Nyasa Big Bullets moved five points clear at the top of the TNM Super League with a hard-fought 2-1 victory over Civil Sporting Club on Saturday afternoon.
An early goal from Mike Mkwate in the 11th minute and a last quarter winner from Zicco Mkanda in the 77th minute were enough to hand The People’s Team maximum points away at Civo Stadium.
Head coach Kalisto Pasuwa made two changes to the midweek team that won 3-0 against Ntopwa FC, bringing on board Sankhani Mkandawire and McFallen Mgwira for Meshack Seleman and Mkanda.
The People’s Team started brightly and took the lead in the 11th minute courtesy of Mike Mkwate, who capitalized on a defensive relapse from the hosts’ defence after they failed to clear Eric Kaonga’s corner kick, 0-1.
However, the lead only lasted three minutes as the the hosts leveled through Muhammad Sulumba’s header in the 14th minute, 1-1.
The hosts were now dominating, especially through Lanken Mwale, Damian Kunje and Sulumba, who were pressing for another first-half goal, but struggled to penetrate in the final third of their attacking zone.
In the 25th minute, Civil Sporting introduced Dan Kumwenda for Anzeru Joseph as they tried to increase their attacking options.
Bullets had their closest chance towards the end of the half through Mgwira whose shot went over the cross bar.
In the second half, Bullets started brightly through Mkwate, Chimwemwe Idana, Mgwira and Kaonga, but to unlock Lawrence Chaziya’s led defence proved too difficult for the defending champions.
In the 50th minute, Blessings Mpokera forced Charles Swini into making a save for a corner, which was completely missed by Mkandawire in the six-yard box.
In the 58th minute, Pasuwa brought in Gomezgani Chirwa and Mkanda for Chimango Kayira and Precious Phiri to try to add fire power up front as the visitors were desperately looking for the winning goal.
At the other end, Bullets nearly got punished when Ibrahim Sadik delivered a brilliant cross into the box which almost landed straight at Sulumba, but Nickson Nyasulu was quick to arrive to clear the ball away from the penalty box.
Bullets had another corner in the 68th minute and this time, Kaonga curved the ball at Swini who struggled to make a clearance but he was lucky to survive as Bullets had no one close to tap the ball into the net.
Civil made another change, introducing Innocent Tanganyika for Isaac Msiska.
The moment that the visitors were waiting for arrived in the 77th minute through Mkanda who powered home Mgwira’s corner kick to send the whole stadium into frenzy, 1-2.
This was what Bullets needed and they made sure to defend the lead throughout by holding on to the ball and gave no room to the hosts, who were still pressing for a late comeback.
Bright Munthali then came on for Mkwate to try to close down any loopholes as the clock was now ticking in favor of the visitors and after 90 minutes of play, Pasuwa’s men carried the day with a hard-fought but sweet victory to complete a double over the Franco Ndawa side this season.
The result sees The People’s Team opening up a five-point lead over second-placed Silver Strikers, who suffered a 1-0 defeat at the hands of Chitipa United. The Bankers, who have a game in hand, face Karonga United on Sunday.
Bullets have so far collected 45 points from 21 games while Silver Strikers have 40 points from 20 games.