FCB Nyasa Big Bullets returned to the top of the TNM Super League standings following a 3-2 victory over Moyale Barracks at Rumphi Stadium on Tuesday afternoon.
The defending champions are on top on goal difference as second-placed Mighty Mukuru Wanderers, who also have 47 points, lost 1-0 to Silver Strikers on Monday.
Fresh from a hard-fought 1-1 draw to Ekwendeni Hammers on Saturday at the same venue, Kalisto Pasuwa made four changes to his team by including Stanley Billiat, Precious Phiri, Ephraim Kondowe and Blessings Mpokera for Hassan Kajoke, Patrick Mwaungulu, Chawanangwa Gumbo and Lanjesi Nkhoma.
The hosts broke the deadlock just after two minutes when Lovemore Jere was found unmarked by Gasten Simkonda’s delivery from a corner kick to produce a powerful header, beating Rabson Chiyenda, 1-0.
Despite conceding early, Bullets did not lose concentration as they pushed forward in search of an equalizer which happened magically in the 8th minute.
Maxwell Phodo flicked the ball to Kondowe outside the area and the forward moved two steps before releasing a thunderous strike to the top corner of McDonald Harawa’s left-hand side, 1-1.
The hosts should have restored their lead in the 15th minute when a communication breakdown between Clyde Senaji and his goalkeeper allowed Raphael Phiri to fire at goal, but Gomezgani Chirwa came to Bullets’ rescue with a timely clearance off the line to concede a corner kick which The People’s Team easily defended.
For the next 15 minutes, the Lions of Kaning’ina had more than three set pieces closer to the penalty area, but the one that would have gone in was taken by George Nyirenda who fired at goal only to be denied by Chiyenda, who produced an excellent save to deny his former Bullets teammate.
In this opening half, the visitors were defending against the winds, a situation that allowed Moyale Barracks to press for another goal, but Bullets defended with everything to go to the recess at 1-1.
In the second period, Bullets started on the front foot looking for an early goal and it happened three minutes into the half, Kondowe was back on the scoresheet as he doubled his tally with another excellent finish.
A long ball from the back found Phodo, who was brought down by Maneno Nyoni, but Referee Melusi Nyirongo played advantage and Kondowe capitalized as he overpowered the last defender to volley past Harawa, who had already left his line of defence, 1-2.
The hosts made two changes as Victor Chingoka brought in Hassan Upindi and Walusungu Mdoka for Charles Nkhoma and Boniface Chuma in the 52nd minute.
Mdoka was a thorn in the fresh to Bullets defenders with his pace and the ability to take on defenders and twice, he forced the visitors’ backline to commit errors that would have resulted in goals, but Chiyenda was very alert with excellent saves.
Pasuwa introduced Nkhoma for Billiat to add more firepower, especially to the right flank which Moyale Barracks was using to attack Bullets through Phiri.
With an hour played, Phodo nearly registered his first league goal when he was set through by Nkhoma, but the forward’s effort was stopped by Harawa.
The hosts had another opportunity from a set piece, which was delivered into the box by Jere, but Chiyenda rose to the occasion with yet another important save.
Moyale kept on pushing, and they should have had a goal in the 70th minute when Phiri found Upindi to the left and the forward saw his powerful shot well stopped by Chiyenda for a corner kick, which wasn’t capitalized by the hosts.
As Moyale pushed everyone forward in a desperate bid for a goal, Bullets capitalized.
Phiri was dispossessed by Nkhoma in his half, and the winger used his pace to outrun Timothy Nyirenda into the six-yard area before firing past Harawa near post, 1-3.
With ten minutes left to play, Gumbo and Kajoke were introduced for Phodo and Kondowe, as managing the game at this stage was more vital for Bullets as the match headed towards the final whistle.
However, the match was brought back to life when Phiri reduced the arrears following a defensive break when Senaji and Yamikani Fodya failed to clear a long ball from Upindi, 2-3.
The soldiers almost levelled in the 87th minute when Chiyenda failed to handle a long ball from Jere, conceding a corner that almost went in, but Chirwa was very alert with another excellent clearance
Three additional minutes to the clock saw Moyale pushing every player forward, but Bullets defended well to collect all the points to return to Blantyre with four out of the possible six and displaced Wanderers from the top.
The People’s Team will shift focus to a home fixture against Chitipa United in the TNM Super League on Saturday.