The first Blantyre derby of 2023 could not produce a winner as FCB Nyasa Big Bullets were held to a goalless draw against Mighty Mukuru Wanderers at the Kamuzu Stadium on Saturday afternoon.
While the Nomads enjoyed dominance in the first half, Maule had a better second half especially in the closing stages of our second match in the 2023 Pre-Season International Bonanza.
Nonetheless, there was nothing to separate the two sides at full-time.
Typical of a Blantyre derby, the tie started on a high tempo with action swinging on both halves of the pitch.
As the showdown unfolded, the Nomads then claimed total control by claiming a sheer ball possession in our half.
Several times, the Lali Lubani side had goal attempts but their near-misses kept us unconceded in those nervous periods.
Two minutes away from the halftime break, our cross-town rivals won a free-kick on a promising position but were once again denied to open the scoring, this time by Kesten Simbi’s clearance.
Half-time break came with the two sides unable to find a goal and the Nomads were left frustrated for getting nothing from their dominance.
We did not improve after the restart, and Pasuwa, looking to change things, made triple substitutions when he introduced Mike Mkwate, Chinedu Okafor and McFallen Mgwira, who replaced Anthony Mfune, Chawanangwa Gumbo and Patrick Mwaungulu.
It is then now that we grew into the game and started making threats in front of the Nomads’ goal.
Unfortunately, our late upsurge could not get the winner as the match finished scoreless.
What it means
Registering back-to-back goalless draws explains well how the team our head coach Pasuwa is cooking this year is falling short in terms of aggression and how well organized it is when it comes to defending.
The result means that the champions of Malawi are still winless in the three-day tourney that ends tomorrow.
Having collected two points from two games, Maule sit third in the standings with two points. Mozambican UD Songo is top with four points while Ferroviário De Nampula is second, and Wanderers anchor the table with a point.
Senaji shines as Mike Mkwate returns
In goalless draws, an outstanding performer might be hard to pick. In today’s derby, Kenyan Clyde Senaji, who is on trials at The People’s Team, produced some rear-guard action deserving recognition.
The centre-back looked so comfortable on the ball and was heavy metal in challenges. Not once, the 26-year-old was cheered on by the fans for his impressive showings.
If throwing him in the Blantyre derby was a stern test for him then surely, he got the pass. Should he maintain the standards he displayed on Saturday afternoon, Maule might have well gotten themselves quite a player.
While Sinaji shined, Mike Mkwate, who spent the past two years at Polokwane City in South Africa, finally made the return to The People’s Team as Pasuwa introduced him late in the second half. This was to the delight of many who cheered the creative midfielder while he warmed up and the time he came on.
There was only a little time left on the clock, but Mkwate, who had been out of action for a long period at Polokwane, proved to many that he still has his touch.
Bullets looked to be lacking penetration by the time he came on, but the midfielder provided that with slick passes that nearly brought us our first goal in this tourney.
For a player who has been out of action for a long period, fitness levels might be a concern and Pasuwa is likely to be cautious with Mkwate.
Whatever, there is a sense of excitement by the fans to welcome Mkwate back to the club following his move to Polokwane in the summer of 2021.
Having played against Nampula and Wanderers, The People’s Team will now look to wrap up the tourney with a test against the Mozambican champions, UD Songo, tomorrow afternoon at the same venue.