Chimwemwe Idana’s 75th minute strike on Sunday afternoon inspired Nyasa Big Bullets to a hard-fought victory over Silver Strikers at a waterlogged Silver Stadium to consolidate the top position in the TNM Super League.
The visitors, who won the reverse fixture 3-1, needed all the points to keep their hopes of defending the title alive and they had to do it in a tough way.
Bullets head coach, Kalisto Pasuwa, made two changes to the side that won 2-0 against Kamuzu Barracks on Wednesday, bringing on board Patrick Phiri and Luke Chima for Mike Mkwate and Peter Banda.
Before the kickoff, the weather took a turn for the worse and the rain began to belt down, making quality football which the two sides play hard to achieve.
However, as the rains kept on coming, referee Alfred Chilinda went on with the game as the teams were forced to play with such unplayable condition.
The condition of the pitch made things very difficult for the players and consequently, chances on goal were few and far between, but the visitors came closer to scoring when defender Yunusu Sherrif failed to clear the ball away from his box, allowing Phiri to gain possession but his shot went agonizingly wide off Charles Thom’s goal posts.
Moments later, Thom was caught napping in the line of duty when a long ball from Righteous Banda bounced off to Phiri who was late to arrive, allowing the goalkeeper to regain possession before saving the situation for the Central Bankers.
The hosts thought they had taken a lead when Khuda Muyaba’s goal from a Duncan Nyoni’s free kick was ruled for offside by the first assistant referee Ibra Mafuleka.
Before the second half kicked off, Chilinda together with his two assistant referees and match coordinator, Bester Banda, recommended to have the game stopped as the condition of the pitch worsened due to the continuous rains, but the decision, which lasted for more than 20 minutes, was turned down by Super League of Malawi and Silver Strikers players, who insisted the match had to proceed.
Finally, Chilinda bowed down to the wishes of the officials and the home side and kicked off the second half as the rains continued to flood the pitch.
Sensing danger, Pasuwa made two quick changes, introducing Chiukepo Msowoya and Fischer Kondowe for Chima and Banda.
This decision paid off as Bullets increased their attacking prowess, with the hosts struggling to keep up with the pace from the wings where Kondowe and Phiri were operating.
Bullets should have gone 1-0 up in the 66th minute when Charles Petro’s free kick inside the box found Nickson Nyasulu who made a first-time connection only to be denied by the post.
Moments later, Kondowe’s corner kick found Hassan Kajoke unmarked but the former Bullets Reserve forward was left in agony when his header was well saved by Thom.
Pasuwa made his last change for the day when he introduced Nelson Kangunje for Phiri while Silver’s Thuso Paipi paved the way for Mphatso Philemon.
Bullets’ hard-working spirit finally paid off in the 75th minute when Kondowe’ back-heel pass inside the penalty box found Idana unmarked and the midfielder wasted no time by putting the ball into the back of the net, beating the goalkeeper near post to make it 1-0
The hosts almost responded back in style when Gomezgani Chirwa was disposed by Muyaba who sent a diagonal ball into the box to Mike Teteh, but the forward’s effort went over the crossbar.
The Bankers tried to get back into the game but were unable to do so as Bullets’ defence stood firm under some attacking pressure from the hosts.
With less than two minutes to play, the hosts were awarded a free kick inside Bullets’ half but Muyaba, who was too emotional throughout the game, blasted his effort over Rabson Chiyenda’s goal.
Silver Strikers kept on pushing but Bullets’ quartet of Nyasulu, Chirwa, Petro and Yamikani Fodya made no mistake at the back and after 90 minutes of play, Bullets collected all the three points to keep their title ambitions alive.
The win takes Bullets’ tally to 61 points, a point above fellow title chasers Be Forward Wanderers who were 2-1 winners over Karonga United at Kamuzu Stadium. Both teams have played 27 games.
The defending champions will play Civil Sporting Club on Wednesday before returning back to Blantyre for their remaining two games at home against Moyale Barracks and TN Stars.