Red Lions coach Stereo Gondwe was the most frustrated person on Saturday after his side lost 5-4 to Nyasa Big Bullets through post-match penalties in a dull Carlsberg Cup quarter-final at Kamuzu Stadium.
He vented his anger on referee Godfrey Nkhangana for awarding Bullets a soft penalty in added time after a foul on substitute Patrick Phiri which Yamikani Fodya coolly converted to cancel Royal Bokosi’s first-half strike.
“You can see that Bullets did not deserve to win today. That was not a genuine penalty. And why add 11 minutes?” fumed Gondwe.
But though the referee’s decision was debatable, Gondwe’s charges were equally to blame for employing delaying tactics right in the first half of the match just after they had taken the lead.
The second half was even worse. There were over 15 stoppages due Lions players ‘injuries’ with goalkeeper Brighton Ngwenyama, the biggest ‘casualty’.
In fact, if those injuries were indeed genuine, Ngwenyama should have gone back to Cobbe Barracks in a body-bag.
The Zomba-based Malawi Defence Force (MDF) outfit dominating Bullets, more especially in midfield where captain Chikoti Chirwa proved he is still up to his game despite a year-long absence on a tour of duty in the Democratic Republic of Congo.
Though Bullets were playing with five midfielders against Lions’ four, they struggled to contain the soldiers.
Lions had themselves to blame for failing to wrap up the game in the first-half when Bullets was vulnerable, but the soldiers missed several scoring opportunities.
The soldiers should have known that Bullets come back strongly in the second half. But instead of keeping possession or attacking to get more goals, they resorted to defending and after realising their defence could not stand the heat, they started delaying tactics by feigning injuries and that cost them the game.
When referee Nkhangana added 11 minutes after regulation time, it was obvious that the soldiers would not survive the pressure.
In fact, substitute Mussa Manyenje twice had a chance to wrap up the game in added time, but he shot wide with just Ngwenyama to beat.
In post-match penalties, the soldier had yet another chance to kill off the game after Manyenje missed Bullets’ second spot kick.
Though the soldiers took a lead again, ended up missing their last two spot-kicks and at the end of the day, Bullets goalkeeper Rabson Chiyenda was the hero after he stopped Lions’ last penalty taken by Mathews Simbeye.
Bullets coach Rogers Yasin admitted that they struggled in the match.
“It was a tough game more especially in the first-half. In the second half, they [Lions] spoiled the game through their delaying tactics. We couldn’t play our usual game because of too many stoppages. But I am happy that we have won,” he said.
In the other semi-final, Hangover continued to march on in the cup after yet another upset.
The lower league outfit, who knocked out Moyale Barracks, have booted out yet another TNM Super League giant Blue Eagles after a 1-0 victory at Balaka Stadium through Rabson Richard’s 44-minute strike.
The battle for the last semi-final slots resumes today as Be Forward Wanderers and Azam Tigers clash at Kamuzu Stadium while Mafco and Maters Security will battle it out at Civo Stadium.