Leaders Big Bullets cleared what was, on paper, their biggest hurdle on the path to their TNM Super League title aspirations when skinning alive fierce but toothless Azam Tigers 2-0 to go nine points clear yesterday.
A Kamuzu Stadium full-house rose on its feet to celebrate as strikers Jaffalie Chande and Tizgobere Kumwenda, who was improvised as a right-winger in Fischer Kondowe’s absence, netted on the 29th and 85th minute to punish the exciting, but wasteful Tigers.
Now, on 56 points, Bullets, in consultant coach Nsanzurwimo Ramadhan’s own words, can comfortably await the outcome of second-placed Moyale Barracks’ game against Mafco in Chitowe today knowing the People’s Team, who also face Blantyre United and the Kaning’ina lions, have enough insurance points.
“People were doubting us, but if you go mathematically, we just need one point out of a possible six to win the league. Of course, the result in tomorrow’s game [between Moyale and Mafco] will tell if the league is over. It could be over by the end of this weekend,” Ramadhan said.
Blue Eagles, who have three games to go, can as well be ruled out of contention after dropping more points yesterday when being held 1-1 by holders Silver Strikers in Lilongwe to remain third on 44 points.
Therefore, the Kau Kau were, going into yesterday’s game, seen as the toughest stumbling block to Bullets’ first title in 11 years.
With towering Patrick Thupi deployed to stifle Bullets midfield dominance and Kumwenda finding it tough when faced with clever-footed Isaac Kaliyati, it was Tigers who should have scored more from their six clear-cut chances.
But Kau Kau striker Bright Munthali either shot wide or headed wide with goalkeeper Vincent Gona at his mercy. By the time Tigers coach Frank ‘Franco’ Ndawa substituted Munthali for Peter Katsonga, Bullets were in control of proceedings.
“We had many chances, but we did not use them. We tried to talk to the boys, but it did not work. That is football. We will try to work on our finishing,” Ndawa said in post-match interview.
True to Ndawa’s assertion, Munthali should have done better when presented clear sight of goal. But after sneaking past Bullets defence, he placed his shot wide. Munthali then headed into the sky when meeting Lawrence Milanzi’s cross from the right. Tigers eventually got punished.
Man-of-the-match Dalitso Sailesi created Chande’s headed opener, swinging the ball perfectly for the former Epac striker to jump and place the ball at the top right corner. The execution looked so easy like breathing.
Tigers’ rock solid Under-20 defender Boston Kabango had swept to safety Bullets right-back Pilirani Zonda’s cross on the overlap from the right, which yielded the corner for Bullets.
After break, Kaliyati forced Gona to spill dangerously wide off the near post a spinning direct free-kick. Sensing danger, Bullets brought in Ian Chinyama to add steel to the defence. The move saw impressive left-back Yamikani Fodya drifting to the central defence which captain of the day Sankhani Mkandawire marshalled with aplomb.
Bullets continued to look the likely scorers. A quick counter-attack had Chande, making a rare start in view of captain Henry Kabichi’s absence, set clear Kumwenda, but Tigers goalkeeper Nenani Juwayo reacted the fastest to block him.
Then experienced striker Jimmy Zakazaka should also have done better in yet another Bullets counter-attack, but he could not bend his foot properly when jumping to meet a bouncing ball which he skied.
Finally, Bullets grabbed the cushion goal when Fodya’s free-kick was done great justice by Chande, who curled the ball wide to the blind side from where Kumwenda burst from the deep to slot it. It was game over. n