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Match report: Bullets 1-0 Bangwe

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FCB Nyasa Big Bullets walked away with all three points in a thrilling TNM Super League encounter with Bangwe All Stars following a hard-fought 1-0 victory at Kamuzu Stadium on Wednesday afternoon.

Coming from a 4-0 defeat at the hands of TP Mazembe in the CAF Champions League on Saturday, The People’s Team had to make amends through Patrick Mwaungulu’s late winner in the midweek fixture.

What happened

As he continues rotating his squad, Kalisto Pasuwa also made several changes to his team on Wednesday, with the likes of Frank Willard, Lanjesi Nkhoma and Peter Banda all dropping to the bench as he opted for Chawanangwa Gumbo, Ernest Petro and Patrick Mwaungulu in the middle of the field, while he settled for Righteous Banda, Anthony Mfune and Maxwell up front.

Rabson Chiyenda was in between the sticks with Gomegzani Chirwa, Clyde Senaji, Nickson Nyasulu and Precious Phiri providing cover at the back.

The visitors were a better side in the opening half through their high-intensity football, which originated from the back and transitioned in the middle going forward where they caused a lot of havoc to the Bullets’ defence but had their attempts off target.

For the opening 15 minutes of the match, no goalkeeper was tested, with the middle of the park being the most active area as the midfield battle intensified between Ernest Petro and former Bullets defensive midfielder Innocent Msowoya.

But the game opened up to the visitors who increased their attacking efficiency and pace to unlock Clyde Senaji’s led defence that resulted in the first powerful effort at goal from Robert Saizi and from the rebound, Kondwani Chilembwe fired wide.

At the other end, Pasuwa’s men nearly capitalized on Bangwe All Stars’ disrupted counterattack through Mwaungulu, who won the ball and made his way into the visitors’ half, only for Maxwell Gasten to lose possession when his fellow attackers had already outnumbered the visiting side.

This slipup nearly punished the defending champions as James Tambwali released a thunderous shot at goal only to be denied by Chiyenda, who, at this moment, was the busiest of the two shot-stoppers, and from the rebound, Chilembwe missed again, to the relief of the home side.

Bangwe kept on asking and in the 30th minute, Saizi delivered a very dangerous cross into the six-yard box and found Friday Osagie, who was unmarked. The Nigerian fired at goal, but he was denied by Chiyenda, who produced a brilliant save to keep his side in the game.

The visitors should have been three goals up had they been clinical enough in front of goal in the opening period against Bullets, who had no shot at goal in the entire first half.

The day kept on worsening for The People’s Team after Petro was stretchered out with an injury following a bad challenge by Msowoya. He was replaced with Willard.

The coming in of the holding midfielder improved the hosts’ performance as they started pressing from all angles in search of a goal, at this point, Bangwe’s midfield was neutralized and the supply lines to Emmanuel Lino and Saizi were completely cut off.

However, there was still no shot at goal from Bullets who kept on passing the ball around but lacked the finishing composure in front of goals, making Ellias Missi a spectator for the entire opening 45 minutes.

Sensing danger, Pasuwa had to introduce Peter Banda and Nkhoma for Phodo and Righteous Banda to improve his attacking prowess.

These changes were all what Bullets needed as they improved in all areas and started creating chances, but the visitors defended with everything to frustrate the home fans who were now having hope of getting something out of the game after a disappointing first half.

In quick succession, Mfune and Nkhoma fired over the crossbar when Bullets pounced on Abel Mkandawire’s charges through two stunning counter-attacks orchestrated by Mwaungulu, who was a marvel to watch throughout the match.

The visitors sat back to defend against a now improved side, thereby inviting pressure from Bullets who were now pushing for a goal and full points, knowing how intense the title race is becoming.

Mkandawire brought in Mathews Masamba for Chilembwe to fix their midfield, which was in shreds and controlled by Willard, who ensured that every attack in Bullets half was neutralized.

In the 61st minute, Mwaungulu was denied by Missi’s excellent save when he was set through by Mfune. The evidence was clear that Bullets was now dominant as the visitors were all behind the ball in their half.

Moments later, Nkhoma’s powerful strike was also well saved by Missi, who, at this hour, was now the busiest goalkeeper, taking over from his colleague who was now enjoying his side’s dominance.

With 20 minutes left on the clock, Pasuwa brought in the fresh legs of Ephraim Kondowe for Mfune, as the defending champions continued searching for the much-needed goal.

Knowing how Bullets presses whenever they are looking for a goal, Bangwe All Stars started some delaying tactics to kill off the tempo of the match as they opted for a point rather than giving all the points to Pasuwa’s charges.

But they couldn’t do this for long as they conceded in dramatic fashion in the 79th minute.

Missi, who was having the best game of his life, directed his clearance in the path of Mwaungulu and the 21-year-old, who was voted Man of the Match, wasted no time but release an exquisite volley into an empty net, with the goalkeeper nowhere near his line of defence, 1-0.

This goal aroused Bangwe’s tempo and they stepped up looking for an equalizer.

Mkandawire brought in Osman Akimu and Ayo Segun Balogun for injured Lino and Tambwali.

But this did not stop Bullets from attacking, and twice, Kondowe and Mwaungulu combined well to force the visitors to commit some errors, one being Missi’s failure to clear a back pass that resulted in a corner that was well defended by Talandira Chigaula.

In the additional minutes, Bullets survived a scare. A through-ball from Saizi found Osagie unmarked in the box and the striker released a very powerful shot that was well blocked by Senaji for a corner kick.

The set piece almost resulted in a goal when Balogun produced a powerful header only to be denied by Nyasulu’s clearance off the line and win it for Bullets as referee Mayamiko blew his whistle to mark the end of the match.

The result sees Bullets moving into the second position with 43 points, three behind log leaders Mighty Mukuru Wanderers who have played three more games than the defending champions.

What next?

Next on the menu for The People’s Team is the FDH Bank Cup final against Mafco FC at Bingu National Stadium on Sunday afternoon.

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