Airtel Top 8 preview: Wounded Nomads in Soldiers’ territory, Mafco face daunting task to overcome live Bullets


There is football fiesta at Chitowe Stadium this weekend when it will host two high profile matches involving two military teams and two Blantyre based giants in the Airtel Top 8 Knockout Cup.

Andrew Cane Chilapondwa previews these two quarterfinals second leg clashes which kicks off on Saturday and Sunday the 20th and 21st November, 2021 at the Illovo Sugar Company owned facility.

Second legs of two-legged encounters are always very exciting because you already know what each team needs to do in order to progress to the next stage of the competition and these quarterfinal matches will be no exception.

We start with the first match of the week between Moyale Barracks and Mighty Wanderers.

The Mzuzu based Soldiers managed a 1-0 victory away to Wanderers a fortnight ago, which means a draw will be enough to see them through to the semi-finals of the competition for the second time in four years.

The two teams once met in the same competition at the very same stage during its inaugural year and it was Wanderers who produced a stunning comeback to win 3-2 from a 2-0 down.

But this clash is totally different from the 2017 showdown simply because the hosts scored an important away goal which could make it very difficult for the Nomads to make a comeback.

But the question is, can home ground advantage help the Lions of Kaning’ina to progress to the last four of the competition? Or Wanderers will stage another stunning comeback to frustrate the Soldiers?

The first leg was a thrill-packed encounter but it was the visitors who created more goal scoring opportunities only to be denied by Richard Chipuwa’s heroic saves throughout the match.

Despite Chipuwa’s resilience, Lloyd Njaliwa, who is probably Moyale Barracks’ most dangerous player, found his way to score the only goal to head into the second leg with a 1-0 lead.

However, the Soldiers can’t rely on the one away goal because complacency might creep in. If they are to remember that painful 3-2 defeat at Bingu National Stadium, then they will need to do more in order to completely eliminate the Nomads.

On the other hand, Wanderers are very unpredictable when it comes to Cup matches. They might not be the favorites heading into Saturday’s encounter but they have got what it takes to overturn the scoreline and put the game in their favor and overcome their opponents who might find themselves shaking their head in disbelief at what would happen after the end of 90 minutes.

The only thing I don’t understand from the Nomads’ midfield point of view is Alfred Manyozo Junior being partnered with Rafick Namwera when both are defensive midfielders, a situation which always leave the Lali Lubani boys vulnerable to attack.

Manyozo’s defensive ineptitudes are well known and once you stick with him the entire 90 minutes, you minimize your chances of attacking with full force and that’s exactly what we witnessed in the first leg defeat.

Defensively, Wanderers need to improve when it comes to dealing with counter attacks as they nearly got caught a couple of times last week but survived because Moyale Barracks weren’t clinical enough in front of goal.

But whatever it is, we are assured of a very entertaining match between the two sides. Wanderers need to redeem themselves if they are to get out of Chitowe Stadium unscathed whilst Moyale Barracks will be eager to avenge that painful 2017 defeat and add more woes to the Nomads who, in the last two seasons, have finished empty handed.

The second match of the week will see Mafco FC playing host to Nyasa Big Bullets FC.

Yohane Fulaye’s side will be undertaking the difficult task of overturning a 3-1 deficit against the 2018 runners up when the two sides square off for the semifinal spot in the competition.

Bullets ran out as comfortable winners after a double from Babatunde Adepoju and a lone strike from Hassan Kajoke at Kamuzu Stadium two weeks ago.

I am expecting Mafco FC to be a bit stronger at home as they always do but they are facing a team which has had some favorable results at the very same venue.

In terms of permutations, Mafco FC have to win by two goals and avoid conceding any goal in order to go through.

A 2-0 lead would mean they have reversed the score and with an away goal they scored towards the end of the match would see them going through to the semis.

On this occasion, they are playing a team which has dominated the domestic scene but Airtel Top 8 Cup is one of the many silverware missing under their head coach Kalisto Pasuwa.

The visitors, who have a two-goal lead, just need a draw or one goal to sail through and with their good defensive record, their opponents have a huge task to overturn the deficit.

In the first leg, Bullets played attacking football and had they been more clinical, they would have won it convincingly but in the second half, they were denied twice by the post.

This year’s winner will walk away with a trophy and cash worthy MK17.5 million.

It’s a weekend full of entertainment and Chitowe residents have all reasons to smile as two Blantyre based giants and two military teams square off for a place in the last four. Enjoy the talent.