Babatunde Adepoju scored four goals to help Nyasa Big Bullets cement their position at the top of the TNM Super League with a 1-5 thrashing of Sable Farming at the Kamuzu Stadium on Wednesday afternoon.
The rampant defending champions continued to run away with proceedings in the 2022 campaign – maintaining their dominance with a 25-game unbeaten run in the league.
Bullets sit comfortably at the top of the TNM Super League table with 61 points and have a 10-point gap over second-placed Kamuzu Barracks, who displaced Blue Eagles with a 1-0 victory on the same afternoon.
Michael Tetteh opened the scoring for the hosts before Babatunde equalized to go for recess at 1-1.
After the interval, The People’s Team showed no mercy to the relegation-threatened Sable. Youngster Thomson Magombo scored his first goal for Kalisto Pasuwa’s side following his promotion from the Reserves to give us a lead before Babatunde completed a haul to take his tally to 16 goals.
Pasuwa made five changes to the side that drew 1-1 with Eagles last Saturday, with Blessings Mpokera, Magombo, MacFarlane Mgwira, Hassan Kajoke and Eric Kaonga all starting in place of Gomezgani Chirwa, Chimwemwe Idana, Precious Sambani, Anthony Mfune and Patrick Mwaungulu.
It was a lacklustre performance from the visitors, who struggled to settle down against their opponents, who seemed to have studied Bullets in the last match as they closed down all the supply lines to force them into using secondary balls in a desperate bid to find spaces and create goalscoring opportunities.
MacDonald Mtetemera’s side was the first to register a shot at goal when Tetteh found himself into the penalty box before sending his shot over the crossbar after he was set by former Bullets Reserves attacking midfielder Franklin Mulimanjala.
The People’s Team struggled to contain Mulimanjala, who was giving Kaonga too many problems and should have created another goal-scoring opportunity for the hosts when his cross found Chifundo Ngapemba on the edge of the penalty box, but the striker was jittery and allowed Kesten Simbi to intervene with a timely clearance.
Bullets then created their first clear chance in the 13th minute through Kajoke, who made a first-time connection from Mpokera’s cross only to be denied by Fletcher Jamali, who looked as if he was continuing from where he stopped in the first round when he made a series of saves to frustrate Pasuwa’s men who scored from the spot to all points.
Jamali was called into action again in the 15th minute when he stopped Mgwira’s teasing header from Babatunde’s cross into the box to gift Bullets with a corner kick which they easily defended.
Tetteh netted the opener in the 19th minute following defensive relapses inside Bullets’ penalty box, allowing the forward to slot the ball past Clever Mkungula in the far post, 1-0.
Sable’s celebration was cut short as Bullets levelled three minutes later when Babatunde produced a powerful header to connect home Kaonga’s well-taken corner kick,1-1.
The goal was a wake-up call to Mtetemera’s side and they now increased their attacking prowess through Simeon Singa and Mulimanjala, whose attacks created spaces for Tetteh and the forward should have found the back of the net again in the 28th minute but Mkungula did well to produce a brilliant save and keep Bullets in the game.
The hosts were pressing and they should have restored their lead soon after the half-hour mark when Mulimanjala got the better of Kaonga again before sending a dangerous pass into the penalty box to an unmarked Sunganani Geoffrey, but with Mkungula already beaten, the wingback blasted his effort over the crossbar when scoring looked easier than missing.
The defending champions were under siege as they struggled to tame Sable’s pace, especially from the wings where Mulimanjala and Geoffrey were operating from.
35 minutes into the opening period, the Chiradzulu-based side was handed another goal-scoring opportunity when Mpokera handled the ball closer to the 18-yard box only for Singa to send his attempt straight at Bullets’ defensive wall for a throw-in that had no impact in the final third.
The final minutes of the opening half belonged to Sable Farming, who kept possession, attacked and created spaces for the attackers to restore their lead, however, Simbi’s-led defence did well to contain the pressure before going to the break at 1-1.
After the recess, Pasuwa wasted no time and he introduced Alick Lungu and withdrew Kaonga, who was having difficulties containing Mulimanjala on the left side of the defence.
This change brought some stability in defence, with Bullets’ wings now able to advance into the attacking zone, something which was missing throughout the first half.
It only took ten minutes for Bullets to establish a lead when Mpokera made an excellent run down the right flank before delivering an inviting cross into the box from which Magombo connected to beat Jamali, who could do nothing to stop the powerful header from close range, 1-2.
Both teams made changes before the hour-mark when Emmanuel Lino and Stain Patrick replaced Singa and Geoffrey for Sable, whilst Precious Phiri, Henry Kabichi and Mfune came in for Magombo, Mgwira and Kajoke.
Meanwhile, at the other end of the field, Mkungula was called into action to deny Ngapenga from equalizing when his powerful drive was saved by the shot-stopper before Simbi’s intervention to put the ball to safety.
67 minutes into the match, the hosts hit the post twice in unbelievable circumstances.
Innocent Msowoya’s long-range effort was slightly saved by his ex-teammate at Bullets Reserves, Mkungula, before hitting the upright and Tetteh, who was standing by, failed to tap in as his rebound came off the same woodwork to frustrate Mtetemera’s led technical panel.
The missed chances came to haunt the Magede boys and Babatunde doubled his tally on the day in the 76th minute when he made a simple tap-in from a rebound after Mfune’s attempt hit the upright and the ball landed straight at the forward who just put the ball into an empty net, 1-3.
It was now goals galore as Babatunde completed his hat-trick in the 78th minute, finishing off Lungu’s million-dollar pass into the box, 1-4.
The visitors were now coming wave after wave and they should have had two more goals from 80th to the 84th minute, but Mfune was very unfortunate as his two strikes were blocked by Shabai Kassim for corner kicks, which the hosts managed to defend.
Mphatso Magaleta replaced Ernest Petro and the former Ntopwa midfielder immediately made an impact when his brilliant pass found Mfune unmarked in the 86th minute but the forward blasted over the crossbar for a goal kick.
Mtetemera made three changes when he brought in goalkeeper Christopher Mikuwa, Blessings Joseph and Anthony Madeya for Jamali, White Kitsen and Ngapenga.
Mikuwa was received by Babatunde’s fourth strike of the match when he guided the ball past the goalkeeper from Mfune’s pass to inspire Bullets to a 1-5 win over the relegation-threatened side, who needed a win for them to keep their survival hopes alive.
Babatunde was named Man of the Match and the four goals mean he is topping the scorers chat with 16 goals, two ahead of Mighty Mukuru Wanderers’ Muhammad Sulumba.
What this result means…
The latest win sees Bullets extending their unbeaten run to 25 games and are now 10 points clear of Kamuzu Barracks, who registered a 1-0 victory over Eagles, who have been occupying the second position and were the only realistic title contenders going into the final five matches of this league campaign.
Bullets have 61 points, a point shot of what they amassed in the entire 2020/21 season when they won the league with 62 points from 30 matches.
The People’s Team will only need three points to officially return the title, their fourth straight championship and 16th in their cabinet.