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Match report: Mafco 0 Bullets 0

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Bullets recorded another draw on the road with a goalless stalemate in the TNM Super League away to Mafco at Chitowe Stadium on Wednesday afternoon.

It was another disappointing afternoon for The People’s Team in the Super League after dropping points away to Mighty Tigers a week ago when we came from behind in the second half to salvage a point through Ephraim Kondowe’s equalizer.

Coach Kalisto Pasuwa made some changes to the side that eliminated Extreme FC in the FDH Bank Cup through spot kicks at the weekend, with Clever Mkungula, Lanjesi Nkhoma and Nickson Nyasulu coming in for Richard Chimbamba, Righteous Banda and Hassan Kajoke.

What happened

The People’s Team had the first opportunity in the third minute of the match when Gomezgani Chirwa’s excellent delivery into the box met Lanjesi Nkhoma, who did everything right by producing a very powerful header that was well saved by Christopher Mikuwa.

Moments later, Patrick Mwaungulu dribbled past Dan Chimbalanga before releasing a shot from the far right, but once again, Mikuwa was equal to the task with another save to deny Bullets an early goal that might have changed the complexion of the game.

On the other side of the field, Bernard Chimaimba’s dangerous pass into the six-yard area almost caught Bullets’ defence off guard, but Peter Kasonga failed to connect home when the goal was wide open.

Pasuwa’s men kept on pushing to break the deadlock, with Precious Sambani finding Anthony Mfune in the 18th minute, but the forward failed to hit the ball in a one-on-one situation with the goalkeeper.

On more than three occasions, Bullets attackers opened up the hosts’ defence, but Mfune kept on losing the ball to the opposition in the most critical areas of the attacking zone.

The forward had a penalty appeal in the 24th minute turned down by referee Godfrey Nkhakananga after he was brought down by Paul Ndhlovu inside the area.

Mphatso Philemon saw his long-range shot well blocked by Clyde Senaji before Mafco’s penalty appeal was also turned down by the referee.

Mwaungulu had another attempt stopped by Mikuwa for a corner kick, which the hosts easily defended.

In the 38th minute, Precious Sambani nearly caught Mikuwa napping in his defensive zone when he fumbled a long-range shot that landed at Mfune, but the striker once again failed to convert the chance into the net, allowing Ndlovu to make a timely clearance.

The final minutes of the opening half saw Bullets pressing up front, but the visitors were frustrated with Mafco’s resilience in defence, and it was goalless at the break.

After the recess, Pasuwa brought in Kondowe and Eric Kaonga for Mfune and Sambani, who was cautioned in the early minutes of the match.

Kondowe’s introduction caused havoc to Mafco’s defenders who were finding it very difficult to stop his aggressive and attacking approach to the game.

The striker was unfortunate to see his header from Chirwa’s cross missing the upright with just an inch.

Clyde Senaji was called into action in the 53rd minute when he blocked a very dangerous cross from Chimaimba, who had gotten the better of Kaonga to the left flank of the field.

Mafco nearly scored a goal in the 62nd minute when Chimbalanga’s brilliant freekick was saved by Mkungula and from the rebound, Kasonga’s header came off the woodwork to the disappointment of Prichard Mwansa’s led technical panel that was already up as they thought the ball was inside the back of the net.

Bullets had another clear opportunity in the 65th minute when Kondowe won the ball away from Ndhlovu, and with the goalkeeper already beaten, he volleyed over the crossbar in unbelievable circumstances.

There was a bizarre decision by Nkhakananga who deliberately awarded the ball to Kasonga in the six-yard box as what he termed a punishment to Mkungula, who, according to the referee, was delaying the play. Fortunately for Bullets, Kasonga fired over the crossbar with the goal wide open and alone in the penalty box.

Hassan Kajoke was brought in for Lanjesi Nkhoma to try to improve the visitors’ attacking prowess in a desperate hunt for a goal against a very strong back-four.

The pressure from Pasuwa’s charges nearly paid off in the 87th minute when a cross from Kaonga found Kajoke who saw his header well cleared by Mikuwa, with Chawanangwa Gumbo’s goal-bound shot from the rebound well cleared by Kingsley Nkhonjera as the ball was destined to go in.

That miss proved to be the final chance of the day as referee Nkhakananga blew his whistle to mark the end of the match.

The result means Bullets failed to dislodge Silver Strikers at the top of the standings as the defending champions are stuck in the third position with 31 points, a point behind the log leaders who have 32 points from the same number of 15 games.

The head coach’s reaction

In his post-match interview, Pasuwa admitted that his charges were just unlucky not to get all the points.

“A game in which we tried our level best to get a result through numerous goal-scoring chances that would have made a difference had it been the ball went in, but we couldn’t score despite doing everything to score. All in all, we fared well and it’s one of the games where, no matter how hard you try, you don’t get the results.

“These boys are putting in too much effort but at the end of the day, we just need to accept and move on to the next one,” he reacted.

He was also quick to downplay his charges’ chances in the title race after yet another draw in the title race.

“This is the second round but we don’t need to panic. We just need to sort out all the problems that we are having and start collecting points. We can’t score, we must start scoring. We need to work on our attacking prowess otherwise we did everything today but it wasn’t our day,” commented Pasuwa.

What next?

Next on the menu for Bullets is a home game against Extreme FC on Sunday before departing for Equatorial Guinea for our CAF Champions League first preliminary round match against Dragon FC.

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