Silver Strikers held FCB Nyasa Bullets in a pulsating encounter that has somewhat set the tone for the TNM super league season which has kicked off today at Bingu National Stadium in the capital Lilongwe.
Either team would have won the match and it would have been deserved. No wonder most of their fans think this is a fair result. It was a high-quality game between two very strong teams building for the league.
A reborn Duncan Nyoni worked hard to make things happen for Silver on the left, but Alick Lungu is fast becoming a man. He successfully handled Nyoni to ensure he had no dangerous delivery in the Bullets box.
With Silver pushing most of their effort on the left, Bullets threw themselves on the right with the hope that Mwaungulu could unlock Fodya on Silver’s left. Blessings Mpokera did deliver a couple of balls in the box, but perhaps they forgot Babatunde is not there anymore. And Maxwell Phodo is yet to adapt to his game. Chikondi Kamanga never had Phodo even half a chance with the ball at his feet as he kicked him left, right, and center till he was rightly substituted in the second half.
Perhaps the biggest battle fans expected to see was at the center. No wonder the game was played a lot right there. With Chimwemwe Idana facing the team that made him and he proved why he is Mr. Demio and maybe why he deserves, or not, whatever he was demanding from Bullets. With flashes of brilliance and his typical one touches, he gave Silver shape in attack and defense. Twice trying his long-range shots, but unsuccessful, he found his match in Frank Willard who continues to grow and make the Bullets midfield his own.
But Mike Mkwate at the center, silky and speed filled as always, driving forward with pace and an eye for an unlocking pass. He was the one who saw Alick Lungu free and made a way for him to spring forward to make the opening goal. He ran with the ball, beating a silver defender outside the box before releasing the ball onto Silver’s goal mouth. After that, the job was half done for Lanjesi Nkhoma who slotted it home.
When Lanjesi put Bullets in the lead, Silver reacted well … last season fans were rightly critical of them and today, they showed a little bit of pride and swagger in their first game under the tutelage of their mouthful Dutch coach.
When the second half came, Silver picked up from where they stopped, throwing everything at Bullets. Clyde Senaji, Nickson Nyasulu, and Richard Chimbamba did their best to hold the bankers at bay. But it wasn’t too long. The bullet’s defense mixed up and failed to clear a corner kick that ended up with Nickson Mwase nodding home to equalize for the Bankers in the 50th minute.
Trying to reignite his side, Pasuwa made a triple substitution at 60 minutes. He brought in Chinedu Okafor, Stanley Billiat, and Chawanangwa Gumbo who replaced Maxwell Phodo, Mike Mkwate, and Patrick Mwaungulu.
But it didn’t pay much dividends as Silver finally gained some control. With Chawanangwa and Petro skillful, yet slow with the ball, Bullets didn’t push forward with energy as they did with Mkwate on the pitch. But even with that deficiency, they were clean with the ball.
Okafor almost won them the game. Receiving a pass from the marvelous Chawanangwa Gumbo, he chest controlled and sent a thunderous shot that beat Charles Thom but hit the crossbar to keep the game at one all.
Silver brought in Tetenda M’balaka for Nyoni but couldn’t change much. Bullets, too, brought in Anthony Mfune who had no fuel in the tank to make things happen.
By the end of the game, Callisto Pasuwa was surprised by the fast pace of the game saying it was not normal for an opener of the season. He bemoaned the goal they conceded, but was still, happy with the overall result.
“We’ve been having this problem of defending from set pieces. A ball from the corner kick and we lost concentration in the box. With what they did, it’s a fair result and we take a point”
His counterpart, DeJong who spent the day shouting at referees still had issues at the end of the match but was equally pleased with the result.
“I’m focused on the overall performance of the team and I think we are on a good track,” he said.