Caf Champions League: AmaZulu FC 0-1 Nyasa Big Bullets: Ex-Orlando Pirates striker slays Usuthu
Xola Mlambo and his teammates have a lot of work to do in second-leg match as the PSL side look to advance to the second round
AmaZulu FC kicked off their debut Caf Champions League campaign in the worst possible fashion after a 1-0 defeat to Nyasa Big Bullets in the first round first-leg match on Friday evening.
Former Orlando Pirates Chiukepo Msowoya scored the only goal of the match which saw his Big Bullets teammate Yamikani Fodya being sent off, but Usuthu couldn’t take advantage of their numerical superiority over the Malawian champions.
Having stressed the importance of former Kaizer Chiefs and Orlando Pirates players in his side’s Champions League campaign, AmaZulu coach Benni McCarthy named seven stars, who were once on the books of the Soweto giants in the starting line-up.
Philani Zulu, Tercious Malepe, Kgotso Moleko, Xola Mlambo, Thabo Qalinge, Luvuyo Memela, and Lehlohonolo Majoro all started for Usuthu as they looked to secure a victory in Africa’s premier club tournament.
AmaZulu controlled the encounter from the start with Big Bullets happy to sit back with their defence looking resolute and the visitors were also looking to launch quick counter-attacks on the flanks against the hosts.
Usuthu won several free-kicks near the opposition’s box, but Memela and Sphesihle Maduna could not trouble goalkeeper Richard Chimbamba as their attempts from the set-pieces missed the target.
The visitors took a surprise lead after keeper Veli Mothwa fumbled a long ball from a set-piece and Msowoya poked the ball home from close range to hand Big Bullets a 1-0 lead a minute before the half-hour mark.
The goal gave the People’s Team some confidence as they began attacking in numbers and they nearly made it 2-0 when an unmarked Babatunde Adepoju’s header hit the upright with the Usuthu defence exposed.
However, Big Bullets were reduced to 10 players when Fodya was given a straight red card after making a reckless challenge on Qalinge, but the People’s Team were able to contain AmaZulu and the score was 1-0 to the visitors at half-time.
McCarthy made a tactical change prior to the start of the second-half as he pulled out attacking midfielder Qalinge and introduced centre forward Siphelele Mthembu, who joined Majoro upfront as twin strikers.
Usuthu bombarded the People’s Team with crosses with Mthembu connecting with Zulu’s curling ball, but the former Chiefs star couldn’t direct the ball towards goal, before Moleko’s header was blocked at the near-post.
McCarthy changed his approach with less than 20 minutes left on the clock as he introduced ball-playing midfielders Keagan Buchanan and Hendrick Ekstein, who both looked to play some defence-splitting passes.
Buchanan watched in disbelief as his thunderous shot hit the upright with Chimbamba rooted to the ground and Ekstein’s low shot was cleared off the goal-line and then Big Bullets held on to secure a 1-0 win over AmaZulu.
The second-leg encounter is scheduled to be played on 18 September with Big Bullets hosting AmaZulu at Bingu National Stadium in Lilongwe, Malawi.