It was the same old tale of ‘so near yet so far’ in Malawi football when the country’s flag-carriers in the 2018/19 Confederation of African Football (CAF) inter-club tourneys bowed out on post-match penalty shoot-outs about 320 kilometres apart.
Playing on home soil, Nyasa Big Bullets and Silver Strikers gave the nation false hopes when they overturned their identical first leg 1-0 deficits in the CAF Champions League and Confederations Cup, respectively, forcing their ties into penalty shoot-outs only to lose in the end.
Bullets lost 4-3 to Kenya’s Gor Mahia at Kamuzu Stadium in Blantyre while Silver Strikers missed the train against AO CMS of Gabon by a similar scoreline.
Bullets supporters will definitely talk about striker Chiukepo Msowoya’s 88th minute missed open play penalty in years to come.
When Ethiopian referee Tewodros Mituku awarded the spot-kick after a hand ball in the box, the red army exploded into celebration.
Who could blame them? An 88th minute penalty while leading 1-0 at home is as good as a goal.
But the supporters’ world crumbled after Gor Mahia goalkeeper Boniface Otieno confidently dived to the left and firmly tucked the ball between his hands.
So shocked were the supporters after the last whistle marked the beginning of post-match penalties which, unfortunately, were also poorly taken by Bullets players as Pilirani Zonda hit the post while Miracle Gabeya had his saved.
Although Chiukepo recovered and got it right in Bullets’ first post-match penalty, this only made matters worse as the supporters could be heard wondering: “Why Chiukepo? Why didn’t you do that in open play?”
Such is cruelty of football.
Within a few minutes, Chiukepo had turned from a hero to a villain.
Yet after the two sides were tied at 0-0 at half-time, Chiukepo lit up the fully-parked stadium in the 55th minute when his moment of brilliance came.
He collected a pass deep in midfield, turned and unleashed a volley that caught Otieno flat-footed.
Even Gor captain Haron Shavaka had to doff his hat off to Chiukepo.
“Wonder goal…Even our goalkeeper had no chance,” he said in post-match interview.
But dejected coach Callisto Pasuwa felt his team fell prey to the same old problem of lacking concentration.
“It was the same thing in Kenya when we lost concentration in the last minute of the game. Here, we also lacked some maturity in the dying minutes of the game when we could have easily finished the match and ended up missing a penalty,” he said.
Gor Mahia newly-signed Turkish coach Hassan Oktay was over the moon for his dramatic victory in his first assignment.
But the coach also applauded Bullets for a grand performance.
In Lilongwe, Silver bowed out of the Confederation Cup almost in similar fashion.
Khuda Muyaba’s pure instinct of a goal poacher in 72nd minute, saw him pounce on a stray ball and slot past Dallian Allegro Young on goals for AO CMS.
Muyaba, Young Chimodzi Jnr and Mark Fodya converted in post-match penalties while Victor Limbani and Yunus Sherrif had theirs saved.
Ngadi Youmou, Nani Nono Yoan, Fasssssi Ajamal and Houphouet Frank converted AO CMS spot kicks.
The Gabonese side coach Ondo Brice thanked God for the victory.
“We thank God for this victory. We played against a very strong opponent.
“Even in the first game, the Malawi side were good, but they made one mistake and we scored,” said Brice.
Silver coach Lovemore Fazili wore a pained countenance after the match.
“We were supposed to win this game. We played well and controlled the game, creating several chances. It is painful that it had to end this way. It’s very disappointing,” he said.