Precious Sambani scored Nyasa Big Bullets lone goal as The People’s Team recorded a narrow 1-0 victory over Mozambican UD Songo in the opening day of the Energem International Bonanza at Kamuzu Stadium on Friday afternoon.
Bullets head coach Kalisto Pasuwa made 11 changed to the squad that won the TNM Super League last season, introducing players who were either injured or had no game time to have a grisp of playing for the club in readiness for the 2020 soccer season.
The hosts had their first attempt at goal in the early minutes through Nelson Kangunje whose drive missed the goal mouth from an inch.
However, it was the visitors who were enjoying more possession through Thomas Nyirenda, John Banda and Daudo Abaccar, forcing Bullets to sit back and defend in numbers.
Goalkeeper Ernest Kakhobwe made his first save of the match when former Blue Eagles striker, Schumacher Kuwali’s low cross drive into the box found Candido Mathe who connected well only to be denied by the shot-stopper for a corner.
At the other end of the field, Bright Munthali managed to beat the offside trap but wasted the glorious opportunity when his pass to Kangunje from near post was intercepted by Sidique Musaji for a corner.
With less than five minutes to play in the first half, Aziz Mwakifuna saw strike cleared by Pascual Amorim before crossing the goal line in an unbelievable circumstance.
As the second half began, the intensity rose from the hosts.
Munthali had his long range drive well blocked by the visitors before another long range effort from Pilirani Zonda went wide.
Dalitso Sailesi paved the way for Righteous Banda while Mathe was replaced by Lau King as the two sides made changes just after ten minutes into the closing half.
Bullets kept on pushing for an opener and the moment they waited for arrived in the 62nd minute as the Flames left-back gave The People’s Team the winner.
A corner from Banda was connected into the net by Sambani who defied the force of gravity by rising up in the sky to give the hosts a lead, 1-0.
The lead could have only lasted for less than five minutes when UD Songo won a freekick just close to the penalty box but Stelio Ernesto’s effort went straight into the arms of Kakhobwe.
There was a loud roar within the stadium by home supporters who were still celebrating their slender lead.
Nickson Nyasulu was brought in for Sambani while Ernesto paved the way for Belito Antonio for the visitors.
Kuwali missed the visitors’ closest chance in the half when he was fed by Antonio, but his first touch let him down, allowing Sankhani Mkandawire to make his clearance to the relief of the home fans who were still in a jovial mood.
As the match was approaching the dead end, former BE Forward Wanderers forward Zicco Mkanda, who is on trials at Bullets, came in for Kangunje while injured Kuwali was replaced by Saido Christiano.
In the dying minutes of the match, Antonio had the opportunity to put the game on level terms, however his freekick closer to the penalty box went over the crossbar and after 90 minutes of play, it ended 1-0 in favour of the home team.
Pasuwa was pleased with his side’s energetic performance.
“It was our first pre-season match and I am very impressed with how the boys performed throughout the match. We were trying different combinations by using players who were not active last season and I believe we will get there before the new season,” said the Zimbabwean.
Earlier on, Chicken Inn of Zimbabwe registered a 1-0 victory over Be Forward Wanderers through a first half strike from Malvin Gaki.
The results mean Bullets and Chicken Inn are tied at three points each ahead of their clash on Saturday afternoon.
Day two of the three-day tournament will see Wanderers playing host to UD Songo in the early kickoff at 12:30pm.