Violence yesterday spoiled the grand finale of the Airtel Top 8 second edition as Nyasa Big Bullets supporters attacked the referee and threw missiles after their team lost 1-0 to Blue Eagles at Bingu National Stadium in Lilongwe.
SomeBullets fans clad in the team’s red and white colours, stormed the pitch at the final whistle and police were seen struggling to arrest the ring leaders.
Referee Mischeck Juwa was assaulted and had to be rescued by the police who overpowered the mob that included some Bullets players. The supporters threw objects for nearly 30 minutes, forcing delay of trophy presentation. Police roughed up some rowdy fans as they tried to restore order.
Juwa was the fans’ target after he awarded Eagles a penalty in time added on after Bullets defender Yamikani Fodya had fouled Gilbert Chirwa in the six-yard box and up stepped Stuart Mbunge to claim the priceless goal and, with it, the K15 million ultimate prize.
The penalty came at a time when Bullets were anticipating a post-match penalty shoot-out and they had just introduced towering goalkeeper Ernest Kakhobwe for Rabson Chienda. Kakhobwe is known for saving penalties.
Bullets got a K5 million runners-up consolation.
It was an afternoon when the People’s Team’s luck run out, their adventure came to a heartbreaking end and their players trudged off the pitch disconsolately.
There were tears of joy for the Malawi Police Service side.
In a post-match interview, an excited Eagles coach DeKlerk Msakakuona said he was pleased with his troops’ fighting spirit.
“We were underdogs throughout the tournament, but we kept our faith. It was frustrating that we missed good chances, but in the end we got it right. Now it is time to celebrate,” he said.
Msakakuona also said the victory was a timely gift for Inspector General Rodney Jose coming just three days after his confirmation by Parliament.
His Bullets counterpart Rogers Yasin said: “It is very painful, but it is part of the game. That is all I can say.”
Bullets dominated the first half, while Eagles were defending and resilient enough to keep the People’s Team’s offensive power at bay.
Most of Bullets attacks were, however, not clear enough to haunt their hosts as their twin strikers Chiukepo Msowoya and Bright Munthali vainly fancied some headed attempts from desperate crosses.
Eagles had their moments too and at some point Oswald Maonga fired a shot which was kept out by Chienda. Chirwa also missed some good chances.
As desperation took its toll, both teams made changes with Bullets taking out Mike Mkwate and Fischer Kondowe for Nelson Kangunje and Mussa Manyenje while Eagles introduced the lone goal scorer Mbunge for John Malidadi Jnr.
Silver Strikers were the first winners of the tournament last year when they beat Be Forward Wanderers 10-9 in post-match penalties after playing out a goalless draw in regulation time.
The Eagles’ win means that the Airtel Top 8 Trophy has stayed put in Lilongwe, the headquarters of the sponsors, Airtel Malawi Limited.n