This was a wonderful game, a richly exhilarating contest between resurgent giants, but in the end it was the blue side of town that stood up to be counted.
Mighty Wanderers on Saturday showed characteristic grit to come from behind and hold Big Bullets to a one-all in thrilling K20 million (about $68 000) Standard Bank Knockout Trophy semi-final and then went on to win 4-3 in the dreaded penalty shoot-out.
There were spontaneous parties at Silver Stadium in Lilongwe as the Nomads became the first team to qualify for the competition. They will now face winners in the other semi-final between Silver Strikers and Civo United slated for this afternoon at the same venue.
The clock doesnâ€™t lie and there were only seven minutes to full time when substitute Cuthbert Sinetre grabbed the equaliser as the Peopleâ€™s Team led 1-0.
Diverson Mlozi put the Bullets ahead with a strike of wondrous quality in the first half and as time ticked on, desperation took its toll in the Nomads camp.
Relief was therefore the prevalent emotion when Sinetre struck the priceless equaliser to force the match into penalties.
Defender George Nyirendaâ€™s decisive final penalty kick for Bullets was brilliantly kept out by Wanderers goal-tender Richard Chipuwa whereas James Chilapondwa, Peter Mpulula and Gabadinho Mhango converted theirs. Dalitso Silivaâ€™s spot-kick was also saved by Chipuwa.
Sinetre, Gerald Chimbaka, captain Foster Namwela and Joseph â€˜Shakiraâ€™ Kamwendo converted the penalty kicks for the Nomads while Gerald â€˜Papaâ€™ Phiri Juniorâ€™s kick was saved by BB goalminder Owen Chaima.
And it was celebration time in the blue side of town.
Wanderers coach Felix Fosiko was over the moon with the victory.
“Even when we were down, the boys never lost their nerve and kept on fighting until we got the equaliser.
“We struggled to play our usual passing game in the first half in which we kept pumping the balls upfront, but it all changed after the half-time pep talk,” said Fosiko.
His counterpart Eddingtone Ngâ€™onamo was visibly disappointed after the loss.
“Penalties can go either way. We made a mistake that led to Wanderers getting that equaliser,” said Ngâ€™onamo.
Fans protested the hiked gate charges that shot to K1 000 (about $3.50) open stands and there were notable empty seats as fans pressed for reduced entry fee outside the stadium.
Among the notable figures that watched the game was countryâ€™s Vice-President Khumbo Kachali.