Babatunde Adepoju bagged four goals as Nyasa Big Bullets went rampant to smash Mighty Wanderers 4-1 in the Blantyre derby on Saturday afternoon at Kamuzu Stadium.
Registering the biggest win in 24 years against their city rivals after a 5-1 Super League victory in 1997, The People’s Team booked a place in the 2021 Airtel Top 8 final.
Bullets got off to a perfect start through Misheck Seleman, Paul Kansungwi, Lanjesi Nkhoma and Babatunde, who were pressing for an early goal but Wanderers’ defence stood firm to protect William Thole in between the sticks.
In the 12th minute, Seleman dribbled past Stainley Sanudi to find his way into the box before releasing a shot which missed Thole’s goal post with an inch for a goal kick.
Moments later, Thole was called into action when he produced a fantastic save to deny Babatunde from breaking the deadlock and the Nomads conceded a corner kick, which was dealt by Yunus Sherrif for a throw-in.
At the other end, Ted Sumani released Yamikani Chester to the left flank and the Wanderers attacker wasted no time by sending a dangerous ball into the box, but Bullets survived as Francis Nkonda blasted his effort over the crossbar when Ernest Kakhobwe was already beaten.
The home side won a penalty in the 23rd minute when Wanderers captain Alfred Manyozo Junior handled the ball in the area as he attempted to clear Nkhoma’s corner kick and referee Alfred Chilinda wasted no time but point at the spot for Babatunde to step up and net his first goal against his former team, 1-0.
The celebrations in Bullets camp were cut short ten minutes later as Wanderers leveled the scoreline through Vincent Nyangulu, who connected home Ted Sumani’s corner kick, 1-1.
The two teams went to the dressing rooms locked at 1-1.
Bullets started the second half just as they did with the first and Babatunde restored the lead in the 51st minute with a simple tap in from a rebound following Alick Lungu’s powerful strike that had hit the woodwork after being set by Chimwemwe Idana from a free kick outside the box, 2-1.
Kalisto Pasuwa made his first substitution for Bullets in the 58th minute when Bright Munthali replaced Paul Kansungwi whilst Bob Mpinganjira introduced Wisdom Mpinganjira and Felix Zulu for Ted Sumani and Aubrey Maloya as the Nomads made two changes.
The visitors had an opportunity to pull another equalizer in the 59th minute through a free kick, however Nyangulu wasted the chance as he failed to capitalize inside the penalty box.
Babatunde completed his first hat-trick in Bullets colors when he headed home Nkhoma’s brilliant ball behind Wanderers defence in the 61st minute to make it 3-1.
Bullets were still coming wave after wave in search for more goals against Wanderers, who were 1-0 winners in their last meeting in the TNM Super League on 27 September, and Chimwemwe Idana should have added his name to the score list when he received a stunning dollar pass from Seleman inside the six-yard box, but the Bullets vice-captain shot straight at Thole.
Bullets made another change as Precious Phiri replaced Nkhoma to the right flank of the field.
The job was completed in the 76th minute when a long ball from the midfield caught Peter Cholopi napping in the line of duty, forcing Thole to leave his goal area only to be outsmarted by Babatunde, who headed over the goalkeeper into an empty net to complete his haul of the day, 4-1.
In the 82nd minute, Pasuwa brought in Chiukepo Msowoya and Yamikani Fodya for Seleman and Babatunde, who picked a knock, whilst Misheck Botomani replaced Mkonda for the Nomads.
Moments after coming in, Msowoya almost found the back of the net in the 84th minute when he was found unmarked closer to the penalty box, unfortunately his effort went wide off Thole’s goal post and that was all for the day.
Babatunde was named Man of the Match and is now sitting at the summit of the 2021 Airtel Top 8 top goal scorers chat with eight goals from three games. The Nigerian forward bagged a brace each in the two-legged quarter-finals against MAFCO FC.
Bullets will face Civo Service United or Silver Strikers in the final. The two Lilongwe rivals will face off in the second semi-final tie on December 11 at a venue yet to be announced.
Lineup: Ernest Kakhobwe; Gomegzani Chirwa, Nickson Nyasulu, Sankhani Mkandawire, Alick Lungu; Henry Kabichi, Chimwemwe Idana (C), Paul Kansungwi (Bright Munthali 58’); Mischeck Seleman (Yamikani Fodya 82’), Babatunde Adepoju (Chiukepo Msowoya 82’), Lanjesi Nkhoma (Precious Phiri 70’).
Unused Subs: Rabson Chiyenda, Eric Kaonga, Ben Manyozo, Ernest Petro, Zicco Mkanda, Hassan Kajoke.