An adventurous performance from FCB Nyasa Big Bullets ensured we swept aside Red Lions 4-0 in the TNM Super League at the Kamuzu Stadium on Sunday afternoon.
The resounding result sees us take a firm stand at the top of the standings with a two-point gap over Silver Strikers, who dislodged Mighty Mukuru Wanderers from the second position following a 4-1 victory over Bangwe All Stars on the same afternoon.
Led by Lanjesi Nkhoma in the opening half, Antony Mfune, Stanley Billiat and Precious Sambani did the military side the most damage in the final period.
Well aware that two of their rivals in the title race had dropped points in the past two days, Kalisto Pasuwa’s men were off to a strong dominant start which signalled a great hunger for the quickest goal possible in the tie.
Two minutes after the start, Chawanangwa Gumbo saw his fine effort from the edge of the box rattling against the upright to allow the visitors a huge let-off.
Our eagerness to force an early lead however proved impossible for the visitors to tame as our leading scorer, Nkhoma, set up by Maxwell Phodo, put us in front in the 5th minute following a breath-taking team move.
Having grabbed the lead we marched on to boss the proceedings of the tie and in the 23rd Phodo unselfishly set up Nkhoma, who unmarked, shot straight at the goalkeeper to waste what was a glorious chance to double our lead and his brace on the day.
Plenty of chances continued to fall on our plate but the ruthlessness to make them count was the missing element in the Bullets.
Two minutes before the half-hour mark Nkhoma tapped in a Patrick Mwaungulu low cross but his celebration was cut short as the referee ruled out his strike for offside.
We then slowed down after our several misses in front of the goal and that made the visitors come at us looking for a fight back.
The visitors had a go at goal in a set-piece situation through defender James Mwetse but our ‘keeper Richard Chimbamba did well to deny him and protect our slender lead.
Two minutes before the referee Mwayi Nsungama brought the tie to a break, Chimbamba again denied Davie Major from levelling the state of affairs with a fantastic save.
From the interval break, the Lions of Zomba came back an improved side as they now started seeing much of the ball and playing with the compactness they helplessly lacked in the first half.
The visitors’ resurgence however did not stop us from relentlessly creating chances, unfortunately, we still carried the finishing defect.
At the stroke of the hour mark, Sambani jumped the highest to power a wonderful header from a Mwaungulu corner kick only to see his effort denied by the crossbar.
If Bullets were sharp enough in front of the goal, the scoreline would have been very terrible for Red Lions. Three disallowed goals for offside, and countless misses kept the visitors from severe punishment.
Looking to establish a healthy lead, Pasuwa then replaced Phodo and Mwaungulu with Mfune and Billiat.
That, proved to be a genius change from the Zimbabwean gaffer as Mfune scored our second a few minutes after his introduction.
Down the left, Nkhoma raced into the box with the ball before beautifully sliding it to Mfune who guided it to the bottom far corner past Juwaya to double the lead.
At 2-0, Red Lions still looked undone as they continued pushing to fight back, hoping they could still get something from the tie in which they were put on the chopping board for the most part of it.
Now aiming to thwart any ray of hope in the visitors’ hearts, Pasuwa then made a triple change in the 80th minute as he brought on Blessings Mpokera, McFallen Mgwira and Kenneth Pasuwa for Frank Willard, Nkhoma and Chawanangwa Gumbo.
And just like the first, the second and last change Pasuwa made proved to be well calculated and one that paid off.
Set up with an incredible outside-foot pass, the late substitute, Billiat, made a neat reception of it, took on a single opponent and unleashed a fierce strike which went past Juwaya at the near post to make it 3-0 with two minutes to go before full-time.
That wasn’t all for the day as we shortly had another decent attempt at goal
through Mgwira but Juwaya did a great job to clear the danger for a corner.
It was quite a fine save from the former Wanderers goalie but there was little he could do shortly after that when Sambani beat him with a lovely header at the near post following a pin-point Billiat corner kick to make it 4-0 in the 93rd minute.
Sambani’s goal proved to be a wrap-up of what was a perfect afternoon at home for The People’s Team as the referee shortly closed the tie.
What it means
With today’s Red Lions smashing, we have maintained the top spot in the new campaign. After playing seven games, Bullets are now on 17 points, two points clear of Silver Strikers.
Having scored our opener today, Nkhoma is now the leading top goal scorer in the league with his tally now at 7 from seven games.
In a tie we had three disallowed goals and plenty of missed opportunities, the defending champions still managed to put four past the struggling Red Lions. This simply tells one to expect Maule to score as they like this season provided we become a bit more ruthless in front of goal.
Man of the Match
The individual accolade has been coming for our Kenyan new signing, Clyde Senaji Navade.
It’s like he has been with us for quite so long, looking at how he has performed with sheer authority at our back this season.
Before today’s tie, the centre-back had already captained his defence to three clean sheets. Getting his fourth today required him to produce another defensive masterclass.
Not showing panic in tempestuous moments is slowly becoming his greatest attribute. While partnering up with his fellow countryman, Collins Okumu, Senaji showed that again.
The scoreline may read 4-0 but that does not mean Red Lions failed to ask our defence a lot of questions. Smashing the military outfit with that margin was not only down to the prowess of our attackers but rather to the resilience in our defence as well.
At the centre of our solid rear guard on Sunday afternoon was Senaji, who deservingly had to be recognized for his outstanding performance.
Having maintained our lead at the top with today’s win over Red Lions, another league fixture awaits us next weekend. We now shift our focus on the long trip to the Northern Region where Chitipa United is set to play host at Karonga Stadium.