Nyasa Big Bullets bounced back from a disappointing Northern Region outing as they overcame a resilient Red Lions at Mpira Stadium on Thursday afternoon.
The defending champions beat the soldiers 1-0.
Bullets went into the game just a week after exiting the FDH Bank Knockout Cup to Silver Strikers before losing 1-0 to Moyale Barracks and playing to a goalless draw with relegation bound Mzuzu Warriors to collect a point from the possible six from the Northern Region trip.
A lot of football lovers expected the hosts to capitalize on the situation but Bullets were able to recover in time and register an important win to restore their own pride which was in tartars following their visit to the North.
Red Lions were the first to create an opportunity in the 18th minute through a well taken corner kick but Richard Chimbamba came out of his line to rescue Bullets from conceding.
At the other end of the field, Bullets were awarded a freekick in the 28th minute when James Mwetse fouled Gomezgani Chirwa but Mgwira stepped up only to drive his effort over the crossbar.
Bullets had another chance in the 34th minute when a long ball from Chimango Kayira caught the hosts’ defense napping in the line of duty and landed straight at Kajoke who should have just tapped in past Jacob Kaunda but the forward failed to control the ball until it went out for a goal kick.
Despite an intense midfield battle between Chikoti Chirwa and Idana, the two teams could not find the breakthrough as they went to recess at goalless.
Pasuwa and Alick Chirwa had to make double substitutes before the start of the final half, with Pilirani Thulu and Tatenda M’balaka coming in for McPeter Makwale and James Chirwa whilst Mcfallen Mgwira and Kansungwi paved the way for Meshack Selemani and Bright Munthali.
Bullets’ changes made Red Lions to start chasing the game as Selemani, Idana Munthali and Msowoya all pressing in search of the much-needed goal.
However, Bullets nearly conceded in the 48th minute when the Zomba based Soldiers caught them on the counter but Royal Bokosi was too slow to respond as he was dispossessed by Miracle Gabeya for a corner kick which had no impact as the ball landed in the hands of Chimbamba.
Moses Nankumba then replaced Henry Kamunga to try to increase their attacking options.
Referee Alfred Kaphamtengo awarded Bullets a freekick on the edge of the penalty box from which Idana stepped up to send a very dangerous ball at Kaunda’s goal but the shot-stopper did well by producing a save for a corner.
The opening fifteen minutes belonged to the visitors who were attacking from all cylinders but Red Lions’ defense which was led by Gibson Nkhonjera stood firm to frustrate Pasuwa’ men who were desperate for a win.
At 64th minutes, another freekick to Bullets left the visitors hopeless as Yamikani Fodya blasted his effort over the crossbar for a goal kick.
As the clock was ticking fast for Bullets, Red Lions regrouped and started taking the game away to Bullets through Chirwa who was now bossing the midfield against tired legs of Idana and Kayira.
A long-range effort from Nankumba missed Chimbamba’s goal post with an inch before Fodya’s intervention to block Thuli’s cross for a corner kick minutes later.
Bullets then launched a counter-hurricane attack from the left flank where Selemani was operating from and the winger combined well with Idana to release Kajoke who made his way into the box only to be brought down inside the 18-yard box.
Kaphamtengo ruled that Mwetse ruled that Mwetse had brought down Kajoke in the area and pointed straight to the penalty spot to punish the home side for their troubles.
The victim stepped up to the plate and beat Kaunda from the spot, 0-1.
The lead should have lasted for less than three minutes as Royal Bokosi thought he had leveled only to be denied by first assistant referee Pondamali Tembo for offside, a decision which was highly protected by the Zomba based side.
Sensing danger, Pasuwa brought in Blessings Mpokera and Precious Phiri for Chirwa and Kajoke to try to defend their only goal.
Red Lions made their final changes in the 80th minute when Mathews Simbeyi and Mathews Boloweza replaced Brown Gondwe and Humphreys Minandi.
The hosts almost equalized in the 88th minute when M’balaka overpowered Gabeya to the right flank before sending a million-dollar cross which was intelligently cleared by Nickson Nyasulu for a corner.
Red Lions pushed harder for an equalizer but Bullets defended Bullets everything to collect maximum points and open up a three-point lead over the second placed Silver Strikers with five games to go.
Bullets have now 52 points from 25 games played so far.