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Match report: Bullets 0-1 Silver Strikers

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Bullets’ three-year unbeaten home run in the TNM Super League is over following a heartbreaking 0-1 defeat against Silver Strikers at Kamuzu Stadium on Sunday afternoon.

Just like last week in Mzuzu, we created plenty of chances in both halves, but in the end, the visitors, who only had two shots on target in the entire match, walked away with all the points through a last-minute strike.

What happened

Kalisto Pasuwa made some changes to the team that started in our 0-0 stalemate at Moyale Barracks on Monday. Clyde Senaji, Precious Phiri, Yankho Singo and Lanjesi Nkhoma made their way back in the first XI, with Stanley Billiat, making a return from injury, also starting.

The People’s Team dominated every phase of play, attacking from all angles in the opening minutes and should have had a goal when Nkhoma tested George Chikooka with a powerful effort but was denied by the visiting goalie.

A few moments later, Babatunde Adepoju delivered a great cross into the box to find Phiri unmarked. However, our number 20’s goal-bound strike was easily stopped by Chikooka, who was the busiest of the two goalkeepers.

Six minutes on the clock, Lloyd Aaron’s left-footed drive hit the side net as Bullets kept on attacking from all angles in search of an early goal, but it couldn’t come.

Silver’s first chance came in the 13th minute when Charles Chipala made a run to his right before sending a cross into the box, targeting Chimwemwe Idana, only for our former midfielder to see his attempt blocked by Senaji.

Patrick Mwaungulu almost broke the deadlock in the 18th minute when his first-time volley hit the upright.

With the half-hour mark played, Chikooka was at it again, denying Phiri from scoring when his powerful header was well saved by the former Chitipa United goalkeeper whose heroics kept the game at level.

With 33 minutes played on the clock, the visitors had no shot at goal, but Chikooka made three important saves to deny the defending champions from making a breakthrough.

Another chance to Bullets came in the 40th minute. Nkhoma was brought down by Idana and from the free-kick, the winger saw his powerful volley well saved by Chikooka who was in control of everything thrown at him.

With five minutes left to play in the first half, Uchizi Vunga almost pounced on Bullets when his thunderous shot missed Innocent Nyasulu’s upright with an inch for a goal-kick.

There was late drama when referee Gift Chicco lost control of the match, resulting in unnecessary fouls and fights between the players from the two teams before the first half ended 0-0.

After the recess, Pasuwa brought in Ernest Petro for Stanley Billiat and moved Mwaungulu to the right flank of the field.

It was a low start to the game as Peter Mponda’s side restricted Bullets from creating chances in the opening minutes of the final period.

For the next 20 minutes, there was no shot at either side of the goal as the midfield battle intensified between the trio of Idana, Vunga and Kamanga against Bullets’ Aaron, Petro and Singo.

At 70 minutes, the home side created two clear-cut chances. The first opportunity was when Mwaungulu found Babatunde unmarked in the six-yard box, but Chikooka denied the forward.

And moments later, the Nigerian sent his effort over the crossbar when Chikooka was already beaten in the line of duty, leaving everybody stunned.

The Bankers brought in Patrick Macheso and Stain Davie for Vunga and Mark Fodya, who came in as a second-half substitute only to be withdrawn, while Hassan Kajoke replaced Babatunde for Bullets.

Mponda’s men were now dominating play and nearly came close in the 73rd minute when Davie’s goal-bound effort was blocked by Nickson Nyasulu, and a few minutes later, his header missed the upright with just an inch.

Pasuwa brought in Anthony Mfune for Nkhoma while Chinsisi Maonga came in for Binwell Katinji for the Bankers.

There was a clear chance for Bullets in the 88th minute when Phiri’s cross was missed by Maxwell Paipi and landed straight at Chirwa who did everything right to release a powerful effort that went diagonally wide. Nobody could believe how the ball went off target when Chikooka was already beaten.

As it is said, football is a game of chances, once you miss chances, you are punished and that’s exactly what happened in the 90th minute at Kamuzu Stadium.

Bullets had won a corner-kick and from the set piece Silver defended well through Macheso, whose quick pass to Maonga caught the hosts off-guard in their defensive zone.

Maonga made a run and slotted the ball past Nyasulu to break the hearts of the home fans.

The match could not continue as some fans started throwing objects onto the pitch. And after about 105 minutes, a decision was made to end the game, 0-1 in favour of the visitors.

What it means

This was our first home loss in nearly three seasons and the first against Silver Strikers at Kamuzu Stadium in eight years.

Sunday’s defeat also means that the gap between the 2023 quadruple winners and Silver Strikers has widened to 11 points.

After nine games into the campaign, we are fifth in the standings with 14 points after registering three wins, five draws and one loss while the Central Bankers lead the log table with 25 points from eight wins and a single draw.

Kamuzu Barracks are second after collecting 18 points, Mzuzu City Hammers are third with 16 points and our city neighbours, Mighty Mukuru Wanderers, after picking themselves up to record a 3-1 win against Premier Bet Dedza Dynamos at Kamuzu Stadium on Saturday following two back-to-back defeats, are fourth with 15 points.

What next

After the international break next week, we will be on the road again for an away fixture against rookies Creck Sporting Club in Lilongwe where we will be looking to bounce back from our disappointing result in our quest to defend the TNM Super League championship which we have won for the past five seasons.

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