By Hastings Ndebvu
In the 94th minute, as their team led 2-1, Nyasa Big Bullets substitutes and officials made a straight line and danced on the bench as they awaited referee Evidence Kananji to blow the final whistle that would confirm three points for The Peoples team against their rival Silver Strikers in a Super League match on Friday at the Kamuzu Stadium.
It was a dance of celebrating a bigger triumph, that of winning the league rather than the game.
The reigning champions came from behind to snatch all points with second-half goals from Captain Chimwemwe Idana and Substitute Precious Phiri after Silver Strikers defender Herbert Wayekha had given the visitors the lead against the run of play in the first half.
The result rocketed the hosts to the summit of the table with 48 points from 22 games with the Area 47 side dropping into the second position with 46 points.
Bullets however have played a game less than the Daniel Kabwe side. Should the Peoples Team win their game in hand, they will be 5 points clear of the Bankers. With just 8 games to go, it would take more than a miracle to dispose of Bullets off the league they have won for the past two seasons. A hattrick of the league now seems inevitable.
At the Kamuzu Stadium on Friday, shades of Bullet’s last season came into play.
last season, their cross-town rivals Mighty Wanderers led the league table the entire first round and held on to their lead after some games in the second round.
Following several home draws and away losses, Wanderers conceded the lead to Big Bullets and Nomads Captain Manyozo Junior had told reporters that Bullets would be hard to dislodge at the summit. True to Manyozo’s words, Bullets protected their 1 point lead at the summit and were crowned Champions at the end of the season. Now, with a 5 point lead, the script would look even easier for the Kalisto Pasuwa side.
During the 4 or so hours drive back to the Capital City, Silver Strikers players will be wondering why they let themselves concede so early in the second half when they should have allowed themselves to settle.
They will be wondering why they let Bullets winger MacFarlane Ngwira run past several of them and also why Man of the Match Idana found himself acres of space to shoot at their goal without any resistance.
But perhaps more painfully, they will ask why they had to foul Mischek Selemani when he did not pose any danger to concede a freekick that Sankhani Mkwandawire floated in their area for Precious Phiri to head in Bullets’ winning goal.
But perhaps Silver will also be honest enough to admit that they did not deserve to win.
They were on the back foot for the better part of the game and their goal in the first half, which Wayekha headed in from a Mark Fodyas’ corner, came as a surprise even to themselves.
If it were not for the indecisiveness of the Bullets attacking unit of Selemani, Paul Kansungwi, Ngwira, Lanjesi Nkhoma and Idana, the Peoples’ Team would have been leading by more than a goal in the first half.
Silver struggled to create any chances in the match and their marksman and the leagues’ leading scorer, Maxwell Gasten Phodo, who scored the goal that sunk Bullets in the first round at Silver Stadium was substituted in the second half amid boos from the handful but vocal Bullets supporters who were happy the lanky forward had a game to forget.
Phodo was isolated up front and got no service from his partners Frank Banda, Blessings Tembo and Captain Junior Chimodzi who seemed not to cope up with the pace and trickery of the Bullets midfield anchored by veteran midfielder Chimango Kaira.
In the end, it was a deserved three points for Bullets.
However, Silver Striker must blame themselves for not learning to win ugly especially at a critical stage of the season like this one. They had the lead. All they needed was to protect it and gain the needed three points.
Now that they did not, in October, when the curtain closes, they might look at this game as the one that made them lose the plot.
On Friday, they might have watched Captain Chimwemwe Idana lift the Man of the Match award, in October, they might see him lift the league. And they will have no one but themselves to blame.