Top of the table clash between early pacesetters Blue Eagles FC and defending champions Nyasa Big Bullets ended in a 1-1 draw, coupled with some controversial decisions from Referee Chidziwitso Simbi who completely failed to control the tempo of the match.
Bullets Head coach Kalisto Pasuwa made three changes to the side that won 3-1 over Ekwendeni Hammers last week when he handed Mphatso Magaleta his first start to the team in place of Yankho Singo, with Precious Phiri and John Lanjesi all coming in for Macfallen Mgwira and Kesten Simbi whilst Eagles coach Eliya Kananji maintained the side that won 1-0 away to Moyale Barracks last week.
On 13th minute, the hosts nearly scored from a well taken Shumacker Kuwali’s corner kick but John Malidadi Jnr failed to connect home from the close range, allowing Gomezgani Chirwa to make a first time clearance.
At the other side of the pitch, Precious Sambani delivered an excellent ball into the box to Babatunde Adepoju from a set piece but the forward’s header missed Brighton Munthali’s goal post with an inch.
Twenty-three minutes on, Munthali lost possession to Phiri in the offensive zone and the winger wasted no time by shooting at goal but his effort went wide.
However, the hosts were the first to break the deadlock in a controversial way.
Lanjesi’ clearance hit Shumacker Kuwali before going out of the field but instead of the throw in going to Bullets’ way, Referee Simbi awarded Eagles the advantage and Eagles caught Bullets unawares with a very quick throw in to Kuwali who sent the ball into the box to Malidadi Jnr for an easy finish, 1-0.
But the lead only lasted for five minutes as Bullets leveled from the spot.
The People’s Team counter-pressed through Chimwemwe Idana, Nkhoma and Adepoju to force Eagles’ defence into making mistakes which resulted into a handball by Jacob Robert.
Adepoju stepped to send the ball into the back of the net, 1-1.
The equalizer infuriated the home team who, through Munthali, hit Adepoju as he was collecting the ball but surprisingly, Simbi did nothing.
Bullets had another opportunity from a freekick closer to the penalty box but Henry Kabichi’s effort went over the crossbar.
Towards the end of the half, Pasuwa introduced Anthony Mfune for Magaleta to try to add numbers upfront in search for the much needed winning goal but the first half ended 1-1.
After the recess, the hosts were a good side and attacked from all cylinders through Chirwa, Gilbert Chirwa, Kuwali and Malidadi Junior.
Malidadi Jnr had a chance to restore Eagles’ lead in the 50th minute after finding himself unmarked in the six-yard box but his goal-bound tap in was blocked by Hadji Wali but it was far from over as Chirwa was on standby to shoot at goal but his effort went over the bar for a goalkick.
It was now Eagles against Bullets’ defence, with the midfield duo of Kabichi and Idana dropping back to assist, a situation that left a vacuum in the middle, resulting into more pressing from the hosts.
Sensing danger, Pasuwa made a double substitution in Yankho Singo and Misheck Selemani who came in for Nkhoma and Phiri.
This double change brought some stability in the midfield for the visitors who pinned Blue Eagles back in their own half but unlocking Robert’ led defence proved too difficult for The People’s Team.
With Eagles under intense pressure, Laurent and Trouble Banda were introduced for Micium Mhone and Chirwa.
But it was Mfune who had a chance to find the back of the net in the 78th minute when a cross from Sambani found the forward unmarked inside the box but his shot was blocked by Sankhani Mkandawire.
Eagles brought in Ben Manyozo and Chikondi Mvula for Kuwali and Paul Master to try to regain control of the midfield which was in the hands of Idana and Kabichi.
With six minutes to play, Chirwa almost scored from the rebound outside the penalty box but his powerful drive was blocked by Ian Chinyama for a throw in.
Towards the end of the match, Hassan Kajoke replaced Mfune but it was too late for both teams to score the winner as they settled for a draw.
This means both teams remain the only sides yet to test defeats but Eagles have maintained their top position with 10 points from four games whilst Bullets are second with 7 points from three games.
Their next stop will be at Balaka Stadium on Wednesday against Dedza Dynamos.
In other matches, debutants Sable Farming and Rumphi United registered their first wins of the season when they hammered Red Lions and Mighty Tigers respectively.
The Chiradzulu based side ended Red Lions’ unbeaten start to the season with a comfortable 2-0 victory courtesy of strikes from Emmanuel Lino and Christopher Gototo.
At Rumphi Stadium, a double from Trouble Kajani and a lone strike from Gerald Ngwira inspired The Leopards of Chikulamayembe to a convincing 3-0 victory over Tigers, also ending their unbeaten start to the season.
This means Sable Farming are in 8th position with five points from four games whilst Rumphi United are lying 12th with three points from the same number of games.