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Match report: Karonga 0-1 Bullets

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FCB Nyasa Big Bullets need one point to secure the 2023 TNM Super League championship after defeating Karonga United 1-0 on Wednesday afternoon.

Patrick Mwaungulu scored the only goal of the match early in the opening half to ensure The People’s Team edge closer to a fifth successive league title after opening a three-point gap over second-placed Silver Strikers.

What happened

The defending champions had one crucial task visiting the hostile Karonga Stadium, and that was to collect all three points against Trevor Kajawa’s side which always caused problems for The People’s Team and they delivered.

From the first whistle, the visitors were very offensive as they created three quick chances inside the opening five minutes, but Sunganani Mponda came to the rescue with a save to deny Yamikani Fodya from scoring from a freekick.

Moments later, Mwaungulu fired wide when he was set through by Ephraim Kondowe, while Hassan Kajoke’s powerful header inside the penalty box missed the left-hand post with an inch.

The high-pressing start finally paid off in the 7th minute when Kondowe made a run to his left side before sending an excellent delivery into the penalty area and the 21-year-old pounced from close range to score what would be a vital goal to give us all points on the afternoon, 0-1.

The hosts then increased their attacking fluency through Ellie Kayombo, Pilirani Thulu, and Mwiso Youngson, but they couldn’t break a defensive wall led by Clyde Senaji who partnered with Gomezgani Chirwa in central defence.

But Kajawa’s men almost levelled when Thulu delivered a brilliant ball into the box from a freekick, which was headed over the crossbar by Kayombo.

After the half-hour mark, the hosts thought they had levelled when Kayombo got the better of Senaji before firing at goal only to be denied by the post, and from the rebound, Allen Chihana missed from close range as he sent his effort wide when Richard Chimbamba was already beaten in the line of duty.

With 36 minutes played on the clock, Mwaungulu released Kajoke to the left, and the forward made a brilliant run into the penalty box, but his shot swerved away from Mponda’s goal.

With the bumpy, dry, and hard pitch, Bullets could not manage to play their usual passing game but were able to hold on to the slender lead until the half-time break.

After the recess, the hosts continued their hunt for an equalizer but Bullets’ back-four protected their goal area with everything to frustrate the stubborn Karonga as the majority of the action was in the midfield where Yamikani Fodya, Ernest Petro, and Mwaungulu battled it out for possession against Nanisoni Mbewe and Victor Chirambo.

The hosts introduced Tony Nyango for Chihana, and with his height advantage, he caused problems for our defence but lacked the composure to punish Bullets who were now defending too deep.

We nearly doubled our advantage in the 62nd minute when a long ball from Senaji caught Gabinho Daud off guard and allowed the ball to bounce over him, setting Kondowe who found himself in a one-on-one situation with Mponda, but his attempt missed the left-hand post with just an inch.

65 minutes on the clock saw Kajawa bringing on board Henry Chiwaya and Geoffrey Kadzitche for Chirambo and Sailos Mbewe as they continued looking for a goal.

With 20 minutes left on the clock, McFallen Mgwira and Stanley Billiat were brought in for Lanjesi Nkhoma and Kajoke.

Two quick set pieces to the hosts caused havoc inside the box, but once again, Nyango and Youngson failed to put the ball inside the net.

Kajawa replaced Kayombo with Josiah Duwa while Pasuwa introduced Yankho Singo and Maxwell Phodo for Kondowe and Mwaungulu.

Long balls from the hosts caused more problems in defence. This forced Pasuwa to introduce Collins Okumu for Fodya as Bullets looked to battle for duels in the midfield, and this game plan worked as the hosts kept on losing possession, allowing the visitors to manage the game for the better part of the remaining minutes.

After 90 minutes, there was a delay to the match as the home fans started throwing objects on the pitch, forcing the referee Newton Nyirenda to stop play with five minutes added to the clock.

Though the game resumed, Bullets held on to record an important win at Karonga Stadium in nearly three seasons.

What it means

The win sees Maule opening a three-point lead at the top of the TNM Super League table over second-placed Silver Strikers with 59 points after 29 games played before the campaign ends on Sunday when the Central Bankers visit Bullets at Kamuzu Stadium.

Wednesday’s favourable result for the Malawi champions means that even if they lose in their final match, they must concede more than four goals to surrender the title to Pieter de Jongh’s side.

The People’s Team need a point to secure the title, a fifth successive championship for Pasuwa following his arrival in Malawi in 2018.

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