FCB Nyasa Big Bullets and Ferroviário de Nampula played out a goalless draw in the opening match of the 2023 Pre-Season International Bonanza at the Kamuzu Stadium on Friday afternoon.
Chances were plenty but the ability to turn them into goals proved to be the problem for the two teams who could only share the spoils at the end of the tie.
Not to the surprise of many, Bullets head coach Kalisto Pasuwa fielded more of an experimental lineup as starts were given to most of his fringe players last year.
After a season-long loan at Sable Farming, White Kitisen was among the starters together with Maxwell Gasten Phodo, who joined The Peoples Team at the end of last season’s campaign.
Pasuwa might have rested several of his key players but saw his side dominating the early proceedings of the encounter.
In the 13th minute, Yankho Singo, who returned to action after recovering from an injury, nearly put us in front but made no use of Stanley Billiat’s excellent cross from the right flank.
For the opening 20 minutes, we looked to be on the wheel of the lunchtime fixture but Nampula found a way to take over the seat of authority in the late minutes of the first half.
At the stroke of half an hour, the Mozambican outfit almost opened the scoring but was denied by some breathtaking double saves from Rabson Chiyenda before they hit the post.
After that huge late-off, Bullets did not ease the pressure exerted by the opposition, who almost camped in our half hoping to force a goal.
Despite the eagerness of the third finishers of the 2022 Moçambola champions, Maule showed enough resilience to hang on without conceding until the halftime break arrived.
The second half saw managers making wholesome changes, but this could not change the game’s narrative, which started and finished with only a few highlights.
What it means
Having shared the spoils, today’s result leaves Maule in third position of this year’s Bonanza log table after match day 1. With a 2-0 win over Mighty Mukuru Wanderers in the second game of the day, UD Songo now leads in the early standings of the tourney.
How the new boys fared
White and Phodo were given starts in what was their first competitive match for The People’s Team since they joined. Unfortunately, they could not register a win on their debut but were largely impressive in a lot of areas.
Usually a centre-back, White was deployed in the right-back role and though he struggled in transition at times, the Bullets Reserves graduate looked okay in duels that he lasted the whole game.
Phodo might have been unable to get his name on the score sheet but his runs in dangerous spaces and his ability to get hold of the ball provided signs of how incredible he can become at Bullets.
Given that it is just a pre-season fixture in which the manager is fiddling with combinations, Phodo’s blank debut might well mean not to be a concern.
They were also trial opportunities for Clyde Sinaji, Collins Okhumu and Chinedu Okafor who were introduced in the second half. Joining a tightly contested tie, the new faces did not make ripple effects but played their part in maintaining how things stood.
“A good game where we were looking at the fitness of the players and not necessarily looking at the result. We wanted to see the components of the fitness of players. I think they did well. Three-quarters of the players went over 80 minutes, something which is okay,” commented the Bullets mentor in a post-match press conference.
“It’s only in transitions and circulation of the ball that we struggled with because we are still slow, but we will go back to the dressing room as you know most of these players were with the national team, they didn’t train with us, so we couldn’t work together. But again it was a fair result to them.”
After dropping points today, Bullets will now have to prepare themselves for yet another Blantyre derby edition as they are set to face Wanderers tomorrow afternoon at the same venue.
The two Mozambican visiting teams will face off in the opening game of matchday 2 of the bonanza which ends on Sunday.