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Bullets Women help Malawi beat South Africa 4-3 in COSAFA opener

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FCB Nyasa Big Bullets Women played an important role in helping Malawi open the Hollywoodbets COSAFA Women’s Championship with a 4-3 win over South Africa on Wednesday afternoon.

Lyna James, Bernadette Mkandawire and Vanessa Chikupila played in the second match of the day at the Lucas Moripe Stadium as the Scorchers faced the hosts in their opening match of the 12-day tournament in Pretoria.

Midfielder James and Defender Mkandawire were in Lovemore Fazili’s starting XI and played the 90 minutes whilst wing forward Chikupila was introduced after the opening half, replacing Leticia Chinyamula.

Mkandawire caught fans’ attention on so many occasions in the first half. The number 22 would have helped put Malawi on the score sheet with her brilliant pass in the 7th minute to set up Ireen Khumalo, unfortunately, her defensive partner shot directly at goalkeeper Kebosteng Molestane’s direction.

The right wingback made a positive goal-scoring contribution before the half-hour mark when Chinyamula broke the deadlock after finishing off from the rebound after Molestane fumbled Mkandawire’s effort from the right flank.

Thubelihle Shamashe pulled the hosts level with a composed finish at the stroke of 45 minutes following the Scorchers’ defensive lapse, before Temwa Chawinga restored Malawi’s lead in stoppage time of the first half.

Chikupila, our leading scorer in the FAM Women’s Football Southern Region League, was introduced alongside Caroline Mathyola when Fazili made a double substitution at the start of the second half.

Chawinga increased Malawi’s lead in the 63rd minute when she grabbed her brace and the third goal for Fazili’s ladies. It was a long clearance from James who saw the China-based Scorchers captain in the central area and used her pace and strength in the air to beat her two opponents including the ‘keeper before slotting the ball into the far corner.

Despite picking up a yellow card 10 minutes after her introduction, the striker did not let herself lose focus and she nearly registered her name on the scoresheet in the 68th minute with an audacious overhead kick but the effort went off target.

Bullets women continued to display an outstanding show in all areas on the day and in midfield James made another delightful contribution when she released Khumalo on the left and the number 18 sent a delicious cross into the area for Chawinga to complete her hattrick and Malawi’s fourth goal with a header in the 76th minute.

Two minutes later, South Africa netted their second goal after Malawi failed to clear the ball from a corner kick through defender Khensani Nkuna, before finding the third in the 92nd minute when Sphumelele Shamase pounced from close range to beat goalkeeper Mercy Sikelo near-post after Malawi slept again in defence and failed to clear a high ball from the right.

Fazili’s ladies managed to defend their 4-3 lead at the end of the additional five minutes and registered their second consecutive victory over Banyana Banyana at the Hollywoodbets COSAFA Women’s Championship after defeating Desiree Ellis’ side 3-2 in 2021.

The Scorchers, who top Group A with three points, will face second-placed Eswatini at noon in their second game at the same venue on Saturday, before the midweek fixture against bottom-placed Madagascar at 3:30 pm on Tuesday.

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