FCB Nyasa Big Bullets started the TNM Super League title defence with a 1-1 draw away to Silver Strikers at Bingu National Stadium on Saturday afternoon.
This is the second time in three years for Kalisto Pasuwa’s men to start their title defence with a draw as they were held to a goalless draw by Blue Eagles in the 2020/21 season but ended up winning the title.
Pasuwa maintained the team that defeated Mighty Mukuru Wanderers 2-1 in the NBS Bank Charity Shield at the same venue last week.
First, in more than eight years for Bullets to start their campaign with an away match against Silver Strikers, Pasuwa anticipated a very difficult game but his charges were able to ease the pressure exerted by our former midfielder Chimwemwe Idana.
The first five minutes saw the Central Bankers pressing in search of an early goal but Richard Chimbamba came to Bullets’ rescue when he denied Atusaye Nyondo from finding the back of the net from a well-taken freekick by Duncan Nyoni.
From there, Bullets enjoyed an overwhelming possession through pacey wingers Lanjesi Nkhoma and Patrick Mwaungulu, who were causing havoc, especially where Mark Fodya was operating from as he struggled to contain the visitors’ pace.
Up to that stage, Maxwell Phodo had been trapped offside two times and it seemed Silver had worked out how to eliminate their former striker.
In the 32nd minute, Nickson Mwase intercepted a dangerous pass from Mike Mkwate to Nkhoma who was ready to pounce.
Bullets gradually imposed themselves with a succession of attacks from the left channel. On numerous occasions, our wingbacks Alick Lungu and Blessings Mpokera stalked into the attack with overlapping roles. They both had chances in the firing zone after shaking off their markers.
The pressure finally paid off when Bullets’ class came to the fore and Nkhoma provided the finishing touch for his first goal of the season. He was assisted by Lungu who was a marvel to watch after he was released by our Kenyan centre-half Clyde Senaji and The People’s Team went for the recess leading 0-1.
In the second half, the hosts took the match by the scruff of the neck and scored the equalizer two minutes after the restart.
Nyoni’s thunderous shot was saved by Chimbamba to concede a corner from which the unmarked Mwase equalised with ease, 1-1.
Bullets’ response was swift but not impactful as they swept upfield with relentless attacks on the Bankers who, at this point, were also attacking from all angles in search of another goal.
Bullets’ midfield was in disarray and this forced Pasuwa to bring on board Chawanangwa Gumbo, Stanley Billiat and Chinedu Okafor for Mkwate, Phodo and Mwaungulu to try to regain control of the middle of the park.
Gift Chunga nearly grabbed Silver’s second goal when his powerful drive outside the penalty area was well saved by Chimbamba, who, in three minutes, had rescued the defending champions.
With less than 20 minutes left, Senaji produced a fantastic block, denying Chikondi Kamanga’s goal-bound shot for a corner kick. The Bankers had protested for a penalty but Referee Godfrey Nkhakananga stood with his decision and awarded them a corner which the visitors easily defended.
Nkhoma should have found the winner for Pasuwa’s men but his powerful shot in the 74th minute hit the post following brilliant work from Okafor to set his attacking partner.
It was a beautiful match to watch, with all players from both teams playing a very passing game with ease, which the fans enjoyed.
Anthony Mfune came on with eight minutes left to play and his first-time involvement saw his shot outside the penalty area well saved by Charles Thom, and in the end, the two teams had to settle for a draw.
Next on the menu for Bullets is Mafco at Kamuzu Stadium on Saturday.