Nyasa Big Bullets suffered a 0-1 defeat to Silver Strikers in the Pamtsetse Bonanza played at Bingu National Stadium in Lilongwe on Saturday afternoon.
A second meeting with the Central Bankers in a space of seven days following their previous meeting in the NBS Bank Charity Shield at Kamuzu Stadium in Blantyre last weekend, Bullets conceded in the second half as Chawanangwa Kaonga netted Silver’s lone goal in the 68th minute.
Kalisto Pasuwa made ten changes to the side that defeated Daniel Kabwe’s side at home, with only Patrick Mwaungulu retaining his place in the starting XI.
It was also skipper John Lanjesi’s first start for nearly eight months after recovering from a knee injury.
Bullets dominated possession with their passing game through the midfield trio of Blessings Mpokera, Mwaungulu and Ernest Petro.
Pasuwa’s men created their first opportunity in the 11th minute when Anthony Mfune created space for himself in the penalty box, however his shot was well saved by Charles Thom.
The shot-stopper was having a good day as he was called into action again in the 17th minute to deny Mfune, who released a roaring shot outside the penalty box after he was set by Mwaungulu.
At the other end, the Bankers thought they had broken the deadlock, but Kaonga’s tap in was ruled for offside.
In the 33rd minute, Mfune was brought down by Innocent Shema closer to the penalty, resulting into a freekick which was taken by Mwaungulu, but Thom was equal to the task with a brilliant save and that was all for the half.
In the second half, the youthful Bullets continued from where they stopped in the first half, exchanging passes and Pasuwa’s boys created spaces for Mfune, but Thom was very outstanding between the two posts to keep his side into the game.
In the 51st minute, Mfune got the better of Maxwell Paipi into the box before shooting at goal but Thom once again came to Silver’s rescue with a fantastic save.
At the other end, Rabson Chiyenda failed to deal with Blessings Tembo’s cross from the right flank and the ball landed at Patrick Macheso, who hit the upright.
The Bankers then made a triple substitution when they brought in Duncain Nyoni, Stain Davie and Emmanuel Muyira for Maxwell Gasten, Macheso and Tembo, whilst Bullets introduced Mphatso Magaleta and Hadji Wali for John Lanjesi and Mwaungulu.
Davie’s impact was imminent when he delivered a dangerous cross into the box from which Kaonga connected into the net to make it 0-1.
This goal brought more energy to the Bankers, who within a period of 10 minutes had a number of attempts at goal, but it took the combination of Wali and Nickson Nyasulu in Bullets’ central defence to deny the Area 47 side another goal.
Babatunde Adepoju was then introduced for Mfune in the 73rd minute and the Nigerian came close but his header from close range was stopped by Thom.
Nyoni had his header missing the upright with an inch when Bullets defence failed to defend a setpiece in the 77th minute.
With three minutes to go, Silver Strikers launched a counter-attack which would have resulted into another goal, fortunately for Bullets Nyoni’s volley was punched away by Chiyenda for a corner kick, which was well-defended by Wali.
There was more drama in additional minutes when Kaonga was set through by Taonga Chimodzi after Bullets’ defence was in the offensive zone and delayed to regroup, allowing the forward to find himself in a one on one situation with Chiyenda, but instead of shooting at goal, he opted to pass to Davie, who was judged to have scored from an offside position.
This triggered massive protests from the Central Bankers, who were already celebrating the goal, and in the end they avenged last week’s defeat to progress to the final of the Bonanza and will play Mighty Wanderers, who defeated Civil Service United 2-0 in Saturday’s early kickoff.
Bullets will face Civil for third place in the early kickoff on Sunday.