A goal in each half saw the highly anticipated Blantyre Derby between FCB Nyasa Big Bullets and Mighty Mukuru Wanderers ending in an entertaining stalemate, a result that has brought joy to The People’s Team.
Both halves were full of pace and intensity and on the balance of play, chances were created, Bullets were probably unfortunate to go into the break trailing as they had four clear chances to bury the Nomads who were leading at interval.
The second half provided as much excitement and entertainment with both teams contributing to a fantastic afternoon’s football with the draw probably a fair result to Bullets, but it was very painful to Wanderers who desperately needed all the points in order to keep their title hopes alive.
In the first ten minutes, Bullets came out and played with real purpose from the kick-off and had early chances through Maxwell Phodo, but he was twice denied by an excellent defending from Lawrence Chaziya and his partner, Peter Cholopi.
Phodo had a clear chance to break the deadlock in the 11th minute, but his weak shot was well cleared by Chaziya.
The Nomads were next to create a very clear scoring chance when Stanley Sanudi delivered a very dangerous ball from a cornerkick to Chaziya, who was unmarked but saw his powerful header went wide in an unbelievable circumstances.
Bullets’ game plan was hugely affected by their failure to unlock Wanderers’ defense, which was highly advantaged due to their stature as every ball inside the box was well dealt with by the two center half.
With 34 minutes played, the visitors deservedly took a lead in a brilliant fashion.
A pass from Wisdom Mpinganjira to Sanudi at the far right saw the full-back unleashing a very powerful shot that caught Rabson Chiyenda napping in the line of duty, 0-1.
The Nomads kept on pushing for more and nearly doubled their tally when Sanudi, who was mostly using Bullets’ left side to attack, delivered yet another dangerous cross into the box and found Christopher Kumwembe unmarked. But the forward missed Chiyenda’s left-hand post with an inch.
In the additional minutes, Phodo looked set to level matters when he swiveled and shot in the box, but William Thole showed great reflexes to beat the ball away.
In the second half, Kalisto Pasuwa brought in Hassan Kajoke and Precious Sambani for Eric Kaonga, who struggled to contain Sanudi and Gaddie Chirwa in the first half, and Mfune.
It was at this moment that Bullets unleashed their anger and attacked with intent in search of the equalizer, but Wanderers defended with everything in order to protect their slender lead.
Kajoke should have found the back of the net when he was set through by Patrick Mwaungulu, but the forward was undecided and allowed Isaac Kaliyati to make a timely clearance to the disappointment of thousands of Bullets’ supporters.
In the 55th minute, Mwaungulu released Phodo, who created a shooting space only to be denied by Thole, who was the busiest of the two shot-stoppers.
The intense pressing for Bullets was a clear indication that a goal was near, a situation that saw Wanderers sitting back to defend, but at the same time, inviting pressure from the hosts.
The equalizer came in the 58th minute when Phodo scored from the rebound after Kajoke’s shot was fumbled by Thole, 1-1.
Phodo nearly doubled his tally moments later when he exchanged passes with Precious Phiri, but the forward’s shot hit the side netting when Thole was already beaten in the line of duty.
As pressure was mounting, Wanderers sensed danger and introduced Francisco Madinga and Vincent Nyangulu for Kumwembe and Mphatso Kamanga.
This stabilized Wanderers’ midfield as they pressed hard to cause havoc to Bullets’ defense.
Nyangulu almost restored their lead when a cross from Mpinganjira found the attacker unmarked inside the penalty box. The forward was very unfortunate as his header hit the post, and from the rebound, Yamikani Fodya was very alert with a massive clearance.
It was an exciting last twenty minutes of the match, but mostly, Wanderers dominated play with their one touch system of play.
For the next ten minutes, Wanderers pressed, created chances, and were denied by a brilliant intervention from Clyde Senaji, who conceded a cornerkick that almost found the back of the net.
Bullets brought in Blessings Mpokera for Yankho Singo, who had his first start to Bullets’ line up in the league.
Mark Harrison introduced Miracle Gabeya for Bakilinho Mwakanyango whilst Chiyenda was stretched off after sustaining an injury, and he was replaced by Richard Chimbamba.
The Nomads were all over the place and should have had a goal in the 88th minute when Felix Zulu’s goal-bound shot was blocked by Senaji for yet another set piece, which was easily defended by Bullets.
With 90 minutes played, five minutes were added to the clock as Bullets brought in Lanjesi Nkhoma for Mwaungulu. It was now a matter of Bullets managing the game, a plan that worked for them as referee Mwayi Msungama blew his whistle to mark the end of the match.
The one point gained by Bullets means they are still leading the summit with 54 points, level with Wanderers, but the defending champions have a superior goal difference and three games in hand.
Bullets’ next assignment is on Wednesday against Red Lions at Balaka Stadium.