Malawi Nigerian Babatunde fires Bullets into Airtel Top 8 final

Nigerian striker Babatunde Adepoju scored four goals to fire Nyasa Big Bullets to the Airtel Top 8 final after humiliating his former club, Mighty Wanderers, 4-1 in Blantyre, Malawi on Saturday afternoon.

Babatunde scored once in the first half and thrice in the second-half of the semifinal, thrice after teasing Wanderers’ Nigerian defender Yinus Sherriff at the packed Kamuzu Stadium in the commercial capital Blantyre. Vincent Nyangulu scored Wanderers’ consolation.

Bullets, who signed Babatunde months ago from Wanderers, started the game on the front foot, pinning Wanderers in their own half with Mischeck Selemani firing the ball into the side-netting.

Wanderers had the cleared first chance in the ninth minute when Yamikani Chester raced clear on the left wing, Bullets right-back outpaced Gomezgani Chirwa before whipping the ball across the goal mouth where from the rebound, Francis Mkonda sent his effort over the bar.

That miss came back to haunt Wanderers.

Bullets came probing Wanderers defence again with Selemani firing straight at Wanderers goalkeeper William Thole who punched the effort out for a corner kick.

From the resultant corner kick which Selemani took, Wanderers captain Alfred Manyozo cleared the ball with his right arm to gift Bullets a penalty which Babatunde dispatched into the net past Thole in the 24th minute.

Bullets lead lasted 10 minutes as Wanderers levelled matters when Nyangulu glanced the ball from a corner kick past Bullets goalkeeper Ernest Kakhobwe.

Bullets defender Sankhani Mkandawire had cut Wanderers defender Stanley Sanudi’s low shot out of play to hand Wanderers the corner kick. First half ended with both teams level.

Bullets restored their lead in the second-half when Babatunde dived to head the ball into the empty net from a rebound coming after Alick Lungu’s free-kick had bounced off the post in the 52nd minute.

Babatunde had won the free-kick after being pushed by the compatriot Sherriff of Wanderers.

Some 10 minutes later, Babatunde claimed his hat-trick when he raced the full length of the pitch on the left avenue and dived low behind unsuspecting Sherrif to connect Selemani’s low cross from the right wing at the end of a blistering counterattack.

Bullets’ Zimbabwean coach Kalisto Pasuwa introduced striker Bright Munthali to replace Lanjesi Nkhoma and in the other camp for Wanderers, coach Bob Mpinganjira dragged out Aubrey Maloya and winger Ted Sumani for Wisdom Mpinganjira and Felix Zulu.

However, such changes only had an impact for Bullets as the towering Babatunde scrambled in the fourth goal with his head late in the game in the process colliding with goalkeeper Thole who had failed to handle a bouncing ball.

The final whistle found Wanderers gasping for breath as they exited the competition in embarrassing fashion.

Bullets date either Silver Strikers or Civil Sporting in the final of the cup that involves top-eight elite teams in Malawi’s top flight league.

Starting line-ups:

Bullets: Ernest Kakhobwe, Sankhani Mkandawire, Gomezgani Chirwa, Nickson Nyasulu, Lanjesi Nkhoma, Mischeck Selemani, Chimwemwe Idana, Alick Lungu, Henry Kabichi, Paul Kansungwi, Babatunde Adepoju.

Wanderers: William Thole, Stanley Sanudi, Peter Cholopi, Francis Mlimbika, Ted Sumani, Alfred Manyozo, Yamikani Chester, Francis Mkonda, Yinusa Sheriff, Aubrey Maloya, Vincent Nyangulu

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