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A second half strike from substitute Ephraim Kondowe inspired Malawi giants FCB Nyasa Big Bullets to a hard-fought 1-0 victory over Dragon FC to book a place in the second preliminary round of CAF Champions League for the first time since 2015.

The victory means Bullets have progressed with a comfortable 3-0 win after they won the first leg 2-0 away from home last week.

The hosts started on a high note through their usual attacking players Ernest Petro,Lanjesi Nkhoma and Anthony Mfune but to make a breakthrough proved to be very difficult for them as they faced a very resilient defending approach from the visitors.

Bullets came into this game with the advantage, but they knew that they couldn’t rest on their laurels against the Western African based side who had tamed them in the first half of the first leg in Malabo.

Bullets continued to build on the momentum as their outfield players camped in the visitors’ half, with their little maestro Nkhoma directing traffic.

Maxwell Phodo missed Bullets’ clear goal scoring opportunity in the 15th minute when a short corner played by Mfune to Gomezgani Chirwa who delivered a very dangerous ball only for the striker to send his header over the crossbar when he was unmarked inside the six-yard box.

At the other end of the field, Richard Chimbamba came to our rescue with a save to deny Felipe Biyogo Obiang Topepe from scoring, the first shot at goal from the visitors.

At 33 minutes, Mfune’s shot was well saved by Gustave Guirlele after he was set up by Clyde Senaji as Bullets increased their attacking pace in search of the much needed goal.

Moments later, Yamikani Fodya’s well taken freekick called Guirlele into action with an excellent save for a cornerkick, which the visitors easily defended.

It was a very frustrating opening half for Pasuwa’s charges who, despite pressing from all angles, failed to make any breakthrough to end the half goalless.

In the second half, the West African club came a very much improved side as they kept possession and took the game to the hosts who were now forced to sit back to defend their two-goal advantage.

But Frank Willard should have scored in the 54th minute through a well taken freekick that missed Guirlele’s upright with an inch.
In this final half, chances were very few as both teams failed to make any amends in the attacking zones.

Ephraim Kondowe and Patrick Mwaungulu replaced Mfune and Phodo in the 63rd minute to improve the hosts’ attacking prowess in a desperate bid for a goal.

But Bullets should have conceded in the 65th minute when Chimbamba made an error to lose the ball to the opposition inside the penalty box but Fodya’s experience in defense was very vital as he made a timely clearance to keep the game at 0-0.

And just minutes after his introduction, Kondowe registered his name on the scoresheet with a simple tap in after he was set through by Mwaungulu in the 67th minute, 1-0.

The goal was all that Bullets needed as they knew qualification to the next round was guaranteed.

Fodya’ exploits in the game ended in the 75th minute when he was red carded following his dangerous tackle on Ludovid Esono Abaga Abeso.

Initially, referee Wilhem Letukwafa Haitmbu had awarded the visitors a penalty as he thought the foul took place inside the penalty box, but the second assistant referee Alex Muzibwane Lumponjani spotted the incident from outside the penalty box and a freekick was given to Dragon FC instead of an earlier penalty call.

Pasuwa then brought in Sensing danger, Pasuwa brought in Blessings Mpokera, Nickson Nyasulu and Kenneth Pasuwa for Mwaungulu, Nkhoma and Willard whilst Nicolas Nconi Bibang Nchama introduced his only two substitutes on the bench, Jaime Carmelo Miko Ayang and Antonio Esimi Oyono Nzang for Antonio Martin Mekina Olinga Nchama and Abaga Abeso.

The visitors had three players on the bench due to logistical problems by their association as several players arrived at Kamuzu International Airport on Sunday, a few minutes after the final whistle.

It was just a matter of managing the game to avoid conceding a late goal against a side that had a one man advantage over the hosts.

Chimbamba was booked for committing a foul outside the penalty box, but the visitors couldn’t capitalize from the set piece as they sent their effort over the crossbar.

The final minutes of the half saw Dragon FC pressurizing the hosts who were now forced to sitback and defend everything thrown at them, with Senaji making two superb clearances from freekicks to keep his team in the lead.

With five minutes added to the clock, Bullets kept possession by moving with the ball in the opposition’ half to claim a hard-fought victory and progress to the next stage where they will face DRC’S TP Mazembe in the second preliminary round in mid September.

The next assignment for Bullets is a league match against Civil Service United on Wednesday.

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