After lifting the inaugural 2021 FDH Bank Knockout Cup on Friday afternoon beating Ekwendeni Hammers 2-0 at Bingu National Stadium, Silver Strikers’ experience came to the fore.
This was a third meeting between the two teams, with the former winning 2-0 last week in a league match before they lost to the latter 1-0 in the first round at Mzuzu Stadium.
Although the Central Bankers were the favourites to lift the prestigious trophy, coach Daniel Kabwe’ men had to be wary of their opponents who, in their first season in the top flight football, showed resilient and hunger for success.
Under the guidance of Edison Kadenge Mwafulirwa, the Northern Region outfit was looking to bag its first trophy in the Malawian top-flight.
With the final having produced an entertaining football, Malawi24 takes a look at how the Bankers walked away with MK25 million and a beautiful trophy:
Cup final experience and big match temperament
After beating Be Forward Wanderers in 2017 and Karonga United in 2019 in the Airtel Top Eight Knockout Cup at the same venue, the Area 47 side were the better team in head-head comparisons ahead of the final.
When looking at the map of the ‘Road to the Final’, Silver Strikers deserved to be champions.
The Bankers played Immigration FC in the round of 32 in which they won 2-1 away from home.
Unlike their opponents who only played one Super League side in Ntopwa FC, Silver ousted Moyale Barracks 2-0 in the round of 16 beating Nyasa Big Bullets 4-2 through penalties in the quarterfinals.
The Central Bankers went on to display one of their best performances in the cup by thumping Wanderers 3-0.
Boasting players such as Blessings Tembo, Stain Davie, Taonga Chimodzi and Charles Thom, the Lilongwe-based side were having an added advantage in the game, but Kabwe had to remind his men to remain disciplined against such unpredictable side.
Considering the fact that Ekwendeni Hammers was the first team to inflict a defeat on Silver Strikers in the Super League, Kabwe and his players were very cautious about their opponents and ensured all was well with a strike in each half through veteran Banda and Davie.
In simple terms, the Reserve Bank of Malawi sponsored team had experienced played compared to their opponents
Even though Silver had the best ammunition for the clash, Kabwe had to ensure he neutralized players such as Sammy Phiri, Clever Kayira and Blessings Singini no wonder they had fewer shots at goal in the entire 90 minutes.
Stain Davie’s contribution
In our preview, we clearly sent a warning to Ekwendeni Hammers to worry about the former TN Stars forward who stepped up for Maxwell Gasten who struggled to re-find his goal-scoring form.
The striker managed to help the Bankers to revive their status and he scored a brace in the quarterfinal match against Bullets.
On the final day, he scored the second goal that hammered the final nail on the visitors’ coffin.
He would go on to boost his profile as one of the best signings made under Kabwe who arrived in the country last year.
Ekwendeni Hammers’ bravery
Although they had lost the encounter on Friday afternoon, Kadenge Mwafulirwa’s men showed a good fight to reach the final in the first season in the top flight-football and will look to be encouraged with their display.
Many would have given Hammers zero chances in terms of lifting the trophy when it comes to numbers and quality and being debutants, they defied all odds by reaching the finals and taking the game back to Silver Strikers.
Though they had only faced one Super League side, but beating fellow minnows Airborne Rangers, Wanderers Reserve and Rumphi United still gave them hope and a massive boost to shock one of the best teams in the top flight.
However, Mwafulirwa will have to now turn his focus on ensuring they remain in the top flight beyond 2022 when the new season kicks off in the next five months.
The coach deserves credit for guiding the team into becoming a Cup finalist just a year after earning a promotion to the Super League from Simama Football League.
On the other hand, the Bankers will look to build on their cup success and ensure they push for their third Airtel Top Eight Cup which kicks off at the end of the month.
They were the favorites to lift the Super League but bottled it out in the second round having led the standings throughout the first round only to surrender the top position to Bullets despite having an eight-point lead at some point.
However, FDH Cup success will erase the wounds inflicted by Bullets’ league success.
Money aside, it’s always good to win and it has worked well for Kabwe who started the rebuilding exercise soon after landing the job.