Reigning champions Nyasa Big Bullets have gone 15 matches unbeaten in the 2022 TNM Super League and have also stretched their lead at the top to a whopping 11 points following their hard-fought 1-0 victory over Sable Farming at Kamuzu Stadium on Friday.
Their lead may be slightly reduced by the second placed Blue Eagles who will not play their final first round match against TN Stars until after the Cosafa tournament in South Africa slated for 5th July to 17th July, 2022.
For Sable Farming, these are worrying times as they remain in the bottom three with 11 points from 14 games. They have a mountain to climb to revive their wrecked campaign with only one win in all the matches they have played.
For Bullets, they will be looking to maintain their unbeaten run heading into the second round as they strive to win a fourth straight title in a row.
The People’s Team made three changes to the side that won 1-0 away to Kamuzu Barracks last week.
Goalkeeper Clever Mkungula replaced Richard Chimbamba whilst in-form Ernest Petro returned to the starting eleven after recovering from illness to replace Macfallen Mgwira, with Lanjesi Nkhoma coming in for Hassan Kajoke.
As for MacDonald Mtetemera, he surprisingly started the match without defender George Nyirenda and first choice goalkeeper Christopher Mikuwa who was replaced by Fletcher Jamali.
As usual, Bullets dominated the match through their attacking players in Chimwemwe Idana, Patrick Mwaungulu, Nkhoma and Petro but any high pressing movement ended in disarray for the hosts who were failing to unlock Kesten White’s led defence.
Mwaungulu had an attempt at goal after he was set through by Gomezgani Chirwa but his shot went wide off Jamali’s goal post.
In the 16th minute, Idana positioned himself well to receive an inviting cross from Nkhoma but his shot went over the crossbar to the disappointment of the midfielder who was alone in the offensive zone.
At the other end, the visitors created their first goal scoring opportunity through Simeon Singa who delivered a dead ball inside Bullets’ penalty box but Hadji Wali was very quick with a massive clearance.
Mwaungulu then called Jamali into action when his powerful drive on the center of the box was saved by the goalkeeper who saw the ball landing straight at Idana but he shot wide from the rebound.
The clock was ticking very fast for the defending champions who were desperately looking for the opener and this resulted into frustrations and impatience which saw Idana being cautioned after he brought down Franklin Mlimanjira in the center of the pack.
But despite this, Bullets kept on knocking at Sable Farming’s door and eventually were rewarded with a penalty in the 35th minute when Petro was brought down by Shaban Kasim.
Babatunde stepped up and slots the ball past Jamali, 1-0.
Towards the last ten minutes of the match, the home team had more chances but converted none as Jamali produced one of his best performances this season with series of fine saves to keep his team into the game.
After the recess, Bullets continued their dominance with their passing football which made things very difficult for the visitors.
Every counter attack saw Bullets coming close to doubling their lead but Jamali was too outstanding with his never ending saves to silence the home fans.
Ten minutes into the final half, Jamali produced an acrobatic save to deny Babatunde who was found unmarked by Nkhoma in the six-yard box.
In the 58th minute, referee Mayamiko Kanjere awarded Bullets an indirect freekick after Jamali was spotted to have kicked the ball outside the penalty box.
This invited Idana and Henry Kabichi who laid the ball to Mwaungulu who released a thunderous shot at goal only to be denied by Jamali for a corner kick which the visitors easily defended.
64 minutes into the half, Pasuwa introduced Stainley Billiat and Blessings Mpokera for Kabichi and Mwaungulu to try to add some fire power in search of more goals to kill off the game.
It was a one sided affair and Bullets kept on creating chance after chance but the visitors were too stubborn at the back.
In the 68th minute, Precious Sambani released Nkhoma to the left who set up Babatunde in the offensive zone and the forward found Petro unmarked in the 18-yard box to release a powerful shot which saw Jamali making a brilliant save in an unbelievable circumstances.
Mtetemera then brought in Emmanuel Linoh and Taniel Mhango for Singa and Stain Patrick to try to slow down Bullets’ pace which was coming from all angles.
Billiat was the next player to miss a clear cut chance after his well connected shot missed Jamali’s left hand goal post with an inch.
Pasuwa made his final substitution with four minutes to play when he brought in Anthony Mfune for Babatunde but the match was settled for a lone strike which saw Bullets finishing the first round 11 points clear of Eagles who are yet to play their final match.
It was also the first time in eight years for The People’s Team to finish the first round on top.
They have scored 28 goals and have only conceded six and they only failed to score in single match against Karonga United away from their base.
Super League matches will continue over the weekend with some exciting fixtures.
At Kamuzu Stadium, struggling Mighty Mukuru Wanderers, who are winless in three straight matches, will host Karonga United whilst Silver Strikers will travel to Chitowe Stadium to play Mafco FC.
On Sunday, Rumphi United will entertain Kamuzu Barracks at Rumphi Stadium and the final match of the day will see Red Lions play host to Dedza Dynamos at Balaka Stadium.
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