By Antony Isaiah Jr:……..
The defending Champions, Nyasa Big Bullets have become the first team to reach the semifinals of the season 5 of the Airtel Top 8 Cup after beating 8-1 on aggregate.
Karonga United settled for a 1-all stalemate at their home ground but a 7-0 victory in Blantyre propels Kalisto Pasuwa’s boys into the last 4 teams.
With the game starting on a slow notch, fans who turned up to watch the game thought it would reach up to 30 minutes without the fruit of goals. However, Hassan Kajoke scored an early goal just after three minutes to put the visitors in front.
Yamikani Fodya lifted the ball to Kajoke who circumvented from the offside trap that was set by Karonga United’s defender to press the ball into the net.
Mphatso Kamanga wrecked the scores in the second half after connecting home the substitute, Sherrif Shamama’s delivery from the corner-kick.
The results mean that the Blantyre giants become the first team to reach the semifinals of the season 5 of the Airtel Top Cup. They have reached this phase for the third time out of four times they have participated in the competition.
Losing the finals of the season 2 of the competition to Blue Eagles through Stuart Mbunge’s penalty strike at Bingu National Stadium in 2018, Bullets supporters were involved in mayhem which eventually led to the banning of the team [not to participate in the season 3].
They did not participate in 2019 while serving the ban by the Football Association of Malawi but they came stronger in season 4 as they beat Silver Strikers on penalties to win it.
In season 1, they were beaten by Silver Strikers in the quarterfinals. They lost 1-0 in Lilongwe courtesy of Victor Limbani before playing a goalless draw at Mulanje Park.
They will face the winners between Kamuzu Barracks and Silver Strikers who are playing next weekend.
𝐒𝐪𝐮𝐚𝐝 𝐝𝐞𝐩𝐭𝐡 𝐬𝐭𝐢𝐥𝐥 𝐩𝐥𝐚𝐲𝐢𝐧𝐠 𝐚 𝐯𝐢𝐭𝐚𝐥 𝐫𝐨𝐥𝐞 𝐢𝐧 𝐏𝐚𝐬𝐮𝐰𝐚’𝐬 𝐝𝐨𝐦𝐢𝐧𝐚𝐧𝐜𝐞
Their marksman, Babatunde Adepoju, Ernest Petro and Yankho Singo were tye absentee due to injury while Chimwemwe Idana, Patrick Mwaungulu, Gomezgani Chirwa, Frank Willard were deliberately rested knowing that the game at 7-0 was already over.
Surprisingly, Karonga United who were supposed to score more than 7 goals, opted for a 4-5-1 formation against a well organized side which brought a picture that Christopher Nyambose would be satisfied with a draw.
Hassan Kajoke who filled the void left by the Nigerian towering striker, Babatunde Adepoju rose to the occasion to stab home Yamikani Fodya’s pass. The defender-cum-midfelder who replaced Frank Willard as the holder, lifted the ball into the path of the number 9 who beat offside trap to make it 8-0 for the visitors on aggregate.
The only regular starting forward for Bullets in the game, Lanjesi Nkhoma nearly register his assist only Lloyd Munthali to deny Thompson Magombo from thickening the lead.
In his search for the goals, Christopher Nyambose made an early change, just after 30 minutes when he threw Sherrif Shamama for Henry Chiwaya.
The introduction of Shamama saw the hosts shifting to 4-4-2 formation and things started favoring them coupled with the condition of the pitch which was bumpy.
Richard Chimbamba twice denied Josiah Duwah from hitting the back of the net.
Karonga United nearly pulled level just five minutes before the break through Duwah. Mphatso Kamanga had a long ball into the box that found the former Ntopwa United winger unmarked only him to rattle the upright with the goalkeeper already down.
Mphatso Kamanga failed to connect home Bobby Longwe’s free-kick before Hassan Kajoke missed a glorious chance. Lanjesi Nkhoma broke through the left flank before slotting the ball to Kajoke who saw his effort saved by Munthali at exactly an hour-mark.
Trusting his rotation, Pasuwa pulled out Thompson Magombo who has started the last three games for Righteous Banda in the 62nd minute.
The people’s team have been conceding goals from set-pieces this season and it was the same thing today at Karonga Stadium.
After pressing the visitors to their own half, Karonga won a corner in the 63rd minute. Shamama swung it in and it found Kamanga in the box who fired it home to level the scores.
𝐊𝐚𝐫𝐨𝐧𝐠𝐚 𝐨𝐮𝐭𝐩𝐥𝐚𝐲 𝐁𝐮𝐥𝐥𝐞𝐭𝐬 𝐚𝐭 𝐡𝐨𝐦𝐞
It’s never been a secret that the people’s team do struggle at Karonga Stadium, it’s one of the venues that they don’t like going to play.
Nyambose in the pre-match pressing said they would give Bullets a tough game and indeed, they did but they could not become the second team to beat them this season.
Pasuwa’s boys are used to play at the smooth surface, Kamuzu Stadium, so playing at the bumpy pitch proved to be tough for the visitors.
Nyasa Big Bullets turned the clock back to the first weeks of the season when they visited this place as their laboured style returned in the undistinguished draw against the Ingwinas.
The attacking verve, creation and goals that illuminated in their last four games were replaced by Pasuwa’s side lacking ambition and drive in a performance so devoid of tempo and urgency that it almost ground to a halt at times with Karonga on top of the game.
Last season, they visited Karonga United in the premature stages of the league and they suffered a 1-0 defeat before being held to a goalless stalemate this season in the tnm Super League.
Prior to this game, Nyasa Big Bullets had scored 18 goals in their last five games and 11 of those were against Karonga [7-0 in Airtel and 4-1 in league].
Bullets’ stodgy play looked to be crying out for the introduction of the maestro, Chimwemwe Idana and Patrick Mwaungulu and a touch of the X-factor, but Pasuwa preferred Righteous Banda, MacFarren Mgwira with mentioned players not in Jersey.
Avoiding defeat was thanks, in large part, to the defensive performance of John Lanjesi, Yamikani Fodya, who were outstanding and stood tall throughout, especially when Bullets came under sustained pressure
Both defenders have been on and off players, injuries and performance among the factors but Pasuwa still decided to keep them in the team.
The decision to keep faith with Lanjesi has been subjected to perfectly reasonable scrutiny, given to the skippers’ lengthy period of injuries that he has been largely surplus to requirements this season with Kesten Simbi wearing his boots.
He could manage to stop Karonga’s slippery attackers, Josiah Duwah, Shamama and Kamanga. A 1-all stalemate was enough for the visitors after having a healthy 7-0 win at home.