The Blantyre derby between Be Forward Wanderers and Nyasa Big Bullets which ended one-all on Saturday was an exciting tussle, one that set a potentially nail-biting end to a season that has had its share of twists and turns.
Wanderers, with their silky touches and ceaseless attacking from their galaxy of talent lit the Bingu National Stadium which had vast swathes of empty seats.
Midfielder Yamikani Chester was a plague in Bullets flesh while Isaac Kaliati, who had replaced injured Joseph Kamwendo, was equally amazing.
And then there was the power of Alfred Manyozo Junior, a midfield commander who fought as if his life depended on this game. His ceaseless monitoring of play-maker Mike Mkwate, who had a grand opening half, was key to taming their cross-town rivals’ threat.
Bullets, on the other side, does not have talent equaling that of Nomads but they have one strength—they fight like wounded buffaloes and get results when all odds are stuck against them.
Winger Fischer Kondowe, who had invented the equaliser and striker Chiukepo Msowoya, the scorer, are fantastic footballers because of their hard work rather than talent so are defenders George Mkandawire and Emmanuel Zoya.
With the Super League race cruising towards a promisingly nail-biting finale, it is character, which, more than anything, helped Bullets escape with a draw, that can guide the People’s Team to the crown.
In contrast, Wanderers’ key to ending their 10 year wait for a league title will depend on how they fully unleash their talent, which on any good day, can defeat the most resilient opposition.
Wanderers currently lead the 16-member pack with 55 points having played a game more than second placed Bullets who have 48 points.
The Nomads remain with six games against Civil Sporting Club, Masters Security, Mzuni, Red Lions and Dwangwa United which will be played at their newly found home Balaka Stadium while one game will be played away to Azam Tigers at Chilomoni Stadium.
On paper, the games look easy but in reality they are not. Civil defeated the Nomads in the first round and could again prove to be a hard nut to crack. Dwangwa, under Lloyd Nkhwazi mentorship, can cause trouble on their day so can the other teams.
Wanderers coach Yasin Osman said: “There are no easy matches in this league. A good example is Red Lions win over Silver Strikers. Who expected that?”
Wanderers can be assured of the title if they win five of their remaining games. That will take them to 70 points surpassing the maximum 69 points which Bullets can bag if they win all their remaining seven games.
Bullets have a tougher list of opponents than their rivals. They will face Wizards at Mulanje Stadium, Mzuni away, Dwangwa at Chitowe ground, Azam Tigers at home, fellow title hunters Silver Strikers at home before facing Mafco at Civo Stadium and Masters Security at home.
“We have tough games before us. The key is to win all,” said Bullets team manager James Chilapondwa.
Silver Strikers are still in the title contention despite a string of poor results recently. Being held to a draw by Dwangwa and Blantyre United and later conceding their first defeat of the season at the ruthless hands of Red Lions dented the Bankers bid.
Silver’s remaining matches are against Moyale at home, Mzuni away, Bullets away, Mafco, Civil Sporting Club and Chitipa United all at their backyard.
Football analyst Antonio Manda is putting his money on Wanderers winning the title arguing that they have relatively softer games than Bullets and Silver Strikers.
“Wanderers are leading currently and that is an advantage on its own. Secondly, I find Bullets remaining games tough especially those against Silver and Mafco. Same with Silver; they play Mafco and Bullets which are not easy teams,” he said.
Another pundit Madalitso Phiri, chief sports producer at Capital Radio, says Bullets failure to win the derby has enhanced Wanderers chances of winning the league.
“If Bullets won that match and their game in hand, the gap with Wanderers could have been one point. That didn’t happen and Nomads are still on driving seat. Though Silver and Bullets still stand a chance but it is Wanderers’ title to lose,” he analyses. n