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Bullets win 17th Super League championship

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FCB Nyasa Big Bullets have successfully secured a fifth consecutive TNM Super League title despite being held to a 1-1 draw by Silver Strikers at Kamuzu Stadium on Sunday afternoon to finish top of the table with 60 points.

The People’s Team came into the game fully aware that a point would be enough to retain the championship but were also aware that the opponents would come hard as they vowed to keep on fighting, hoping to snatch the title away from the champions had they won the last match of the season with a 4-0 margin.

Kalisto Pasuwa fielded a solid lineup and made only three changes to the side that won 1-0 away to Karonga United as he retained Maxwell Phodo in the starting XI in place of Ephraim Kondowe while Precious Phiri came in for Hassan Kajoke and Yankho Singo replaced Yamikani Fodya in defensive midfield.

What happened

From the onset, the two teams played a high-pressing game, but the visitors dominated the midfield through their playmakers Chimwemwe Idana and Chikondi Kamanga.

Pieter De Jhong’s men had their first chance from Duncan Nyoni’s well-taken corner kick which found Idana, but the former Bullets captain saw his goal-bound shot blocked by Clyde Senaji and from the rebound, Patrick Macheso blasted his effort over the crossbar.

At the other end, Phodo forced Pilirani Mapira to make his first save to concede a set piece from which the hosts failed to capitalize.

In the 10th minute, Mwaungulu got the better of Tatenda M’balaka before sending a low pass to Phodo, who was once again denied by Maxwell Paipi, who made an excellent block.

Precious Sambani was the next Bullets player to have a shot at goal, but his weaker effort was easily dealt with by Mapira.

Just after 21 minutes of play, Phodo thought he had finally made a breakthrough, but his powerful header from Lanjesi Nkhoma’s delivery hit the bar when Mapira was already beaten in the line of duty.

The Bankers had their moment of brilliance when Zebron Kalima released George Chaomba to his right only to see the former Mighty Tigers forward blast his effort over the crossbar when he was in a one-on-one situation with Richard Chimbamba.

Soon after the half-hour mark, Phodo played a fast one on Emmanuel Kaunga who was caught off guard by a long ball from the midfield, but the striker’s volley missed Mapira’s left-hand post with just an inch.

The first half ended goalless.

In the final period, the teams slowed down their tempo, but the midfield battle intensified between the two opposite players.

Idana was the centre of attraction with his dangerous passes, but the midfielder was let down by his side’s failure to capitalize on the dangerous balls he was sending into Bullets’ half.

In the 55th minute, Nyoni’s freekick found Idana unmarked, but the midfielder sent his effort over the crossbar.

The deadlock was broken in the 58th minute when Patrick Mwaungulu converted from close range as he pounced on Ernest Petro’s beautiful delivery into the box, 1-0.

With the clock fast ticking against the visitors, De Jhong brought in Stain Davie for Kalima to try to improve his attacking prowess while Kondowe replaced Phodo for the hosts.

Moments after the substitutions, Pasuwa’s side created two quick chances, unfortunately, all efforts went wide to keep the visitors in the game.

The Bankers levelled in the 71st minute through Macheso, who headed home Idana’s delivery from a free kick, 1-1.

Bullets were second fiddle in terms of possession and the midfield battle was completely lost, forcing Pasuwa to bring in Chawanangwa Gumbo and Blessings Mpokera for Singo and Petro as he looked to regain control of the central midfield.

At this moment, the game could have gone to either side and De Jhong introduced Atusaye Nyondo and Chinsinsi Maonga for Nyoni and Chaomba.

Davie missed a clear chance in the 86th minute after Maonga set him through. The forward opted for a goal instead of releasing the ball to Nyondo, who was ready and steady to pounce, and he fired wide.

On the other side of the field, Hassan Kajoke, who replaced Nkhoma, won an aerial duel and was found in a one-on-one situation with Mapira, who stopped the Bullets number 9’s effort.

The last minutes saw Idana’s effort at the goal well saved by Chimbamba, and Kondowe was also denied by Mapira to end the game at 1-1.

What it means

The result means Bullets have defended the title with 60 points, three points above De Jhong’s side who needed to win the match with more than five goals to upset the tables.

This is Pasuwa’s fifth league title and Bullets’ 17th league championship.

What next

Bullets, who also defended the FDH Bank Cup in October, have no time to rest as they will now switch their attention to the Castel Challenge Cup round of 32 match against Soche Socials at Kamuzu Stadium on Tuesday.

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