Big Bullets came close but it was not close enough to salvation on Sunday. They tried hard but it was not hard enough to punish their Blantyre neighbours, Mighty Wanderers.
Once again, the Nomads claimed Blantyre derby bragging rights at a packed Kamuzu Stadium where Joseph Kamwendo proved the difference with a 78th minute wonder goal. Almost from nothing.
And surely after this second defeat of the season, it will be another long and humiliating week for Bullets. And such has been the story for â€˜the Peopleâ€™s Teamâ€™ in the last five years.
As the in-form Kamwendo powered his long range shot to the far top right of the goal and beat jittery substitute goalkeeper Kingsley Manda, who had replaced injured Vincent Gona, you could see the fresh reality check clearly plastered on the Bullets faces.
It was a defeat that ended the Bulletsâ€™ three-game winning streak and left their rivals louder as ever. Affectionately called nyerere (ants) they taunted their rivals singing Bullets yabowoka, Bullets yabowoka.
Who could fault the Nomads when they themselves almost bit the dust? The start had appeared rosy for Bullets, who packed their midfield with experienced legs of returning James Chilapondwa, Fischer Kondowe and 13th minute goal scorer, Fundi Akidu.
Douglas Chiramboâ€™s direct free-kick was flicked onto the far post by Gabadini Mhango for Akidu to head in. With Akidu and Chilapondwa neutralising Kamwendoâ€™s midfield influence, most thought, this was Bullets day.
But come the second half the complexion of the game changed dramatically. A half-hearted off side trap after clearing a corner kick resulted in defender Chiku Kanyenda colliding with Gona. Lurking Alfred Manyozo Jnr obliged to net the equaliser on 47th minute.
As Gona left the pitch visibly in pain, it was clear from the Bullets playersâ€™ body language that they had little confidence in Manda. And he did not do himself a favour in fumbling a needlessly Gerald Phiri Jnrâ€™s shot.
By that time Wanderers, who have10 points, had grown in confidence. Kamwendo and Phiri were linking up well on the left, oftentimes leaving right back Lesley Tamutamu chasing shadows.
Suddenly, Kamwendo was having huge influence on the game. Chirambo and Gabadini Mhangoâ€”who had been giving Wanderers defence a run for their moneyâ€”disappeared from the scene. Bullets had given up this cause.
Substitute Peter Mpulula and George Nyirenda tried to fire from range but Wanderers goalkeeper Richard Chipuwaâ€™s telling saves, proved decisive. Francis Mulimbika also swept Mhangoâ€™s effort off the Wanderers goal line. Chipuwa was man-of-the-match.
No matter how coach Eddington Ngâ€™onamo, dressed elegantly in a suit and maroon necktie, cajoled his charges to up the tempo, there was simply no response.
â€œWe played well in the first half but certainly not in the second. We were complacent because the players probably won already.
â€œThe injury of the â€˜keeper did not help our cause either. It was like the players lacked confidence in him,â€Â said Ngâ€™onamo in a post-match interview.
Boasted Wanderers team manager McHodges Chunga: â€œThe best Bullets can manage is defeat us in friendly games. We have again showed them that we are better. This is a win for all the nyerere.â€
Other results: Moyale Barracks 1 Kamuzu Barracks 0; Red Lions 1 Epac FC 1; Civo United 2 Bvumbwe Research 1. Saturday: Bvumbwe Research 2 Mafco 3; Kamuzu Barracks 0 Kabwafu United 0; Azam Tigers 2 Epac 1.