Nyasa Big Bullets Reserves are through to the quarter-finals of the Aubrey Dimba Trophy following a hard-fought 2-1 victory over St. Gabriel’s Medicals away in Mchinji on Sunday afternoon.
First half strikes from Franklin Mlimanjala and Emmanuel Savieli were enough to seal a place in the last eight of the competition at a fully packed Aubrey Dimba Ground.
Without Chikumbutso Salima, Savieli was deployed to the left flank whilst Alex Tsamba was the main striker.
It was a slow start as both teams struggled to settle down in the opening minutes, but Bullets created their first goal scoring chance in the 13th minute when Tsamba was found unmarked in the six-yard box by Savieli, however his goal bound shot was well blocked by Yohane Kamwaza.
The visitors deservedly took their lead in the 17th minute through Mlimanjala, who received a pass from Patrick Mwaungulu before curving the ball beyond Moffat Limunga’s reach, 0-1.
One became two in a brilliant fashion.
A long ball from Frank Willard caught Kamwaza’s led defence in an awkward position, forcing Limunga to leave his line of duty as he was trying to cut off the cross, but Savieli was quick to arrive on the spot and send the ball over the ‘keeper into an empty net, 0-2.
As the pressure was mounting on the hosts, coach Martin Mtheto Mkamanga replaced Evance Pangani with Alick Levias in the 31st minute.
Moments later, Tsamba was also stretchered out of the field after he sustained an injury and was replaced by Lyton Chinong’one.
In the 41st minute, an offside against the hosts saved Bullets from conceding a goal with four minutes to play in the opening half as the first assistant referee had his flag up against Alexander Cosmas.
In the second half, St Gabriel Medicals came out a very changed side as they pressed harder in search of a quick goal to unsettle their opponents, who were seemingly sitting at the back to defend their two goals.
However, against the run of play, Bullets nearly added a third goal to their tally in the 58th minute, but a freekick from Innocent Msowoya went straight into the hands of Limunga.
The hosts kept on pressuring and they should have been rewarded in the 64th minute when Cosmas made his way into the box, however his short was well saved by Clever Mkungula for a corner kick that was easily dealt with by White Kisten.
In the 65th minute, Mlimanjala was replaced by Chimwemwe Yasin in the midfield to try to regain their dominance in the middle of the pack.
The hosts pulled one back in the 69th minute in a very controversial way.
A freekick into the box was well cleared by Simbi, but the ball was sent back into the box to find Cosmas who was seen to be in an offside position, but despite Bullets signaling a desperate call to the second assistant referee, the flag remained down, allowing Cosmas to put the ball into the back of the net, 1-2.
This was a warning to the visitors, who brought on David Daudi for Chinong’one in order to bring stability in the midfield.
Chatama’s boys slowly started to dominate in the last twenty minutes and they should have added another goal through Mwaungulu, whose effors just missed the upright with an inch.
In the 82nd minute, Mwaungulu delivered a beautiful cross into the box to find Savieli, but the forward’s header went over the cross-bar.
Bullets were able to defend their slender lead throughout the remaining minutes to sail through to the last eight of the competition.
And speaking after the match, Chatama hailed his players for the win against a side they were meeting for the first time. He also shared his frustration at how the hosts pulled one back.
“It was a tough game against unfamiliar opponents, but in the end, we were able to get the result we wanted,” said the junior Bullets coach.
“[But] I wasn’t happy with the level of officiation, especially on their goal. The scorer was clearly offside, but the second assistant referee did nothing and that was disappointing. Going forward, organizers should ensure fair officiation regardless of the opponent,” he added: “But all in all, it was a tough game and St. Gabriel Medicals gave us a tough run.”