The Bata nkumadzulo tradition seems to be the song that Nyasa Big Bullets faithful are currently singing in their respective homes.
Well, Azam Tigers had a grand game in the entire minutes but Bullets had the last laugh. Mussa Manyenje scored with four minutes to play on the clock to send the People’s Team into the last eight of the prestigious Carlsberg Cup on Thursday afternoon at Kamuzu Stadium.
Tigers were the better side and went on to produce a first and second half performance of intent but all their shots at goal were well challenged by their former shot-stopper Ernest Kakhobwe.
Tigers’ first of many first-half scoring chances materialised as early as the 11th minute when they breached Bullets out wide before delivering a master class cross into the penalty box and angle for Dan Kumwenda, who made a fantastic head at goal only to be denied by the outstanding Kakhobwe.
Bullets were no match to Tigers’ pace as they completely lost the midfield battle no wonder they had a single shot at goal in the entire 45 minutes of the first half.
Their first chance fell through to Manyenje who managed to beat Clifton Kankhuni in defence for the Kau boys before volleying past William Thole only to be denied by the upright.
From there, the visitors rattled the tardy Bullets defence with a spell of fast-paced play that set up further chances for Bright Munthali and Alex Nkorongo only to see their efforts well saved by Kakhobwe.
With few minutes to play in the half, Yamikani Chester’s penalty appeal was turned down by referee Duncan Lengani who booked the player for a dive and the first half ended goalless.
In the second half, Tigers continued from where they stopped as they attacked with intent, causing havoc in Bullets defence but they found it very difficult to beat Kakhobwe in goals for the hosts. Ten minutes into the half, Chester and Nkorongo combined splendidly down the left flank to produce the stand-out move of the half and it was worth a goal.
However, Tigers’ wayward shooting in front of goal averted danger for Bullets. At the other end, Miracle Gabeya’s header from Dalitso Sailesi’s corner went over the cross bar.
Bullets brought in Diverson Mlozi and Henry Kabichi for the ineffective George Nyirenda and Fischer Kondowe.
Tigers had another chance when Chester released Munthali who crossed the ball into the box to find Peter Cholopi unmarked but the defender’s header was once again well saved by Kakhobwe.
Tigers continued to impose themselves on the game without reward as Kakhobwe held out to good efforts in much the same way as Thole denied Bullets’ Chiukepo Msowoya when he saved his 25 metre drive.
Willy Saenda and Mapopa Kaunda then came in for Dan Kumwenda and Stain Pendame.
Tigers’ momentum was interrupted when Gerald Phiri decided to remove Cholopi from the midfield, allowing Bullets to press harder in search for the winning goal.
With four minutes to play, Tigers were humbled.
A cross from MacPhallen Ngwira caught Tigers’ defence sleeping, allowing Manyenje to control before slotting past the advanced Thole in goals for Tigers, 1-0.
Minutes later, Msowoya had a goal disallowed for offside but it did not matter as Bullets held on to progress to the quarter-finals of the cup.
Speaking in the post-match interview, Tigers coach Phiri admitted that his boys failed to win a game they dominated most whilst his opposite number Franco Ndawa hailed his boys for the win but admitted that Tigers were too good on the afternoon.
The defeat to Bullets in the cup was second in three years.
In 2014, Tigers lost 2-1 to Bullets in a similar fashion as James Chilapondwa scored in the dying minutes to send his side into the last eight and three years later, history has repeated itself.