Lilongwe is in for a treat this Saturday, with perennial rivals Nyasa Big Bullets and Mighty Mukuru Wanderers getting in for a highly anticipated FDH Bank Cup semi-final at Bingu National Stadium.
The fixture comes barely 59 days after the two sides locked horns in an entertaining 3-3 draw in the TNM Super League match that was played at Kamuzu Stadium last month.
For Bullets, it’s about redemption after they surrendered a 3-1 lead in the league to draw 3-3 with their cross-town rivals, who last lifted a trophy in 2018.
From The Nomads perspective, it’s about reviving their hopes of atleast winning a trophy this season after falling behind in the championship race to Bullets, Blue Eagles and Kamuzu Barracks FC.
Realistically, it’s almost impossible for The Lali Lubani boys to challenge Bullets for the title and their only hope for ending their trophy drought is to beat their rivals in the semis which will see them edging closer to atleast win something before the end of the current campaign.
The immediate focus for Wanderers will be to advance to the finals where they fell on the last hurdle last time around after they lost 3-0 to the then defending champions Silver Strikers at the same venue last season.
Road to Semifinals
The fixture takes place a little over a month since tye two teams booked their spots in the last four through convincing 2-0 and 4-1 wins over Chitipa United and Kamuzu Barracks respectively.
Before the quarterfinal match, Bullets hammered Sable Farming 3-1 at Mulanje Park Stadium in the Round 32 before surviving a Moyale Barracks’ scare in the Round 16 when the Soldiers mounted one of Malawi’s stunning comebacks in a 4-4 thrilling encounter before losing 4-2 on penalties to The People’s Team.
As for Wanderers, they had to rely on Richard Chipuwa’s heroics during the shoot-out when he saved three penalties to inspire his team to a 4-1 victory over Kamuzu Barracks Reserves following a 2-2 result in the regulation time.
In the Round 16, The Lali Lubani side hammered Dedza Dynamos 3-0 to progress to the Last 8 of Malawi’s prestigious competition.
The history between the two teams in Cup competition is huge but the focus will be on the last decade in which Bullets have had more victories over their bitter rivals.
In the past ten years, Wanderers have only managed two Cup victories over Bullets, with the first one being a 5-4 victory on 29th September, 2012 in the then Standard Bank Cup semi-final match that was played at Silver Stadium in Lilongwe. The Nomads had to stage a come back with seven minutes to play through substitute Curthbert Sinetre who canceled out a Diverson Mlozi’s 38th mimute strike. In the shoot-out, Richard Chipuwa saved George Nyirenda and Dalitso Mpulura penalties to send Wanderers into the finals of which they ended up winning.
Their last victory over Bullets in a Cup match was in 2015 at Civo Stadium in the Carlsberg Cup final in which they won 2-1 courtesy of a strike in each half from Victor Nyirenda and Kondwani Kumwenda, with Bullets scoring their consolation goal through Jafali Chande.
As for Bullets, they recorded a 1-0 semi-final victory in the Carlsberg Cup at Civo Stadium in 2014 through an early strike from Jimmy Zakazaka. The People’s Team progressed to the finals and won the Cup after beating Zomba United 2-0 at Kamuzu Stadium in Blantyre.
In 2017, Bullets won the Carlsberg Cup again at the expense of their rivals as they came back from behind twice to beat Wanderers 5-3 on penalties after a 2-2 result in the regulation time.
Jafali Chande and Isaac Kaliyati were on target for The Nomads whilst Muhammad Sulumba and Nelson Kangunje scored for The People’s Team. In the shoot-out, Yamikani Chester’s spotkick hit the post to send Bullets fans into massive celebrations.
Bullets were not yet done with Wanderers as they handed them 2-1 defeat in the Airtel Cup semi-finals played at Bingu National Stadium on 16th June, 2018.
Wanderers had dominated the opening half of that match but they failed to score goals through numerous goal scoring opportunities they created through Chester, Kaliyati and Khumbo Ng’ambi.
The Nomads were left to regret as Bullets attacked from all angles to score two quick goals through Bright Munthali and Chiukepo Msowoya. Zicco Mkanda scored Wanderers’ consolation goal.
Semi-final curse haunted Wanderers again when they suffered a 4-1 defeat at the hands of their rivals in the Airtel Cup semis played on 5th December, 2021 at Kamuzu Stadium.
All four goals for Bullets were scored by Babatunde Adepoju who had just joined The People’s Team in June from Wanderers.
Ten months after their last Cup semi-final encounter, they meet again but this time around, at Bingu National Stadium where the winner will play Bullets Reserves in the final at Kamuzu Stadium on 8th October, 2022.
The two teams have never reached the finals of this Cup but it was Wanderers who reached the semis in its inaugural year but they lost 3-0 to The Central Bankers who had advanced after eliminating Bullets through penalties.
Bullets head into this encounter straight from their disappointing back to back defeats to Simba SC in the CAF Champions League.
Kalisto Pasuwa’s side lost 2-0 to the Tanzanian giants in Lilongwe in the first leg before suffering another defeat with the same margin in the second leg at Benjamin Mkapa Stadium last Sunday.
As for their opponents, they come into this match straight from their hard-fought 1-0 victory over Silver Strikers at Kamuzu Stadium on Sunday.
At the moment, the molare is high for Wanderers but this is a Blantyre Derby where form doesn’t count and it takes more than mind games for one to emerge the winner.
Players to watch
Babatunde Adepoju: It goes without saying that the Nigerian will require some special attention from Wanderers defence. He has already found the net in this fixture before and is always a threat to whoever he comes up against.
He once scored four goals past The Nomads in the Airtel Cup semis last year and he has got what it takes to haunt his former side again.
Yamikani Chester: The winger will be turning up for another Blantyre Derby in which he has always tormented Bullets with his pace.
His main strength be his aerial prowess and judging by how he performed against Bullets in the Super League last month, Chester will serve as Wanderers’ focal point in his teams’ initial move on the counter with Francisco Mkonda playing to him from deep and Chester flicking on (or passing) to Sulumba.
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