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Bullets reclaim top spot with 2-0 win over Karonga

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After 14 matches in the TNM Super League, defending champions FCB Nyasa Big Bullets have the opportunity to finish the first round on top of the standings following Saturday’s 2-0 victory over Karonga United at Kamuzu Stadium.

The win took Bullets’ tally to 29 points, level with Chitipa United who have finished their first-round games, and a point above Silver Strikers.

Against Karonga United, Pasuwa welcomed back defender Clyde Senaji to his first eleven following the Kenyan’s recovery from an injury that kept him out of action for almost a month.

Richard Chimbamba also returned to the starting XI, alongside Frank Willard and Maxwell Phodo as Gomezgani Chirwa started on the bench and only came on following an injury to Precious Phiri.

Before the kickoff, the two teams observed a minute of silence in memory of former Bullets defender Kumbukani ‘Banya’ Lungu who died last week in South Africa.

From the onset, the hosts pressed for an early goal, but each attack met a very resilient defensive duo of Sinto Chipole and Justin Banda.

Banda was called into action in the 5th minute to intercept a very dangerous ball from Phodo whose target was Lanjesi Nkhoma at the far end of the six-yard box.

Patrick Mwangulu had an attempt from a free-kick wander over the bar, a few inches away from Lloyd Munthali’s upright.

The winger was at it again when Chawangwa Gumbo opened Karonga’s defence, but his right-foot effort missed the upright with just a few inches.

The visitors were made to sit back to stop Bullets’ high-pressing wingers, but this ended up inviting more pressure as Pasuwa’s charges were desperately looking for the much-needed opening goal to unsettle them.

Just after the half-hour mark, Bullets got their goal.

Mwaungulu exchanged passes with Chawanangwa Gumbo before setting up Hassan Kajoke who made no mistake to slot the ball past Munthali, 1-0.

The People’s Team should have doubled the lead moments later when Nkhoma got the better of Gabinho Daud only to be denied by the post and from the rebound, Phodo missed with the goalkeeper already beaten in the line of duty.

At the other end, the visitors created their first goal-scoring opportunity when Eric Atsigah set up Saulos Moyo who found himself in a one-on-one situation with Chimbamba, but he was too slow to react and allowed Blessings Mpokera to cover for the shot-stopper before making a timely clearance.

With ten minutes left to play before the recess, Gumbo missed a glorious opportunity when he fired his shot wide with Munthali already beaten.

In the second half, Pasuwa brought in McFallen Mgwira and Chirwa for Phiri and Phodo whilst Luke Milanzi substituted Geoffrey Kadzitche, Ellie Kayombo and Alfred Chizinga for Sherrif Shamama, Allen Chihana, and Victor Chirambo.

The hosts extended the lead in the 67th minute through Nkhoma, who was set up by Precious Sambani after finding himself on the receiving end of Willard’s excellent long ball to the defender.

Karonga United had their first corner kick in the 77th minute, but Bullets easily defended it.

Munthali was called into action in the 79th minute when he produced a stunning save to deny Mwaungulu from finding the back of the net.

In the 75th minute, Ephraim Kondowe and Eric Kaonga replaced Willard and Kajoke.

Kondowe almost registered his name on the scoresheet when he connected well from Mfune’s cross to the left flank, but the forward was very unfortunate to see the ball rolling over the bar from close range.

Few chances were created towards the end of the match, with Josiah Duwa’s goal being ruled out for offside, whilst Munthali came to the visitors’ rescue with a save to deny Mfune from scoring when he was found unmarked by Chirwa inside the penalty area.

Bullets held on to register their eighth win of the season and moved top of the standings, level on points with Chitipa United, but the defending champions have a game in hand which will be played on Wednesday to finish the first-round campaign.

A win on Wednesday will see the defending champions finish the first round on top with 32 points, 9 points less than what they achieved last season when they finished the first round with 41 points from 13 wins and two draws.

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