Hassan Kajoke’s late equalizer preserved Nyasa Big Bullets’ unbeaten run at home when The People’s Team endured a frustrating Saturday afternoon with a 1-1 draw against Ntopwa FC in the TNM Super League at Kamuzu Stadium.
Bullets were left reeling early as Hendrix Misinde fired the visitors in front in the 14th minute, but eventually recovered and drew level with 12 minutes to play.
The People’s Team’s woes started in the first minute when first-choice goalkeeper Rabson Chiyenda was substituted after sustaining a shoulder injury after forcing Misinde’s shot for a corner.
The hosts created their first chance of the match in the 12th minute when Hassan Kajoke was found inside the six-yard box of the northern goal, but his weaker shot went straight at former Bullets Reserve ‘keeper Richard Mwaila, who moved to Ntopwa last season.
The Amagheto Kids drew first blood when Potipher Likoswe got the better of Miracle Gabeya before releasing a diagonal ball into the box to meet Misinde who beat substitute goalkeeper Richard Chimbamba, who spent the whole of last season on loan at the Bangwe side.
The goal certainly caught Bullets by surprise and they struggled to impose themselves on the proceedings. Kalisto Pasuwa’s side went in search for an equalizer, but the visitors defended jealously to frustrate the hosts.
The visitors should have doubled their lead through Likoswe who combined well with Kondwani Saizi, but the forward saw his shot well saved by Chimbamba.
At the other end, Meshack Seleman missed what was likely the best chance for Bullets in the first half when he received a square ball from Precious Sambani only to drive his effort over the cross bar for a goal kick.
The defending champions suffered another massive blow in the 20th minute when Aziz Mwakifuna twisted his ankle as he was trying to control the ball and was replaced by Mike Mkwate.
Mkwate’s introduction allowed Bullets to press higher in search of a goal and Pasuwa’s troops should have leveled in the 35th minute, but Kajoke had his shot deflected by George Nyirenda.
Bullets had another chance before the close of the opening half, but were not clinical enough as Kajoke wasted another opportunity when his shot from the six-yard box was parried by Mwaila before being cleared by Josaya Duwa.
In the second half, Bullets kept on pushing for an equalizer, but the visitors opted to seat back and defended in numbers.
In the 58th minute, Gabeya was caught napping in the line of duty as he lost possession in a very dangerous area, luckily Likoswe failed to capitalize as his goal bound shot was well saved by Chimbamba for a corner.
Sensing danger, Pasuwa brought on MacFallen Mgwira and Zicco Mkanda for Gabeya and Patrick Phiri.
Bullets were now piling more pressure on the opponents and Mkanda almost leveled soon after coming on when he released Kajoke to the left and the number 9 delivered an in-swinger into the box only to be denied by the goalkeeper for a corner.
Bullets kept on knocking for a goal, but Ntopwa FC defended with everything they had, forcing The People’s Team to play with few numbers at the back and increased their attacking options.
In the 69th minute, Mkanda hit a post in unbelievable circumstances when Kajoke’s shot was fumbled by Mwaila into the path of the forward who calmly controlled the ball and pressed it only to be denied by the upright with the ‘keeper already beaten.
Kajoke finally found the back of the net with 12 minutes to go and levelled the scoreline when Mwaila gifted the ball to Selemani, who wasted no time but send it into the box where the striker rounded off the goalkeeper to make it 1-1.
Bullets were coming wave after wave and they almost found the winning goal through Idana whose shot was well saved by Mwaila, to find Mkwate who failed to capitalize from the rebound.
In additional minutes, another chance fell to Mkanda who could only afford to gift the ball to the Ntopwa goalkeeper as he tried to flick it past him, and after 90+5 minutes of play, 1-1 it ended.
Reacting to Bullets’ third draw at home, Pasuwa admitted that his charges were not good especially in the first half.
“We conceded early and we had two injuries in the first 20 minutes and this disturbed us a lot. We also started the game on a very slow pace as we were always second on the ball and we failed to contribute anything in all phases.
“In the second half we were better offensively and we created more chances, but we couldn’t capitalize,” said the head coach.
As Bullets played their second game in a row without spectators, due to Covid-19 restrictions, Pasuwa downplayed the absence of fans as the reason for dropping points.
“I wouldn’t talk much about the fans. Of course they always push the boys to play better, but the situation we have prohibits us from playing with fans. They [players] are professionals, they need to pull up on their own in order to win games. You can’t just collect points without fighting for it, but we weren’t that good in the opening half hence dropping the points,” he said.
The result leaves Bullets still on eighth position with 12 points from seven games, whilst Ntopwa are seventh with 14 points from nine games.
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