By Langton Nyakwenda in BLANTYRE, Malawi
IT was a battle fought on foreign soil, between two coaches regarded by many as Zimbabwe’s best football brains and as hugely expected, Kalisto Pasuwa and Norman Mapeza served a sumptuous dish that left Malawian fans asking for more at Kamuzu Stadium in Blantyre yesterday.
However, the score line was not a true reflection of this exciting CAF Champions League preliminary round first leg duel between Pasuwa’s Nyasa Big Bullets and Mapeza’s FC Platinum.
Pasuwa, who was known for his highly precautionary and defensive football when he was still with Dynamos five years ago, seems to have totally changed his philosophy as his charges played an exciting brand of football and had the lion’s share of possession.
Still, the Malawi champions could not convert that dominance into goals.
FC Platinum were resolute in defence, which was marshalled by skipper of the day, Kelvin Madzongwe.
Mapeza applied a 3-5-2 formation and tasked wingers Rahman Kutsanzira and Gift Mbweti with the job of running up and down the flanks, a tactic that worked for the greater part of the match.
Pasuwa’s Bullets played some eye catching football. The youthful players were never overawed by the situation and even had the more experienced FC Platinum on the backfoot for most of the game.
Nyasa Big Bullets could have won the contest right at the death but substitute Bright Munthali’s effort crashed against the post in the 86th minute, with Wallace Magalane, in goals for the visitors, a beaten man.
Earlier on, in the 57th minute, winger Peter Banda had his shot saved by Magalane as Nyasa looked like they would overrun FC Platinum.
FC Platinum had the first real chance of the game but Cameroonian forward Albert Eonde lobbed the ball beyond the keeper and the bar after only five minutes.
Nyasa then seized control of the game and could have scored in the 26th minute but Madzongwe did well to block Chiukepo Msowoya’s strike.
Eonde was at it again in the 42nd minute but failed to connect a neat cross from the left by the industrious Kutsanzira.
In the second half, Pasuwa poured more men in attack but FC Platinum were unyielding.
Mapeza welcomed the result and also hailed Pasuwa’s Nyasa Big Bullets project.
“They (Nyasa Big Bullets) are a very good team, full of youngsters.
“It was a good feeling meeting Pasuwa, we have met back home (in the local league) but this was good,” Mapeza said.
“I hear that their (Bullets) supporters are very demanding and my wish is for him (Pasuwa) to keep working hard. “If they give him more time, he will build them into a very good squad,” said Mapeza. Coincidentally, both coaches are under the books of the same manager – Gibson Mahachi – and they are also childhood friends who grew up together in Chitungwiza.
“It’s a fantastic result, we wanted to win and the guys worked hard. We need to keep working hard and see what happens in the return leg,” added Mapeza.
The return leg is set for Barbourfields in Bulawayo in a fortnight. And Pasuwa, who has totally changed the complexion of Nyasa Big Bullets’ game, is threatening to attack FC Platinum from the onset when the two sides meet during the return leg. “It’s still game on, we are starting another 90 minutes in Zimbabwe. The same way they came here and drew 0-0, we can also do it.
“It will be an interesting game. We are not going to defend, we will attack,” Pasuwa said.
The former Warriors gaffer also took time to shed more light on his stay in Malawi.
“It (the Nyasa project) has been coming slowly, we had to change the players who were playing last season.
“Most of our boys are Under 23, maybe only three are over 23. They are still learning, learning the hard way,” Pasuwa said.
“It was a very tactical match, we were playing a more experienced side who were keeping the ball away from us.
“I am very close to Mapeza, I grew up with him in the same neighbourhood (of Chitungwiza). “He is a very close friend and we are being managed by the same manager but we also need results in our jobs,” Pasuwa said. The Sunday Mail