Kaliso Pasuwa picked nine youngsters from the reserve team for Saturday’s 55 Malawi Independence Anniversary Celebration match against BE Forward Wanderers at Kamuzu Stadium, watch by State President Peter Mutharika and several dignitaries as well as thousands of followers.
Despite the 0-1 defeat to rivals Wanderers in the Blantyre derby, the lads who were given positions in the starting XI endured the heat and gave an outstanding performance against the experienced Nomads team.
Nixon Nyasulu and Gift Jana were paired with Nyasa Big Bullets graduate and ex-captain Charles Petro alongside Pilirani Zonda at the back, while Stanley Billiati was given the frontline role together with Luke Chima, who joined Bullets from Mighty Tigers at the start of the season.
Bullets had three seniors in the starting lineup; Zonda, Fischer Kondowe and Henry Kabichi, with first team youngsters Elias Missi in goals, Ben Manyozo in defending midfield and Ernest Petro in attacking midfield completing first XI.
On the bench Pasuwa had Clever Mkungula, David Daudi, Auspicious Kadzongola, Wilton Kaunda Jnr, Felix Demakude and Patrick Mwaungulu coming from the reserve side and from the main team the coach had Bashir Maunde and Precious Phiri as substitutes.
Wanderers started the game looking for an early goal in the opening minutes and they won a won, but failed to make use of the half chance.
Bullets won a free kick in the 14th minute which was beautifully taken by Zonda outside the 18-yard area but Wanderers goalkeeper William Thole was well-positioned to deny the defender an opportunity to convert from the set piece.
Francisco Madinga came close as he was given room to shoot but the Nomads number 10 volleyed the ball over the bar from close range in the 16th minute, before Joseph Kamwendo’s free kick from the left outside of the penalty zone was cleared by Zonda for a corner that Bullets defended.
The Nomads nearly found the back of the net in the 20th minute following a long goal kick from Thole that found Zicco Mkanda in the six-yard box, the striker controlled the ball and turned before sending a powerful striker at goal, fortunately Missi came to Bullets’ rescue with a fantastic save.
Kondowe and E. Petro had great chances to give Bullets a lead in the 29th minute and the half-hour mark, respectively but the two midfielders had their shots wide.
Missi made another great save 18 minutes after denying Mkanda a chance as he also denied the Nomads sharp shooter one more opportunity to get his side a goal two minutes before referee Ishmael Chizinga would blow his whistle to end the first-half on the dot of 40 minutes without a goal.
Billiati nearly gave Bullets a goal but the youngster was unfortunate as he saw his volley going marginally wide, before Madinga found the back of the net for Wanderers a minute later to put the Nomads up two minutes from the start of the second-half.
The goal energized the Nomads as they kept coming in Bullets half and controlled possession. They nearly grabbed a second goal in the 49th minute but central defender C. Petro did well as he kept the ball away to concede a corner.
Bullets made two changes in the 51st minute, introducing Patrick Mwaungulu and Bashir Maunde for Henry Kabichi and Pilirani Zonda, before Wanderers pulled out Kamwendo and Mkanda for Chikondi Kamanga and Vincent Nyangulu moments later.
Kadzongola came on to replace E. Petro as Pasuwa made his final substitution seven minutes after the hour mark.
The Nomads nearly doubled their lead from a corner kick in the 76th minute as Bongani Kaipa went high in the box to head the ball at goal but Mwaungulu cleared it before it went past the line.
On a counter attack Jana beat two opponents before making his way into the box but Thole was quick to cut his cross before Chima had a touch on the ball.
The second half was also played for 40 minutes before the fourth official added three minutes and at the end it was Bullets 0-1 Wanderers.
Pasuwa said at the end of the match that he was impressed with the performance of the youngsters from the reserve team as well as first team players who performed well despite their lack of game time.