Silver Strikers have struck it rich by landing a whopping MK25 million in prize money after defeating Ekwendeni Hammers 2-0 in the inaugural FDH Bank Knockout Cup final played at Bingu National Stadium on Friday afternoon.
A strike in each half from Frank Banda and Stain Davie respectively decided the fate of the Northern Region outfit who were hoping to cause an upset in their first top flight season.
When looking at the map of the ‘Road to the Final’, the Central Bankers deserved to be champions.
They defeated Immigration FC, Moyale Barracks before disposing Blantyre bases giants Nyasa Big Bullets and Be Forward Wanderers to reach the finals.
In stark contrast, Ekwendeni Hammers faced one Super League side in Ntopwa FC. Their other three opponents Airborne Rangers, Wanderers Reserve and Rumphi United were all drawn from premier division sides.
However, the visitors were the first to create goal scoring opportunity in the opening two minutes of the match through former Banker Michael Tetteh who forced Charles Thom into making an early save.
But after that, the Bankers were now all over with their scintillating football at a surface where they had previously won two trophies in a cup competition.
The hosts thought they had scored in the 10th minute through Davie following a brilliant exchange of passes from the midfield but Happiness Mbandambanda’s flag was already up for an offside call.
Silver Strikers showed their attacking intent with sniping runs deep into the visitors’ territory but they failed to reap reward despite numerous chances created through Patrick Macheso and Blessings Tembo.
The Northern Region outfit’ midfield which was led by Eneya Banda and Blessings Singini was completely outsmarted by Taonga Chimodzi and Tembo.
The visitors relied on counter-attacks to keep their hopes alive, but they lost their way in the final third. On occasions, they were dispossessed on the fringes of Silver Strikers’s goalmouth.
In the 33rd minute, Tembo nearly got the opener from a well taken freekick which equally saved by Chancy Mtete in goals for Hammers.
As pressure kept on mounting, coach for the visitors Edson Kadenge Mwafulirwa brought in Eric Tandama for Sammy Phiri.
And it was in the 38th minute when the hosts broke the deadlock.
A well taken corner kick from Mark Fodya was connected into the net by Banda as he was found unmarked in the six-yard box, 1-0.
One should have turned into two in the 43rd minute when Tembo’s freekick missed Mtete’s goalmouth with just an inch.
In the second half, the Bankers hammered final nail in the visitors’ coffin.
The play was fast and furious after the break, and just six minutes into the half, the tally was doubled.
A sweeping attacking move in the 52nd minute created space for Tembo who was quick to send a through ball into the attacking zone which caught the visitors’ back four napping in the line of duty to allow Davie to score a beautiful goal, 2-0.
The former TN Stars forward almost doubled his tally when he was once again dribbled past Ekwendeni Hammers’ defence but he was denied by the assistant referee’s flag as he was judged to have been offside.
The visitors seemed unable to stem Silver’s inspired wave of attacks, mainly down the flanks, but they absorbed the pressure spells and their defence remained intact though at times, they were saved by the hosts’ wastefulness in front of goals.
The Bankers then brought in Levison Maganizo for Macheso in the 63rd minute to try to completely control the midfield whilst Winster Phiri came in for Clever Kayira.
Coach Daniel Kabwe made another change by introducing Rodwell Robert for Davie who received a standing ovation for his highly spirited performance.
Kabwe made a double substitution in the 83rd minute when he introduced Chinsinsi Maonga and Helbert Wayekha for Tembo and Chimodzi.
And with less than eight minutes to play, Hammers regained their cohesion and moments before referee Mayamiko Kanjere blew his whistle to mark the end of an entertaining match and to crown Silver Strikers the champions of the most prestigious cup in the land.
Kabwe and his players pulled it off here. They did it for themselves and for their supporters but also, perhaps, for every club that dreams of winning any cup in its inaugural year.
It will be a season to remember for the Area 47 based side who missed the league championship to Bullets in a season where they had once led by eight points heading into the second round.
As for the Ekwendeni Hammers, reaching the finals in their maiden season wasn’t a mean achievement and though they wanted to cash out MK25 million, they will return to Ekwendeni with MK8 million in their pockets for finishing as runners up.
Both Wanderers and Rumphi United will receive MK2 million for reaching the last four of the tournament.