Bullets make Airtel Top 8 final call


Gomezgani Chirwa scripted a beautiful picture of the ultimate wonder goal- a combination of power, pace and precision in a beautiful exhibition of his star quality on Saturday afternoon at Kamuzu Stadium to inspire defending champions Nyasa Big Bullets to a comfortable 3-1 victory over Silver Strikers in the Airtel Top 8 Cup semis and send The People’s Team to their second cup final in the 2022 season.

The win means the defending champions are in for their third shot at the title in five years, having reached the finals in 2018, 2020/21 and 2022 editions.

This was the second meeting between the two teams within a year after they faced-off in the last year’ edition where Bullets needed penalty shootout to beat The Central Bankers 5-4 after the regulation time ended 1-1.

The People’s Team started slowly to the match than their usual high pressing football which they are known for but their opponents also failed to take off as they played too deep into their half to avoid a repeat of what happened when they conceded three goals to their opposition inside the opening 23 minutes in the league match.

Bullets’ first attempt at goal came in the 12th minute when Chimwemwe Idana played through Lanjesi Nkhoma to the left-flank and the winger released a powerful drive which was easily saved by Emmas Nyirenda.

The midfield was the mostly active area as the two teams battled for possesion through Chikondi Kamanga and Idana and as a result, only few chances were created from the two teams.

But Bullets had a breakthrough in the 21st minute in a brilliant fashion through wingback Gomezgani Chirwa who scored one of the most beautiful goals in the tournament.

Chirwa didn’t even need more time to put the ball into the net, his instincts ordering him to go for the kill, assuring him it was worth the try from his position and propelling him to shoot from his angle.

His goal was an absolute beauty, the ball rising like a laser-guided missile from 30-yards out, arrowing towards the right hand post of the keeper, the energy generated by the sweet contact powering it past Nyirenda into the top corner, 1-0.

With half-hour mark played, heavens opened up with a heavy downpour which made the turf very wet and this restricted the two teams from playing high pressing football.

But Bullets had another opportunity in the 35th minute through a freekick which was taken by Patrick Mwaungulu but went straight at Nyirenda, who, despite his age, was commanding his area of defense with maturity.

After withstanding the storm from the hosts, Leo Mpulula’s men pushed ahead with purpose from the left hand side of the filed with Zebron Kalima and Patrick Macheso heavily involved with good exchange of passed to release Chawanangwa Kaonga who saw his shot missing Clever Mkungula’s right-hand post with an inch for a goal kick.

With five minutes left to play, Mpulura brought in Uchizi Vunga for Levison Maganizo to try to improve his attacking prowess in desperate for the equalizer which was very difficult to come by as Bullets defended with everything to avoid any possible comeback from the Area 47 based side.

Bullets pushed for another goal before the recess whilst Silver dominated the final minutes of the half in search of the equalizer but it wasn’t meant to happen as they went to the break with Bullets leading.

After the recess, the two teams slowed down as they had to deal with a wet pitch and the focus was on being cautious to avoid committing errors emanating from the wetness of the pitch.

The Bankers had a chance to level in the 42nd minute when referee Newton Nyirenda awarded them a freekick just a few meters away from the penalty box but Mark Fodya hit the wall and the ball landed straight at Kamanga who made the first time commotion at goal only to be denied by Mkungula.

At the other end, Precious Sambani had his long range volley well saved by Nyirenda after his defence was torn apart by Ernest Petro who was having a day to remember with his fantastic performance.

The match was put beyond Silver’ reach in the 55th mimute when a long ball from Sambani into the box was missed by Nyirenda and allowed Hassan Kajoke to flick it to Petro who calmly controlled it before hitting the back of the net, 2-0.

Mpulura had to make a double substitution in the 62nd minute when he brought in Stain Davie and Duncain Nyoni for Macheso and Kalima to increase the attacking options to try to get something out of the match which, at that particular time, seemed slipping away from them.

The substitutes brought some rhythm for The Bankers who almost pulled in back in the 64th minute when Innocent Shema’ cross inside Bullets penalty box was missed by Kesten Simbi and Mkungula before finding Nyoni who was unmarked but his poorly taken volley hit Nickson Nyasulu before it was cleared to safety by Frank Willard.

But the visitors were able to find the back of the net in the 66th minute through Davie.

A long ball from Kamanga caught Simbi and Sambani napping in the line of duty as the two defenders ball watched as they thought it was bound to go out but Shema had already made a quick run into the box and made a first time connection at goal only to hit the upright but the ball found Davie well placed and just made a simple tap in into the net, 2-1.

The goal meant the next 24 minutes were interesting and very crucial to Bullets as their opponents dominated possesion and they should have had an equalizer moments later when Davie’s shot from a cornerkick was well blocked by Nyasulu.

Kalisto Pasuwa then brought in Babatunde Adepoju and Stanley Billiat for Nkhoma and Kajoke in the 25th minute to try to slow down the pace of the visitors who were in complete control of the match.
But Mpulura’s hopes of making a comeback suffered a huge blow in the 71st minute when a long clearance from Bullets’ defense caught Maxwell Paipi and Hardy Ng’andu napping, allowing Mwaungulu to beat an offside trap into the penalty box before calmly slotting the ball into the net, 3-1.

The People’s Team almost scored their fourth goal in the 75th minute when the visitors failed to deal with Mwaungulu’s well taken corner kick as the ball found Sambani clear onsight at goal and his first time powerful volley was brilliantly saved by Nyirenda for another set piece from which Pasuwa’s men were penalized by Nyirenda for an infringement on the goalkeeper.

With ten minutes left to play, John Lanjesi and Henry Kabichi came in for Mwaungulu and Idana to defend the two-goal lead advantage and possibly add another goal to completely dash Silver’ hopes of getting something out of the game.

It was now a dancing time for Bullets, killing time to frustrate their opponents and it was the last decisive moment in what probed to be another top performance from Bullets as they advanced to their second cup final in the 2022 after they won FDH Cup in October.

The People’s Team will play the winner between Blue Eagles and Mighty Mukuru Wanderers who are playing in the last semi-final on Sunday at the same venue.

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