FCB Nyasa Big Bullets have all to play for in the second leg of the CAF Champions League second preliminary round following a 1-0 home defeat to TP Mazembe at Bingu National Stadium on Sunday afternoon.
Cheick Fofana scored the only goal of the match early in the opening half to give the visitors a 1-goal advantage going into the second leg away in Lubumbashi on 30 September.
Kalisto Pasuwa had three major injuries to his squad and he had to move Gomezgani Chirwa into central defence to partner Clyde Senaji while Precious Phiri played as a right-back.
From the onset, the hosts made their intentions clear with high-pressing football through Patrick Mwaungulu, Ernest Petro, Lanjesi Nkhoma and Hassan Kajoke, but met a very experienced side that was just too good in their defensive zone through Mor Mbaye, Ibrahima Keita, Ntambwe Kalonji and Kevin Mundeko Zatu.
Against the run of play, the visitors took a lead in the 6th minute. Through Ngalamule Bato, The Ravens caught The People’s Team on a counter and found Cheik Fofana on the far left and the wing forward drove the ball into the bottom far corner and beat Richard Chimbamba to his left-hand side, 1-0.
From there, it was Bullets all over the place, with Kajoke’s cross into the box handled by Mbaye only for the referee, Mohamed Diraneh Guedi from Djibouti, to wave play on.
In quick succession, two set pieces were awarded to Bullets, but with their aerial advantage, the Congolese giants defended every ball with ease.
Mwaungulu had his moments of magic when he caused havoc to the visitors’ defence but every ball thrown into the penalty area ended up in the hands of goalkeeper Siad Ngusia Baggio.
Petro had his weaker shot stopped by Baggio in the 38th minute, and moments later, Guedi turned down another penalty appeal from Bullets when Kajoke was brought down inside the area.
The remaining minutes of the opening half saw Bullets camping inside the opposition’s half but Pasuwa’s men lacked the finishing composure to make a breakthrough.
At the other end, Joel Beya nearly doubled Mazembe’s lead when he connected Merceil Ngimbi Vumbi’s cross after Chimbamba missed the ball in his zone.
The home side had another opportunity from a freekick, but Mwaungulu’s delivery was well dealt with by Baggio, who was in complete control of his area, and that was all for the half.
After the recess, Pasuwa brought in Ephraim Kondowe for Henry Kabichi whilst Mamadou Lamine Ndiaye introduced Mukoko Serge Tonombe for Ngimbi Vumbi to try to contain the hosts who moved Mwaungulu into the number 10 role to improve their attacking prowess.
The visitors created their first corner kick in the 48th minute, which was well-defended by Chimbamba.
Moments later, Baye made an excellent run to the right flank before seeing his cross well blocked by Senaji for their second set piece, which they failed to utilize.
Baye was then substituted for Boubacar Hainikoye in the 57th minute.
In the 59th minute, Nkhoma’s excellent cross into the six-yard area was missed by both Kajoke and Kondowe and allowed Mbaye to make a timely clearance.
Bullets kept on pressing from all angles by keeping possession and advancing into the attacking zone, but they lacked the killer punch to unlock the less troubled back four of Mazembe
From the 60th minute to the 64th minute, Ndiaye brought in Oussein Somalia Badamassi for Bato and Augustine Oladapo for Kalonji to try to balance between their defence and the offensive part of it.
Kajoke was also replaced by Anthony Mfune in the 70th minute, but it was the same approach which was more on possession but less on making serious threats to the opponents who only allowed the hosts to have one shot at goal.
75 minutes on the clock, Mwaungulu was set up by Kondowe but his first touch inside the box let him down as he allowed Mundeko Zatu to recover from his own mistake.
Bullets brought in McFallen Mgwira for Nkhoma, with Louis Ameka Autchanga coming in for Kinzumbi.
For the hosts, it was about increasing their attacking prowess in search of the equalizer whilst the visitors were just frustrating their opponents by managing the game to take a lead away from home.
With five minutes left to play, Senaji overlapped and made his way into the offensive zone to find Mfune who was let to set up Kondowe to the right-hand side, allowing Mbaye to win the ball in a very dangerous position.
With four minutes added to the clock, Bullets threw everything up front to try to force something out of the game but it was never meant to be as Mazembe walked away with the first leg win ahead of the second leg tie scheduled for the 30 September in Lubumbashi, the home of the Congolese side.