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Match report: Extreme 1-1 Bullets (2-4 pens)

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Bullets reached the FDH Bank Cup semifinals by beating Extreme FC 4-2 on penalties after a 1-1 draw at Civo Stadium on Saturday afternoon.

The defending champions survived a scare with an incredible turnaround as Ephraim Kondowe came off the bench to grab a last-minute equalizer after the hosts took an early lead through Gregory Mwase.

What happened

Head coach Kalisto Pasuwa made two changes to the side that drew 1-1 with Mighty Tigers in the TNM Super League on Wednesday, with Righteous Banda and Anthony Mfune replacing Lanjesi Nkhoma and McFallen Mgwira in the starting XI.

As predicted by the Bullets gaffer, it was a tough encounter from the word go as Pasuwa’s men struggled to settle down against a resilient defensive display from the hosts through Trevor Kalema and Frank Sanudi.

The Mchinji-based side could be seen passing the ball around through Justice Honde, John Chalamanda, Beston Jimu and Gregory Mwase, but Bullets’ back four provided cover for Richard Chimbamba who was yet to be tested by the opposition.

Chances were few as the holders kept on misplacing passes in the most critical areas of the offensive zone, prompting the wingers to use secondary balls in a desperate bid for a breakthrough.

But against the run of play, the hosts took a lead in the 20th minute. A freekick from goalkeeper Blessings Juma caught Clyde Senaji and Precious Sambani napping in the line of duty and allowed Mwase to volley over the advanced Chimbamba into the top corner, 1-0.

This forced us to increase our attacking pace through Patrick Mwaungulu, who, in a space of ten minutes, exchanged brilliant passes with Gomezgani Chirwa, however every diagonal ball inside the box was well dealt with by Juma, who was unfazed and was in full control of his penalty area.

In the 33rd minute, Frank Willard made a brilliant run into the box, but he saw his pass to Hassan Kajoke well blocked by Kalema for a corner kick, which the hosts easily defended.

Pasuwa’s charges kept on pushing forward in search of the much-needed equalizer to minimize the hosts’ delaying tactics, which saw several players going down so easily whenever not in possession of the ball.

Mfune came close to levelling the scoreline with a long-range chip that forced a spectacular save from Juma, who was off his line but was in full control of every situation in his box.

With less than five minutes to go in the opening period, Honde made a breakthrough into Bullets’ penalty box and he was unfortunate not to double his side’s lead as Chimbamba rushed out of his comfort zone to make a brilliant save.

The remaining minutes saw Bullets throwing numbers upfront in search of the equalizer, but they were left frustrated with Extreme’s excellent level of defending as the hosts took a 1-0 half-time lead.

In the second half, Pasuwa brought in Nkhoma and Mgwira for Banda and Chawanangwa Gumbo to try to improve our attacking prowess.

It was a final half coupled with too many stoppages by referee Mercy Kayira as the hosts continued with their delaying tactics to kill off the time as they looked to record a historical win over the defending champions.

Pasuwa brought on super substitute Ephraim Kondowe for Kajoke in the 64th minute.

Bullets nearly equalized when Sambani produced a very powerful shot outside the penalty box that missed Juma’s upright with an inch.

Moments later, Nkhoma was played through by Mwaungulu in a one-on-one situation, but his weaker shot was stopped by Juma.

Elvis Kafoteka brought in Tony Phiri and Chisomo Chasowa for Mabvuto Chipolopolo and Honde.

Phiri was a marvel to watch for the hosts, who, on two occasions, created goal-scoring opportunities, but Mwase was denied by Chimbamba, who cut short a very dangerous pass from Chalamanda.

Kayira awarded Bullets a freekick closer to the hosts’ penalty area, but Mwaungulu’s delivery went straight into the hands of Juma, who nearly won the game for the home side.

The clock was ticking very fast for Pasuwa’s charges, with the hosts now in a count-down mode and an early celebratory mood.

With 20 minutes left to play, Bullets threw everything upfront but kept on giving away the ball so cheaply, ending up frustrating thousands of fans in the red and white attire who were slowly accepting their fate.

At the other end, a freekick from Chalamanda nearly caught Chimbamba off his defensive line, but Senaji was very quick to react as he made a timely clearance into the other half.

Kondowe pounces again

The forward again scored another important goal for The People’s Team after coming on as a second-half substitute.

Just when Extreme thought they were in the semis, lady luck smiled at the defending champions who got the equalizer in the 89th minute in dramatic fashion.

Mgwira’s cross was flicked by Kalema into Kondowe’s path and the striker made no mistake but head the ball past the advanced Juma into the net, 1-1.

This was a blow to the hosts who were now mentally down going into the final minutes of the game.

Pasuwa brought in Nickson Nyasulu and Precious Phiri for Mwaungulu and Mfune, perhaps a clear indication that he was now preparing his charges for penalties and after 90 minutes of play, the match had to be decided from the spot.

Sambani, Phiri, Senaji and Nyasulu scored their penalties as the hosts saw Thokozani Mwangata’s spot kick stopped by Chimbamba before Chasowa’s miss to send Bullets into the semifinals.

Pasuwa’s post-match reaction

Reacting during the post-match interview, Pasuwa admitted that his charges were made to run for their money, but he never gave up until the final whistle.

“That’s how a cup game is played. I am one person who accepts a defeat when the referee blows the final whistle. They scored early from our own mistake, making us chase for the equalizer which eventually came in the last minutes of the match, a sweet victory that made us run for our money,” he commented.

The tactician paid a special tribute to the opponents who played an excellent game throughout the match.

“When you look at them, you would even wonder as to how they are bottom of the league because they played with their hearts out. They gave us a torrid run, played well and they were very unfortunate to concede with just a minute to go, but that’s football, congratulations to my boys for not giving up.”

Bullets will play the winner between Dedza Dynamos and Moyale Barracks in the semifinals at Kamuzu Stadium.

Next on the menu is another trip away to Mafco FC for a TNM Super League fixture at Chitowe Stadium on Wednesday.

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