ntopwa FC in a pre-season match played at Kamuzu Stadium in Blantyre on Tuesday afternoon.
This was the first of the three friendly matches the TNM Super League champions are scheduled to play ahead of the 2020/21 soccer season restart on 21 November.
Head Coach Kalisto Pasuwa handed starts to several players who had no game time in the previous season, and his charges impressed as they played to instructions to keep their opponents at bay throughout the game.
Bullets started well through Bright Munthali, Patrick Phiri, Ernest Petro and Nelson Kangunje, whilst Ben Manyozo was the last man in defence to cover Richard Chimbamba, who was manning the goal posts.
Pasuwa trusted Manyozo, a defensive midfielder turned defender, to partner Sankhani Mkandawire in central defence, while Pilirani Zonda and newly-promoted youngster Gift Jana played as right and left wingbacks, respectively.
The People’s Team’s first chance of the match fell to Munthali whose strike was deflected for a corner from which Kangunje failed to connect.
Moments later, MacFarlen Mgwira made his way into the box only to misplace his pass which was destined for Munthali, who was ready to fire from the close range.
At the other end, Chimbamba was called into action to deny Arthur Moffat from scoring when he was left unmarked closer to the 18-yard box.
As the first half was nearly coming to an end, Ntopwa FC goalkeeper produced a fantastic save to deny Henry Kabichi from finding the back of the net from a free kick on the edge of the penalty box.
In the additional minutes of the opening half, Mkandawire was stretched out after sustaining an injury and he was replaced by Miracle Gabeya.
Two minutes from recess, Bullets were awarded a penalty following a hand ball from which Zonda stepped up to send the goalkeeper the wrong way, 0-1.
Ntopwa FC should have leveled the score line when Kabichi lost possession inside his own half to Moffat, who was quick to spot Chimbamba off his line, however his short was well saved by the advancing keeper who spent last season on loan at the Bangwe based side.
Bullets almost doubled the lead in the 57th minute when a cross from Zonda found Phiri whose header hit the upright.
Aziz Mwakifuna and Precious Phiri replaced Kabichi and Gift Jana in the 62nd minute.
At the other end, Ntopwa FC had a goal disallowed when Moffat fouled Chimbamba right inside his penalty box.
Bullets then introduced Mike Mkwate, Dalitso Sailesi, Zicco Mkanda and Luke Chima for Petro, Kangunje, Munthali and Phiri.
Chima came close when his glancing header missed the goal mouth with an inch while Zonda’s shot was deflected out for a corner.
It was a nervous final quarter for both sides as they tried to unlock each other for goals, but it was Bullets who held on for a win to their first victory in pre-season, before heading to the central region to face Kamuzu Barracks and MAFCO this weekend.
Pasuwa said he was satisfied with the performance of his side that missed the services of Ernest Kakhobwe, Nickson Nyasulu, Precious Sambani, Chimwemwe Idana, Peter Banda and Hassan Kajoke who are out with the Malawi national team slated to play Burkina Faso away on Ouagadougou this Thursday.
The Zimbabwean also rested key players namely Chiukepo Msowoya, Yamikani Fodya and Gomezgani Chirwa who watched the match from the terraces, while Chimango Kayira and Righteous Banda are out due to injuries.
“We are still on pre-season. Last week, we were in Mangochi doing high intensity sessions, training three times a day and when we returned home, we kept on training twice and sometimes thrice as well. We are working on building from the back hence you saw less attacking today.
“So far so good, it wasn’t bad, but we have to work on few things in terms of intensity when we are playing so that we are able to knock the ball around as quickly as we can to attack our opposition,” explained Pasuwa in a post-match interview.
On using Manyozo as a centre-half, the coach had this to say: “In modern football defending midfielders can play as centre-backs as well and you saw how he was able to start our moves from the back, and that’s what we need for us to attack without facing glitches. I was impressed with how he performed at the back”.
The 2020/21 season kicks off next week with the Charity Shield involving Bullets, Blue Eagles, BE Forward Wanderers and Silver Strikers, before the start of the TNM Super League a week later.