An exciting relegation dogfight with three penalties ended in a 2-2 draw, as Blantyre United twice came from behind to rescue a point against Premier Bet Wizards.
Cuthbert Sineta and Jidde Mbandambanda both converted for United from the spot while Wizards’ Mishek Bottoman also netted a penalty after Peter Msowoya’s cool finish.
A chilly and drizzling afternoon in Blantyre affected patronage as a small crowd turned up at the Chiwembe Stadium, to witness the battle of the relegation threatened sides.
United were on top of the proceedings from the first half with Sineta pulling the strings in midfield while Aubrey Chafewa marshalled the defence with conviction and composure.
It was not to the surprise that United made lots of inroads inside Wizards half but couldn’t find clear cut openings.
However, when striker Victor Nyirenda turned over possession on the half way line a minute to half time, United were in for trouble.
Blessings Phiri broke away on a devastating counter attack on the left, before feeding the ball to Patrick Phiri. Phiri made a hard and low cross which found Msowoya lurking in the box.
He calmly controlled it, turned on the left before intelligently planting it into the far corner, beating goalkeeper Christopher Mikuwa to lead 1-0 at recess.
Macdonald Mtetemera’s United had their tails up as early as the first minute of the second half.
No wonder it only took them two minutes to draw level.
Wizards right back Kelvin Kadzinje brought down Sineta in the box inviting referee Shaibu Cassim to point to the dreaded spot.
Sineta dusted himself before sending Wizards keeper Francis Mkanda the wrong way.
United were fired up by the equalizer and should have scored 2 more goals moments later, but Sineta and Ibrahim Sadik fired over the bar from close range, in quick succession.
United were to be punished for their wastefulness as Wizards won a penalty of their own against the run of play on 65 minutes.
A lovely one – two play between Phiri and Bottomani put the former through but he was hauled down before pulling the trigger.
Bottomani made no mistake from the resulting spot kick to restore Wizards’ lead.
The goal breathed some new life into Wizards’ play as they begun to pass the ball around with confidence and created some half chances.
But United weren’t done yet. They continued to probe and press through some dangerous corner kicks from the left.
The last of them all paid off 4 minutes to full time, when the Wizards defence failed to clear their lines, resulting in substitute Chifuniro Gombwa handling the ball.
Cassim didn’t hesitate to complete his hat-trick of penalties by awarding the third of the match.
Substitute Mbandambanda stepped up to salvage a point for United.
It was however not enough to lift the team off the foot of the table. They now have 14 points from 23 fixtures but Mtetemera remains adamant that survival is achievable.
He first described the result as a fair outcome.
“I am satisfied with the draw although we could have done better, but we missed some good chances. The battle for survival is still on and we will fight for our lives in the 7 matches left,” said Mtetemera.
As for Wizards, a win could have taken them out of the drop zone above Red Lions and Masters Security. But the draw leaves them 14th on the table with 23 points from 23 outings, trailing Lions and Masters with a point.
However, owner and Technical Director Peter Mponda remains upbeat they will beat the chop.
“Today’s result is disappointing but we will recover from the setback and get back to winning ways. We know many people are doubtful of our survival chances but we will surprise them in the games to come,” said Mponda.
Wizards who at some point in the first round sat at the top of the pile have Nyasa Big Bullets next while United travel to the Karonga Stadium to face Chitipa United.