Kondwani ‘Scholes’ Kumwenda’s 35th minute equaliser gave Mighty Wanderers a spring in their step going into the second leg of the K5 million (about $12 500) IntoSports Giants Peace Cup against Big Bullets at Kamuzu Stadium in Blantyre.
The Nomads will go into the return leg with an away goal advantage when they host their arch-rivals at Civo Stadium in the capital on Saturday.
Although the latest episode of the Blantyre derby failed to stir the passions, the solace was that some new faces from both sides—Pilirani Zonda and Mussa Manyenje for the People’s Team, and Bongani Zulu for the Nomads—were a marvel to watch and displayed flashes of individual brilliance.
Bullets were in control in the first-half, in which they passed the ball around gently with Zonda and Manyenje conducting the orchestra that forced the Nomads into rearguard action and it came as no surprise when they surged ahead 10 minutes into the game. The execution of Henry ‘Magetsi’ Kabichi with a perfect dispatch was faultless, but there was plenty of jazz about its origins, the way Manyenje crafted the goal was pure class.
However, a comical goalkeeping error by Owen Chaima after advancing in no man’s land, resulted in Kumwenda levelling the score when he displayed an outstanding poise to hook a right-footed effort into the net.
And just before the break, Bullets scored what looked like a clear goal through Manyenje, but assistant referee Happiness Mbandambanda had her flag up for off-side adjudged to the dismay of the Bullets faithful who felt they had been robbed a clear goal.
Nomads’ goalminder Bester Phiri was not any better and just before break, their supporters committee chairperson Yona Malunga and his deputy Onani Chaponda went near their team bench and demanded his substitution. He was eventually taken off stage at the start of the second-half, paving way for Richard Chapuwa who got a standing ovation.
The Nomads, who were horribly and repeatedly fragile in midfield, stepped up their game in the second-half in which Bongani Kaipa, Francis Mulimbika and Zulu were outstanding.
Both teams made several substitutions in the second-half, but once again, the derby failed to live to its billing and was barely recognisable as the biggest game in the commercial city, if not in the country, and it fell way short of justifying its status.
Bullets caretaker coach Lloyd Nkhwazi said his team lost the rhythm after a bright start.
“I think the goal that we conceded demoralised our players. Otherwise, I was impressed with the performance of the new players and we will try to tune up ahead of the return leg in Lilongwe,” said Nkhwazi.
Nomads mentor Stuart Mbolembole admitted that his charges also lacked the spark.
“Maybe we still have the off-season hangover, but we’ll catch up and rectify the mistakes that we spotted,” he said.
The motto of the mini-tournament, which is being co-sponsored by Axa Bus Service, is ‘Say no to violence’. The winning team will walk away with K3 million (about $7 500) while the loser will get a K2 million (about $5 000) consolation.
The trophy was paraded around the stadium in a mini-convoy and the match was spiced up with a live show by local reggae kings—Black Missionaries.