…Red Lions relegated…
Nyasa Big Bullets have been crowned TNM Super League champions for a record extending 14th time following a 3-0 win over Red Lions.
The result also means Lions have been relegated to the premier division for the first time in the club’s history.
It was a must win game for the Soldiers who needed all the three points to survive the chop but instead, it was Bullets who made no mistake to collect maximum points to officially win the league with two games to spare.
Unlike last season when the title race was completed on the final day, this year’s championship race has been secured by Bullets with some games to play but it was a bad day for their opponents as they failed to survive the chop, joining their fellow brothers in arms MAFCO FC and Nchalo United who were relegated some weeks ago.
Inside the field of play, it was more of a boxing match as the Soldiers were too aggressive and it wasn’t a surprise to see Bullets taking the lead from the spot through Chiukepo Msowoya following a foul on Nelson Kangunje by Benesi Kaisi, 1-0.
Bullets showed no mercy as they dominated the match, with Mike Mkwate completely on top of his game no wonder he was named man of the match after the final whistle following his individual brilliance.
Lions’s share of possession came after the half-hour mark when Lottie Chawinga and Chikoti Chirwa combined with Boniface Kaulesi only to be denied by Miracle Gabeya who made a brilliant tackle for a corner.
At the other end, Msowoya forced Duncan Mkandawire into making a crucial save when his goal bound shot was deflected into the goalkeeper’s path for a corner.
Come second half, Lions kept on playing a physical game but Bullets weren’t intimidated as they kept on pressing hard in search for more goals in the final half.
Their hardworking spirit paid dividends when Kangunje scored a beauty after good work from Msowoya to completely put the match beyond the Soldiers’s reach.
However, as Bullets were busy celebrating their second goal, Lions’ Stainley Dube elbowed Dave Banda in an off the ball incident, forcing Bullets to bring on board Mussa Manyenje.
More drama followed, tempers flew high but Bullets were not intimidated as they had already set their eyes on winning the league with games to spare.
Referee Ishmael Chizinga was left with no choice but to flash a second yellow card to Dube who kicked Msowoya in unbelievable circumstances.
With a man down, it was just too difficult for the Soldiers to produce a miracle and their fate was already sealed soon after conceding the second goal.
Msowoya was substituted for Collen Nkhulambe who was also welcomed into the pitch by an elbow from Kaisi but lucky enough, he was able to complete the remainder of the game.
The log leaders then completed the riot in a brilliant fashion when Mkwate’s through ball into the box found Kangunje who controlled the ball before slotting past Mkandawire, 3-0.
The goal-scorer was then substituted for Kondwani Kumwenda as the celebrations were everywhere inside Balaka Stadium.
Lions had some shots at goal from which Ernest Kakhobwe made easy saves to frustrate the Soldiers who were now certain of a life in the premier division of the Chitetezo Mbaula Southern Region Football League.
As Chizinga was blowing his final whistle, it was a fourteenth league title for Malawi’s most successful club and their third title in the TNM Super League era.
From 29 league games played, the People’s Team have won 23, drawn five and lost once.
They will host Silver Strikers and Civil Sporting Club in their final matches.
As for Red Lions, their poor start to the season saw them collecting only 33 points from thirty games.
In another match, Dwangwa United’s hopes of finishing in the top eight suffered a massive blow following a 1-0 defeat to Masters Security at Dedza Stadium.
Zeliat Nkhoma scored the only goal of the match to help Masters Security to cement their 5th position with 42 points, their biggest tally ever since joining the top flight football.
A team that fought relegation last season by finishing on 12th position with 31 points, produced wonders with brilliant performances which saw them becoming the only side to end Bullets’ unbeaten league run.
As for Dwangwa United, for the second time in a row, have survived the relegation with just two points.
Last season, the Nkhotakota based side finished on 13th position with 31 points to remain in the top flight.