Goalkeeper Ernest Kakhobwe was the hero for Nyasa Big Bullets yesterday after saving three spot kicks to propel his team to the quarter-finals of the Presidential Cup with a 5-4 post-match penalty shoot-out victory over Blue Eagles.
The two teams played out a barren draw in regulation period that failed to stir the passions, leading to the dreaded penalty shoot-out.
Bullets’ victory virtually completed the quarter-final line up and they will now face Kabwafu—the only lower league side still in contention.
The first set of penalties saw Pilirani Zonda, Yamikani Fodya, Chiukepo Msowoya and Muhammad Sulumba all scoring for Bullets while Gilbert Chirwa, Victor Nyirenda, Gregory Nachipo and Oward Maonga replied for the Area 30-based cops.
Eagles’ Wister Phiri and Bullets John Lanjesi had their spot-kicks kept out by goalkeepers Kakhobwe and Chakonda Majanga respectively.
Then the fans held their breath when it came to sudden death and when McFarlen Ngwira’s kick flew over the bar, Bullets faithfuls’ hearts—including their sponsor Dimitri Kalaitzis—felt the dagger being plunged in, only for them to leap out of their seats when Eagles’ John Malidadi Jnr’s kick was saved by Kakhobwe.
Then Mike Mkwate missed the next spot-kick for the People’s Team, giving Eagles another chance to seal the game.
But who said lightning doesn’t strike twice? Up stepped Ackim Kazombo to blast his kick over the bar and relief was the prevalent emotion among Bullets followers.
Then Bashir Maunde didn’t lose his cool as he converted the next spot-kick for Bullets and then there was a cathedral-hush silence as Enock Likoswe stepped up. If he misses, its over for Eagles and there were frayed nerves around the stadium. He took a shot and Kakhobwe once again pulled off a superb save and it was over for Eagles as Bullets turned the arena into a theatre of celebration.
“We did everything we could but it was not our day. Penalties are painful,” said a dejected Eagles coach Deklerk Msakakuona with his head hanged in disappointment.
“When Bullets missed two consecutive penalties, we had a chance to wrap it up, but it wasn’t to be.”
Bullets team manager Rahim Ishmael admitted it was a tough encounter.
“The victory is more sweet considering how tough it was. We are happy we progressed, “ he said.
In other quarter-final matches on Saturday, Epac will host Moyale Barracks at Civo Stadium while Dwangwa face defending champions Mafco at Chitowe.
According to Football Association of Malawi (FAM) competitions manager Gomezgani Zakazaka, dates for the matches involving Max Bullets and Be Forward Wanderers as well as Kabwafu and Bullets, will be announced later. n