A resolute Ntopwa FC held out bravely for a 1-1 draw against defending TNM Super League Champions Nyasa Big Bullets at Kamuzu Stadium on Saturday afternoon.
Bullets had the better of the chances throughout the afternoon but failed to capitalize as they dropped points in their title defence.
With Peter Banda off to Moldova for trials, Head Coach Kalisto Pasuwa replaced him with Patrick Phiri whilst Chimango Kayira was deployed in place of Ernest Petro who started last week against Kamuzu Barracks.
The visitors made some changes through goalkeeper Richard Mwaila and George Nyirenda who were on the bench last week when the ‘Amagheto Kids’ played Karonga United at Chiwembe Stadium.
Bullets suffered a blow in the first minute when goalkeeper Rabson Chiyenda was substituted for Richard Chimbamba after sustaining an injury when he saved Hendrix Misinde’s shot for a corner.
The visitors were enjoying better ball possession in the opening 10 minutes and it was not a surprising to see them winning three corners as Bullets’ defence was under siege from Kondwani Saizi, Josaya Duwa and Misinde.
In the 14th minute, Ntopwa FC deservedly took a lead through a stunning counter attacking football.
A brilliant run from Potipher Likoswe caught Miracle Gabeya napping in the line of defence and the forward send a diagonal ball into the box from which Misinde connected to find the back of the net, 0-1.
Ntopwa FC should have doubled their lead when Saizi and Likoswe combined but the latter blasted his effort over the cross bar from the close range.
Bullets suffered another injury blow when Aziz Mwakifuna twisted his led as he tried to control the ball and he was replaced by Mike Mkwate.
The introduction of Mkwate brought some rhythm into the hosts who were now pressing for an equalizer but their opponent defended jealously to frustrate the home side.
Hassan Kajoke had two quick chances but he was denied by a deflection and a clearance by Chikumbutso Banda when the goalkeeper Mwaila was already beaten in the line of duty.
Meshack Selemani was the latest player to threaten Ntopwa FC but his shot went over the bar after a cross from Precious Sambani.
In the second half, the visitors opted to seat back to defend their goal. This invited more pressure from Bullets as they attacked from all cylinders in search of the much important goal.
The introduction of Zicco Mkanda and MacFallen Mgwira for Gabeya and Phiri increased Bullets’ attacking options but any move from the hosts ended up in the hands of Banda, Lloyd Mugara, Levison Chabwera and Joseph Balakasi who were defending with everything they had.
Mkanda released Kajoke from the left to Idana who could only manage to send his shot over the cross bar.
In the 69th minute, Mkanda was denied by the post in an unbelievable circumstances.
Kajoke’s header was denied by Mwaila but the ball landed straight at Mkanda who was calm before releasing a low drive shot only to be denied by the post.
However, a goal came in the 79th minute.
A blunder from Mwaila allowed Selemani to overpower Chabwera who lost possession and in turn, Kajoke capitalized by rounding off the keeper before scoring in an empty net, 1-1.
At the other end, Chimbamba produced another save to deny Likoswe from scoring.
The forward was then replaced by Glemu Lemera whilst Saizi paved the way for Jowado Kanjuzi.
In the last ten minutes, Kajoke was twice denied by Charles Chisale who replaced Mwaila but Mkwate could not capitalize from the rebound as he sent his drive over the bar.
In the additional minutes, Mkanda almost snatched a late winner when a long ball from Gomezgani Chirwa found him unmarked in the six-yard box but the forward only gifted the ball to Chisale and after 90 minutes of play, 1-1 it ended.
The result sees Bullets in position eight with 12 points from seven games whilst Ntopwa FC are seventh with 14 points from nine games.
In another match, Civil Sporting Club and Red Lions played out to a 3-3 draw at Civo Stadium in Lilongwe.
Muhammad Sulumba and Lanken Mwale scored for the servants while Chikoti Chirwa, Ronald Pangani and Paul Kansungwi scored for the Zomba based Soldiers.
The result sees Civil Sporting Club dropping to fifth with 16 points from eight games while Red Lions are third with 18 points from nine games.