Football is meant to entertain, but those who came to watch Ekwendeni Hammers play FCB Nyasa Big Bullets at Rumphi Stadium will tell you a different story as they felt the heavy winds blowing all over the pitch, than the actual football in the entire 90 minutes.
This was neither the teams’ fault or the players’ fault, but rather, a bump dry pitch coupled with heavy winds blowing from the mountains that surrounded the ground.
Others would even try to understand the recent calls made by some disgruntled football fans from Mzuzu who demanded the re-opening of Mzuzu Stadium, which was closed by the Football Association of Malawi due to the poor conditions of the facilty, because comparing the two Stadiums, the latter is far much better than the former.
It was a game of few chances as the two teams failed to adapt to the bad weather conditions and the poor pitch that made it very possible for the players from either side to play a normal passing game.
As expected, the two teams had two things to deal with; the wind and the bumpy dry pitch, a situation that made it impossible for the free-flowing passing game that the two teams are known for.
It was a game of few chances, denying the spectators an opportunity to watch a beautiful game throughout the match.
The visitors created their first opportunity from Patrick Mwaungulu’s well taken cornerkick, but Maxwell Phodo headed wide when he was unmarked inside the six-yard box.
For the opening 30 minutes, no attempt at the goal was registered by the two teams as there were just too many winds blowing all over the pitch, forcing the two teams to use secondary balls.
It was Bullets who felt the negative side of the weather as, despite using long balls, failed to adapt to the new option, with every long ball landing at Micah Chiyenda or going out of the field for a goalkick.
However, Lady Lucky nearly smiled at the hosts when Senaji lost the ball to Sammy Phiri closer to Bullets’ penalty box but the winger, in a one on one situation, was denied by Rabson Chiyenda’s excellent save before an intervention from Eric Kaonga.
The hosts were able to break the deadlock with five minutes left to play in the half through Isaac Msiska, who tapped in from Blessings Singini’s well taken freekick from the right flank of the field, 1-0.
But the lead was cut short inside the added minutes when Chisomo Banda gave away the ball to Nkhoma, who made no mistake by firing at goal to beat Micah Chiyenda in the line of duty, 1-1 and that was all for the half.
After the recess, Pasuwa brought in Ephraim Kondowe and Mpokera for Kajoke and Nkhoma to try to add more energy, especially in the middle of the field where Bullets were second on the ball.
The coming in of Mpokera brought stability in the midfield, but it was similar to the opening half as the players were hugely disturbed by the winds.
The hosts’ shot-stopper was called into action in the 54th minute to deny Kaonga from finding the back of the net with his long-range effort.
Moments later, the goalkeeper was also tested by Chawanangwa Gumbo, who created a shooting space for himself before he was denied by Chiyenda’s save to keep his team into the game.
The hosts replaced Msiska for Isaiah Nyirenda, clearly indicating that a point was all that they were targeting.
However, Ekwendeni should have buried Bullets alive with some clear-cut chances from set pieces.
Whenever they had a cornerkick, two things were happening; forcing Rabson Chiyenda to make important saves or Bullets defenders committing more serious mistakes at the back.
Sensing danger, Pasuwa brought in M’gwira and Anthony Mfune for Mwaungulu and Phodo, with Samson Chiona replacing Samuel Adebiyi Adeyemi for the hosts.
Kondowe saw his weaker shot cleared by Chisomo Sambani before crossing the line when the goalkeeper was caught napping in an earial combat from Willard’ cross into the box.
With 78 minutes played, Bullets goalkeeper produced a stunning save to deny Singini from scoring from a freekick.
At this particular moment, the visitors were under siege as the winds blew very much to the advantage of Hammers who pushed everyone forward to force a goal that would have come through committing mistakes.
Three back to back cornerkicks saw Rabson Chiyenda saving Bullets with excellent saves, but the highlight of his day was when he produced an excellent save to deny Phiri from scoring the winning goal when the winger fired at goal from yet another dangerous set piece from Singini.
Precious Sambani, who came in for Gumbo, fired wide from the close range when passing the ball to Kondowe would have been the best option.
In the additional minutes of the match, Kaonga’s volley almost went in but Ekwendeni Hammers survived from the jaws of a defeat as the ball swerved wide off Micah’s goal mouth and in the end, 1-1 was the final scoreline.
The result sees Bullets cutting the gap to just three points with three more games in hand to play over the team above them.
As for Hammers, the valuable point gained sees them opening a five point lead over the bottom placed Civil, but the Mzuzu based side has played two more games than the Lilongwe side.
At Nankhaka Stadium, a strike each from Babangida Ishaya, Tony Phiri, and Beston Jimu inspired Extreme FC to their fourth win of the season when they defeated Bangwe All Stars 3-2.
At some point, the Mchinji based side was leading 3-0 but the visitors started to mount a late comeback through quick goals from Emmanuel Saviel and Kondwani Chilembwe, but it was too late as the hosts collected all the points to remain bottom of the table with 18 points from 26 games.
As for Abel Mkandawire’s charges, the defeat means they have only managed to collect a point from the possible nine as they remain in the 9th position with 32 points from 25 games and should Mighty Tigers win their next match, they will exchange positions as a Top 8 battle intensifies.