Nyasa Big Bullets reached the FDH Bank Cup quarter-finals following a 2-0 victory over Mighty Tigers at Kamuzu Stadium on a chilly Sunday afternoon.
The People’s Team was under assistant coach Peter Mponda in the absence of Kaliso Pasuwa, who is in isolation due to Covid-19.
Mponda made nine changes to the side that defeated Nyasa Big Bullets Reserves a fortnight ago to reach the FDH Bank Cup Round of 16.
Vice-captain Chimwemwe Idana, Gomezgani Chirwa, Meshack Seleman, Chimango Kayira, Sankhani Mkandawire, McFallen Mgwira, Erick Kaonga, Paul Kansungwi and Lanjesi Nkhoma all made it into the starting XI.
Bullets were dominant in the opening minutes and should have opened the scoreline with an early lead, but they failed to unlock Boston Kabango’s led defence, which kept on blocking every attempt.
Lanjesi Nkhoma broke the deadlock in the 20th minute when Seleman and Kaonga exchanged passes to find the striker, who made a beautiful touch to beat Dalitso Khungwa in between the posts for Tigers, 1-0.
The celebration was almost cut shot at the other end of the field when Kondwani Chilembwe saw Rabson Chiyenda off his line and the forward did everything right to release a thunderous shot, but missed the goal sticks with just an inch, a relief to the hosts.
The People’s Team suffered a massive blow towards the end of the first half when Nkhoma sustained an injury after he collided with Emmanuel Nyirenda and the youngster could not finish the game as he was substituted for Chiukepo Msowoya at half-time.
In the second-half, Tigers took over from the home side with some series of offensive play from Blessings Banda, Precious Chiudza, Chilembwe and Ganizani Anthony, but Bullets’ defence stood firm to protect Chiyenda, who was the busiest in the closing half.
The visitors nearly leveled the scoreline in the 58th minute when a cross from Anthony was chested down by Chiudza before firing at goal, but Chiyenda was equal to the task as he produced a save to put the ball into touch for a corner, which had no impact as Mkandawire cleared it out of danger.
Tigers made a triple substitution in the 60th minute when Trevor Kajawa brought in Johns Kanyumba, Mphatso Katsonga and Masiya Manda for Kondwani Chilembwe, Anthony Namwera and Ganizani Anthony to try to increase his attacking options.
Indeed, this change brought an imminent impact as the visitors invaded Bullets’ goal area and they almost found an equalizer in the 65th minute when Katsonga connected well Manda’s cross only to be denied by Chiyenda for another corner.
Sensing danger, Mponda made a double substitution, introducing Precious Phiri and Ben Manyozo for Seleman and Kansungwi.
Bullets were struggling to trickle forward, but whenever they launched a counter attack it was trouble for Khungwa, who made a brilliant save to deny Mgwira from scoring after some good work from Chirwa.
At 75th minute, Chiudza was replaced by Chikaiko Batson and Bullets kept on living dangerously, however Chiyenda’s heroic saves kept The People’s Team at the top of proceedings to frustrate Kajawa’s men.
In the 83rd minute, Tigers squandered another goal scoring opportunity when Batson, Manda and Katsonga invaded Bullets’ goal, but failed to outsmart Chiyenda, who produced yet another save for a corner.
The hosts were anxiously waiting for the final whistle whilst Tigers were racing against time to find an equalizer which never came as Bullets defended with everything to put one leg into the quarter-finals.
Maule finally doubled their lead in the 90th minute in a brilliant fashion when an individual brilliance from Idana saw the midfielder dribbling past three Tigers defenders before releasing Mgwira, who made no mistake but unleashing a shot outside the penalty box to beat Khungwa, 2-0.
Bullets should have added a third goal in the last minute of stoppage time, but Idana was slow to make a decision as he allowed Tigers players to regroup before making a clearance, and that was all for the match.
The FDH Bank Cup 2021 quarter-final stage is complete with MAFCO FC, Rumphi United, Silver Strikers, Ntopwa FC, Be Forward Wanderers, Ekwendeni Hammers, Dedza Young Soccer and Nyasa Big Bullets.