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Match report: Civil 0-2 Bullets | Airtel Top 8

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FCB Nyasa Big Bullets started the Airtel Top 8 campaign with a vital 2-0 victory away to Civil Service United in the first leg of the quarter-final phase at Civo Stadium on Wednesday afternoon.

The result offers the 2022 winners a huge advantage ahead of the decisive second-leg tie at Kamuzu Stadium later this month.

What happened

The game, which came barely three days after Sunday’s accomplishment in the FDH Bank Cup, saw Kalisto Pasuwa making seven changes to the side that retained the cup at Bingu National Stadium, with Collins Okumu, Eric Kaonga, Blessings Mpokera, Anthony Mfune, McFallen Mgwira, Nickson Nyasulu and Maxwell Phodo replacing Gomezgani Chirwa, Clyde Senaji, Frank Willard, Lanjesi Nkhoma, Ephraim Kondowe, Yamikani Fodya and Patrick Mwaungulu in the starting XI.

Playing on a bumpy and hard surface, the visitors were made to absorb some early pressure from the hosts who were very familiar with their playing surface.

It was a 50-50 affair in the early stages as the two teams battled heavily in the midfield through Civil’s Lloyd Aaron and Bullets’ Mpokera.

The Lilongwe side had their first clear-cut scoring chance in the 17th minute when Damiano Kunje played Innocent Tanganyika to the far right and the winger delivered a very dangerous ball inside the penalty box, but Festus Duwe fired wide when Bullets’ defence was torn apart.

Moments later, Tanganyika made another dangerous run when Kaonga thought he had played an offside trap, but the winger fired his attempt wide of Rabson Chiyenda’s left-hand side goal post.

At this moment, Bullets were yet to register a shot at goal as they failed to make any serious threat up front, with Phodo, Billiat and Precious Phiri trying their level best to produce something extraordinary, but Civil’s defence, led by Boston Kabango, was very stubborn and handled every threat with maturity.

Soon after the half-hour mark, an error by Chiyenda almost gifted the hosts a goal when he collided with his defender, Nyasulu, but lucky enough, the deflected ball rolled out of action for a corner kick that was easily defended by the shot-stopper.

Bullets broke the deadlock in the 34th minute through a fabulous volley outside the penalty box by Phodo, who was quick to fire at goal to beat Lumbani Chitete to his far top corner, 0-1.

Pasuwa’s charges should have had another goal towards the end of the half when Phodo and Chawanangwa Gumbo exchanged passes to find Billiat unmarked, unfortunately, the winger produced a very weak shot that was easily saved by Chitete, and that was all for the half.

In the second half, Pasuwa brought in Hassan Kajoke for Billiat to increase the attacking efficiency in search of more goals.

For the next five minutes, Bullets won two set pieces closer to Civil’s penalty area, but Mgwira’s deliveries ended up in the hands of Chitete, who was in control of his area.

With 57 minutes played, Mfune made his way into the offensive zone and released Phodo to the left side of the area, and with only the goalkeeper to beat, he failed to hit the ball with power from close range.

On the other side of the field, a miscommunication between Okumu and Phiri resulted in a free kick in a very dangerous position, but Binwell Katinji fired straight at the organized defensive wall mounted by Okumu, Phiri and Nyasulu.

The clock was ticking very fast for the hosts who decided to introduce Luke Chima and Patrick Phiri for Tanganyika and Duwe.

Civil’s changes made a huge impact as the hosts increased their attacking prowess in search of an equalizer.

With Civil pushing, almost everyone upfront, Bullets capitalized with their second goal in the 72nd minute.

A counter-attack through Gumbo released Mgwira in the middle of the park, and the midfielder’s through-ball found Kajoke, who sprinted towards the penalty box before slotting the ball past the defenceless Chitete, 0-2.

At this moment, it was now about managing the game, knowing fully that two away goals were scored ahead of the return leg.

A defensive error in the 78th minute by Phiri almost brought back Civil into the contest when his first touch played Katinji onside and the striker fired at goal but was denied by Chiyenda’s fantastic save for a corner kick, which was also well defended by Okumu.

Pasuwa introduced Peter Banda, Kenneth Pasuwa, Kondowe and Willard for Mfune, Gumbo, Mgwira and Phodo, while Moses Banda and Lovemore Mbeta replaced Dan Kumwenda and Chikaiko Batison for the hosts.

Kondowe nearly got his name on the scoresheet when he connected well from Phiri’s well-taken corner kick, but Chitete was very equal to the task with a brilliant save.

There was one last chance for the hosts when Okumu nearly scored into his net when he tried to make a clearance, beating his goalkeeper who was out of his line, a corner kick was awarded but Civil failed to utilize the set piece as referee Newton Nyirenda blew his whistle to mark the end of the match.

The result means Bullets go into the second leg with a massive two-goal advantage.

Next for Pasuwa’s charges is a trip up North for two TNM Super League matches against Ekwendeni Hammers on Saturday and Moyale Barracks on Tuesday at Rumphi Stadium.

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