What we learned from Bullets’ CAF Champions League elimination

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Nyasa Big Bullets are out of CAF Champions League after suffering another 2-0 defeat away to Tanzania’ Simba SC, taking the aggregate scoreline to 4-0 after they lost 2-0 in the first leg at Bingu National Stadium last week.

This is their fourth straight elimination in the preliminary stages of Africa’s biggest club competition. The three previous eliminations were at the hands of Gor Mahia, Platinum FC and Amazulu FC.

But what went wrong for The People’s Team this time around?

We take a look at five things that decided Bullets’ fate in the Champions League…

You can’t keep playing badly at home

The People’s Team have become used to losing at home in the Champions League. In 2020/21 season, they won 1-0 away to Amazulu FC in Durban and many expected them to complete the mission  at home but surprisingly, they found themselves 2-0 down before the half-hour mark and despite Bullets  reducing the arrears early in the second half, the South African side was able to restore their two goal margin to progress to the preliminary second round of the competition, beating Kalisto Pasuwa’s side 3-2 on goal aggregate.

There is a difference also in going behind against the likes of Rumphi United, Red Lions and Blue Eagles. Simba SC are a different calibre of opponent and Bullets were made to pay a horrific start especially after their awful first leg performance at their own backyard.

So next time they decide to take part again, they should take the home game very seriously to avoid a repeat of what has been happening to them for the past four seasons in a row.

Very old same tactical mistakes by Kalisto Pasuwa

Good as he is, the tactician seem not to be learning from costly mistakes he has been committing in the last three games.

Against Moyale Barracks in the FDH Bank Cup Round of 16, Kalisto Pasuwa pulled young energetic players for tired legs and the result was fatal, thrice, his side gave away a lead and allowed the Mzuzu based Soldiers to take the game to penalties and luckily enough, Bullets triumphed thanks to Richard Chimbamba’ heroics after he saved two penalties.

As if that was not enough, Pasuwa repeated the very same mistakes against Mighty Mukuru Wanderers in the Blantyre Derby.

When Chimbamba saved those two penalties, many thought he would continue in the goalkeeping department but he was dropped for Clever Mkungula.

At 2-0, Bullets fans thought the match was over but they were wrong. The inexperienced Mkungula gave away a silly penalty in which he brought down Vincent Nyangulu who was not even a threat and Wanderers slowly started to come back into the game when Stanley Sanudi converted from the spot kick.

But Bullets restored their 2-0 advantage over their cross-town rivals through Chimwemwe Idana’s excellent strike.

And again, Bullets fans thought the match was finally over but it was far from over. Pasuwa made another tactical error, taking out Lanjesi Nkhoma and Patrick Mwaungulu, Bullets’ two dangerous men who tormented Wanderers’ full backs like nobody’s business.

These changes brought some relief to Wanderers who, at that time, had also made changes in Francisco Nkonda, Misheck Botomani and Vitumbiko Kumwenda and their full backs started pressing and they got their second goal with 20 minutes left to play.

This was a sign to Pasuwa that his charges were in for a very tough assignment to contain Wanderers and surprisingly, he substituted Frank Willard for Henry Kabichi and this was a recipe for disaster as the midfield was completely opened by Wanderers.

With two minutes left to play, Wanderers equalized and snatched points in a very painful manner and this meant Bullets had conceded seven goals in two matches, something very unusual.

Against Simba in the first leg, he went for a more defensive formation instead of attacking knowing pretty sure that he was playing at home and there was also second leg coming.

Babatunde Adepoju was ineffective because he lacked support and his decision to take out Willard for Kabichi backfired yet again when Bullets conceded the second goal.

Going forward, Pasuwa should focus more on having energetic players who can counter press their opponents when the going gets tough for his charges.

Henry Kabichi has done his part

He is a club legend and this won’t be taken away from him but there is always time for everything. Henry Kabichi is now the weakest link in Bullets’ midfield and its always surprising to see Pasuwa substituting a young and energetic Frank Willard for the veteran midfielder who even played with his team manager James Chilapondwa years ago. Every time he is subbed on, Bullets concedes a goal and this is an indication that the energy levels have gone down, making it very difficult for him to contain the intensity which is exerted by the opposition.

Pasuwa should accept that his midfielder has overstayed his welcome and that he needs to introduce a permanent replacement in Frank Willard.

Bullets needs more time and investments in order to make a breakthrough in Champions League

It is no longer a secret, Bullets’ squad is not good enough to take part in Africa’s biggest club competition. From the two matches we have watched, there is a huge gap between Malawian champions and other African teams. For instance, Simba SC have players from other African countries and they were tactically better than Bullets who, in the first round, struggled to contain their opposition. Bullets released eleven players, eight of them being senior players at the start of the ongoing season and Pasuwa replaced those players with the youngsters from the Bullets Reserves and to be honest, we all expected the team to play for three seasons together before joining CAF Champions League.

But Pasuwa insisted on joining CAF and for the fourth straight time, he has been eliminated at the earliest stages of the competition.

His project might be dominating domestically but realistically, the players are far from competing against Africa’s best clubs and that’s what we have just witnessed.

Pasuwa needs to be more patient as his project takes shape or he should try to join the Confederations Cup but joining CAF Champions League again will surely end in another disappointment.

Our domestic league is very weak

The majority of Bullets players who have been dominating in the ongoing season are youngsters from the Reserve team and this tells you one thing; our league is very weak.

We have teams struggling against a very youthful Bullets side which is currently unbeaten and on the verge of defending the title but failing to make a breakthrough in the Champions League. To concur with Flames head coach Marian Mario Marinica’s words soon after his team was eliminated by Mozambique in the TotalEnergies African Nations Championship, we don’t have quality players to compete at the top level of African football and we need to do more in order to bridge the gap which is there between Malawi and other nations.

Dominating locally is not a guarantee that you will also dominate in the continental competitions because our league is very weak and our players are less paid as compared to other countries.

 

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