Precious Sambani’s lone goal in the first half was enough to hand Nyasa Big Bullets an away 0-1 victory over Blue Eagles in the TNM Super League at Nankhaka Stadium on Saturday afternoon.
It was the first league win for Bullets in Lilongwe this season. The full points are a boost to The People’s Team central region outing ahead of another league encounter against TN Stars at Kasungu Stadium on Sunday.
Kalisto Pasuwa’s side looks to collets six points in the quest to close the gap against log leaders Silver Strikers, who also collected maximum points after defeating MAFCO 3-1 at Silver Stadium on Saturday.
Pasuwa made a single change to the side that hammered TN Stars last week, with Alick Lungu dropped for Sankhani Mkandawire.
Bullets got off to a great start and claimed the early when Chimwemwe Idana released Precious Sambani after receiving the ball from Chimango Kayira’s free-kick and the left winger made no mistake but fire past John Soko into the far right corner.
The defending champions were in full control of the match and should have doubled the lead in the ninth minute when Hassan Kajoke overpowered Wonder Jeremani and opened fire, but his shot went wide.
At the other end of the park, the hosts created their first goal scoring opportunity in the 15th minute when Mphatso Philemon forced Richard Chimbamba into making a save for a corner, which was easily cleared by Nickson Nyasulu.
The People’s Team then suffered a huge blow when midfielder Mike Mkwate was stretched off after sustaining an injury and was replaced by Ernest Petro.
Bullets had another chance in the 37th minute through a free kick but Sambani sent his effort over the crossbar.
In the additional minutes of the first half, Bullets had another chance through Kajoke, who was set through by Chiukepo Msowoya but the forward could not believe it as Soko stopped his effort with a spectacular save.
In the second half, it only took Bullets three minutes to create another good chance when Gomezgani Chirwa’s cross found Msowoya unmarked in the six-yard box and the forward wasted no time to shoot but Soko denied the visitors another goal as he produced a double save from a rebound.
In the 56th minute, Msowoya made a brilliant run into the box after receiving a pass from Idana but he opted to shoot from a tight angle when passing was the better option as Kajoke had already placed himself in a good position to put the ball into the net.
The hosts continued to look short of their best in the second half, with coach Gerald Phiri opting for a tactical change when he replaced Philemon and Gabriel Chirwa with Stuart Mbunge and John Malidadi Jnr.
Almost immediately, Eagles upped their game, with the visitors needing Chimbamba to come quickly off his line to prevent Maxwell Salambura netting an equaliser, while Kelvin Tsibwabwa struck over from long range a few seconds later.
Bullets had another free kick in the 69th minute when Jeremani fouled Idana closer to the penalty box, however Sambani drove his effort over the cross bar.
Pasuwa brought in Zicco Mkanda and Meshack Seleman for Kajoke and Msowoya whilst Kingsley Kuwali came in for Salambura.
Eagles had their best chance to equalize in the 77th minute when a long ball from Chisomo Chilasa was misjudged by Nyasulu to land straight at Mbulu, who released a rocket inside the 18-yard box but Chimbamba was well positioned to produce a stunning save for a corner.
Mkanda was forced off in the 83rd minute after sustaining an injury and was replaced by Bright Munthali, who made his first appearance for Bullets in more than four games.
Bullets nearly put the game beyond Eagles’ reach when Chirwa and Idana exchanged passes to release Seleman whose shot was saved by Soko.
In the 90th minute, Jeremani was sent off for a second bookable offence after dangerous play on Idana.
Bullets could not use the one-man advantage and uncannily saw out the remaining time with too much threat, with Eagles coming close to scoring in the 94th minute, but The People’s Team survived the scare to collect maximum points.
Sambani was named Man of the Match, his second accolade in the ongoing campaign after collecting the first one against TN Stars last weekend.