FCB Nyasa Big Bullets had to put in a performance of patience and persistence to defeat Extreme FC 0-1 in the TNM Super League at Civo Stadium on Saturday afternoon.
The defending champions secured the victory against an ultra-defensive Mchinji Boys, thanks to a 63rd-minute strike by substitute Hassan Kajoke.
Kalisto Pasuwa made two changes to the side that won 4-0 over Mafco FC last week, with Collins Okumu and Nickson Nyasulu replacing Kesten Simbi and injured Clyde Senaji.
From the word go, the visitors had better ball possession as they passed at will, especially in the middle of the field where Mike Mkwate, Ernest Petro and Frank Willard were operating, but they were up against a side that was very brilliant in defence, forcing Bullets to use secondary balls in a desperate bid for a goal.
Bullets offered the first threat on goal in the 13th minute through Patrick Mwaungulu, whose shot from a freekick hit a well-organized defensive wall, led by the home side’s captain Gift Daniel.
In the 22nd minute, Mwaungulu was found in the goal area unmarked by Lanjesi Nkhoma but the winger, who did everything right, saw his shot well saved by Blessings Juma, who was very outstanding between the sticks for the home team.
The hosts were forced to make an early substitution when Yeremiah Phiri sustained an injury, and he was replaced by Francis Black in the 27th minute.
At the other end, Extreme FC’s only realistic chance fell to Black in the 33rd minute when his powerful shot outside the penalty area missed Richard Chimbamba’s goal with just an inch, the closest from the rookies.
The hosts sat back and looked to hit on the break, though they lacked firepower in front courtesy of a defensive display from Nyasulu and Okumu alongside Alick Lungu and Blessings Mpokera.
The last chance of the first half fell to Bullets, as they almost took advantage of a miscommunication in Extreme’s defence. Francis Pakusu’s clearance left Petro in no man’s land and set through Nkhoma. But the striker’s powerful shot inside the penalty area was once again well saved by Juma, leaving the game goalless at the break.
As Pasuwa predicted, it was indeed a very difficult game for his side against an unknown opponent.
The tactician made a half-time triple substitution when he brought on Righteous Banda, Hassan Kajoke and Anthony Mfune for Maxwell Gasten Phodo, Mkwate and Nkhoma to try to improve their attacking prowess in search of the much-needed opener.
Indeed, these changes improved Bullets’ offensive options as they pressed from all angles to find the back of the net.
Bullets pressed, with Extreme sitting deep, allowing the visitors to enjoy the vast majority of possession, and the away side carved out another chance in the 56th minute when Banda’s powerful header was well saved by Juma, who looked unfazed and was in total control of every ball thrown at him.
The People’s Team looked to freshen up their attack, but the hosts continued to be an immovable object in defence.
The Mchinji-based side had even a rare scoring chance of their own in the 60th minute, but Beston Jimu narrowly missed getting onto Black’s knock-down in the goal area.
Bullets’ persistence and patience were rewarded in the 63rd minute when Mwaungulu’s excellent delivery into the area from a freekick was connected well by Kajoke, 0-1.
But moments later, the hosts won a set piece which Black delivered to John Chalamanda, who was unmarked in the box, but his header went wide from close range.
Jimu was replaced by Junior Banda for the rookies in the 70th minute as they also tried to push for an equalizing goal.
Mfune had a long-range rocket well saved by Jimu in the 73rd minute, and Bullets were just very unfortunate not to add more goals through the chances they created throughout the match.
Kajoke almost doubled his tally and our lead when he was set through by Mpokera, but he was once again denied by Juma in the 83rd minute with yet another excellent save.
86 minutes on the clock, Banda thought he had scored, but his volley from outside the penalty area hit the upright when Juma was already beaten in the line of duty.
The two teams made changes in the 90th minute when Levison Gopani replaced Griffin Ng’anjo for the hosts whilst Chawanangwa Gumbo and Precious Phiri came on for Mwaungulu and Petro.
There was more drama coming as Juma was sent off in the added minutes by referee Kondwani Kamwendo after the shot-stopper left his line of duty to challenge Mfune, who was found in a one-on-one situation and should have scored, only to be fouled by the goalkeeper.
Lungu stepped up, but his freekick was poorly taken and that was the last straw in the bottle as Kamwendo blew his whistle to mark the end of an intriguing encounter between the two sides, who were meeting for the first time in history.
The win sees Bullets maintaining their second position with seven points from three games, two behind Mighty Mukuru Wanderers, who had a 2-1 win over Ekwendeni Hammers at home.
Man of the Match
Our defensive midfielder Frank Willard was named the Farmers Organization Limited Man of the Match, the first one this campaign.
Bullets’ next assignment on the menu is a home game against Moyale Barracks at Kamuzu Stadium on Saturday.