Bullets close in on league title after brushing aside Karonga United

Malawi Football

It’s becoming a matter of when and not if Mama will give FCB Nyasa Big Bullets and their fans the signal to collect their fifth straight league title.

Their hard-fought 1-0-win, courtesy of an early strike from Patrick Mwaungulu, against Karonga United on Wednesday afternoon further enhanced their status as TNM Super League champions-elect as they regained a three-point lead at the summit over Silver Strikers who were hoping for a miracle in order to snatch the title from the defending champions.

As a result of this win, The People’s Team need only a point from their final league match against the Central Bankers on Sunday at Kamuzu Stadium to pip them to the finishing line.

Even if they can lose the match, it is very unlikely for them to concede eight goals at Kamuzu Stadium, and as it is, they can start popping up the champaign, ready for the coronation day.

What happened

From the first whistle, the visitors were very offensive as they created three quick chances inside the opening five minutes, but Sunganani Mponda came to the rescue with a save to deny Yamikani Fodya from scoring from a freekick.

Moments later, Mwaungulu fired wide when he was set through by Ephraim Kondowe, while Hassan Kajoke’s powerful header inside the penalty box missed the left-hand post with an inch.

The high pressing football finally paid off in the 7th minute when Kondowe made a run to his left side before sending an excellent cross into the penalty box, which was connected into the net by Mwaungulu, 0-1.

The hosts then increased their attacking fluency through Ellie Kayombo, Pilirani Thulu, and Mwiso Youngson, but they couldn’t break a defensive wall led by Clyde Senaji who partnered Gomezgani Chirwa in the central defense.

But, Trevor Kajawa’s men almost leveled when Thulu delivered a brilliant ball into the box from a freekick, which was headed over the crossbar by Kayombo.

After the half-hour mark, the hosts thought they had leveled when Kayombo got the better of Senaji before firing at goal only to be denied by the post, and from the rebound, Allen Chihana missed from the close range when Richard Chimbamba was already beaten in the line of duty.

With 36 minutes played on the clock, Mwaungulu released Kajoke to the left, and the forward made a brilliant run into the penalty box, but his shot swerved away from Mponda’s goal.

With the bumpy, dry, and hard pitch, Bullets could not manage to play their usual game, but they were able to hold on to their lead to go at recess with a slender 0-1 margin.

After the break, the hosts pressed for the much-needed equalizing goal, but Bullets’ back-four protected their goal area with everything to frustrate them as the majority of the action was in the midfield where Yamikani Fodya, Ernest Petro and Mwaungulu battled it out for possession against Nanisoni Mbewe and Victor Chirambo.

The hosts introduced Tony Nyango for Chihana, and with his height advantage, he really caused problems to our defense, but Karonga United lacked the finishing composure to finish off Bullets who were now defending too deep.

Bullets nearly doubled their lead in the 62nd minute when a long ball from Senaji  caught Gabinho Daud off guard and allowed the ball to bounce over him, setting Kondowe , who found himself in a one-on-one situation with Mponda, but his volley missed the left-hand post with just an inch.

Sixty-five minutes on the clock saw Kajawa bringing on board Henry Chiwaya and Geoffrey Kadzitche for Chirambo and Sailos Mbewe to try to add more attacks in search of a goal.

With twenty minutes left on the clock, MacFarlane Mgwira and Stanley Billiat were brought in for Lanjesi Nkhoma and Kajoke.

Two quick set pieces to the hosts caused havoc inside the box, but once again, Nyango and Youngson failed to put the ball inside the net.

Kajawa replaced Kayombo with Josiah Duwa while Yankho Singo and Ephraim Kondowe came in for Kondowe and Mwaungulu.

Long balls from the hosts caused more problems in defense. This forced Pasuwa to introduce Collins Okumu for Fodya to win duels in the midfield, and this game plan worked as the hosts kept on losing possession, allowing Bullets to manage the game for the better part of the remaining minutes.

After 90 minutes, there was a delay to the match as the home fans started pelting stones, forcing the referee Newton to stop the match with five minutes added to the clock.

Though the game resumed, Bullets held on to record an important win at Karonga Stadium in nearly three seasons.

The win sees them opening a three-point lead at the top of the table over the Bankers with 59 points from 29 games.