The title race was over, or as many people thought, when Nyasa Big Bullets went 12 points clear of Blue Eagles following their 2-0 victory over Ekwendeni Hammers back in August.
The Area 30 based side had come off two straight matches where they had failed to win, with a pair of goalless draws against Kamuzu Barracks and Civil Service United and sandwiching a shock 1-0 defeat to TN Stars in Kasungu.
But with less than nine games left to play, Bullets brought back their closest challenger into the contest with two back to back draws to Civil and Silver Strikers as Eagles defeated Red Lions and Rumphi United before losing to Hammers 1-0 to reduce the gap to eight points even though they had a chance to reduce it further if they had avoided a defeat in their final match in the Northern Region.
Now the two teams will have an opportunity to either end the championship race (if Bullets win) or take the title battle down to the wire (if Eagles win) when they face off in what is likely to be a potential title decider on Saturday afternoon at Kamuzu Stadium.
The two teams are separated with eight points in the standings, with Bullets leading the summit with 57 points whilst Eagles have 49 points from 23 games.
The match is being billed by many as a title decider, with a Bullets victory giving them a 11-point lead with seven games to go while Eagles would reduce the gap to just five points if they can register a win over the unbeaten side and closest title contenders.
However, Eagles have to be at their level best to overcome a side which is yet to taste defeat and considering they will be facing Bullets at Kamuzu Stadium where the Blantyre giants have made it a no go zone area for any other visiting team, Eagles have a mountain to climb if they are to keep their title hopes alive.
The two teams have had a mixed of results over the past three weeks. The People’s Team have had two back to back draws in three matches for the first time this season and they will be looking forward to bouncing back and possibly end Eagles’ title ambitions.
Kalisto Pasuwa’s side defeated Red Lions 3-1 before playing out to a 1-1 draw with Civil Service United days later.
Then Bullets traveled to Lilongwe to play Silver Strikers in their last but one away fixture outside Southern Region in which they also played out to a 2-2 draw after surrendering the lead twice in a match where Pasuwa admitted “my boys didn’t play according to how I planned”.
But whenever playing at Kamuzu Stadium, Bullets fans are assured of a result and the worst possible outcome of the game would be a draw, something which Pasuwa would want to avoid going towards the final matches of the top flight football.
As for Eagles, they have managed to collect six players out of the possible nine points from the three straight matches.
But they have themselves to blame for losing 1-0 to Ekwendeni Hammers, a result which saw Bullets opening up an eight point lead over them in the title race.
Had it been they won that match, with Bullets dropping four points in two games, the gap would have been reduced to four points before Saturday’s showdown and Bullets would have played under pressure to avoid a repeat of what happened last season when they brought back Mighty Mukuru Wanderers and Silver Strikers into the championship race after they dropped points to Moyale Barracks, Mzuzu Warriors and Mafco FC.
But this eight-point gap means Eliya Kananji’s side have a mountain to climb and knowing how dangerous Bullets are when playing at home, they will need more than a miracle to upset the Blantyre based side in the title race.
In 2019, the two teams met when both were in the title race and it was Bullets who emerged the winner with a comfortable 4-0 victory over the Cops and eventually ended their title ambitions as they fall behind in the perking order.
Three years down the line, they meet again in a title deciding match where the winner, if it’s Bullets, will likely edge closer to their title defense and if it’s Eagles, we will be assured of an entertaining end to the 2022 Super League season.
What did the two coaches say ahead of the match?
Bullets, through assistant coach Peter Mponda said they are anticipating a very difficult match but he was quick to downplay that the match was a potential title decider.
“The league is still open because we have many teams coming for the title. For example, Wanderers scored for fun against Rumphi United, Mafco, Kamuzu Barracks are also in contention so if we beat them on Saturday doesn’t mean the race is over but we are expecting a very tough assignment from them,” he said.
His opposite number, Christopher Siwale said people should anticipate to watch a very good game.
“We know it won’t be easy for us but we are assuring all football fanatics of an entertaining match because when we play Bullets, it’s always a clacker so we are geared up to entertain and win on Saturday,” he explained.
The previous meetings between the two teams saw Bullets recording more wins than their opponents.
The People’s Team have had nine wins from which they scored 17 goals in seventeen meetings since 2013 season whilst Eagles have three wins, with five matches ending in draws.
In 2013, The People’s Team registered a double over Eagles when they beat them 2-0 in the first round in Lilongwe before completing a 3-2 win over them in the reverse fixture at Kamuzu Stadium.
The two teams met again in 2014 season in which Bullets won 1-0 in Lilongwe before playing out to a 1-1 draw in the second round fixture in Blantyre.
Eagles’ biggest win over Bullets came in 2015 season when they recorded a 3-0 win at Nankhaka Stadium in a match where Bullets had already won the championship. The first round encounter between them ended 1-1 at Kamuzu Stadium.
In 2016 season, Bullets collected four out of the possible six points over Eagles, beating them 1-0 in Blantyre before a 1-1 draw in Lilongwe in the reverse fixture.
2017 saw the two teams sharing three points each as Bullets won the first round fixture with a comfortable 3-0 margin before losing 2-1 to the Cops in the return match.
The People’s Team did a double over Eagles in 2018 when they registered 1-0 victories in the two matches .
2019 saw Eagles winning the first round match 2-1 before they got hammered 4-0 by Bullets in the final fixture played at Kamuzu Stadium, a result which saw their title hopes ending as they fell behind in the championship race. Bullets went on to win the title at the expense of rivals Wanderers who had surrendered a 11 point lead to the red army.
In 2020/21 season, Bullets and Eagles met in the season’s opener at Kamuzu Stadium in which they shared a point apiece following a goalless draw but Bullets went on to win the reverse fixture 1-0 at Nankhaka Stadium.
In the ongoing campaign, the first round match ended 1-1 in Lilongwe after Bullets came from behind through Babatunde Adepoju to cancel out John Malidadi’s first half strike in area 30.
Unlike Bullets who have won at Nankhaka Stadium before, Blue Eagles are yet to register a win at Kamuzu Stadium.
Recent meetings between the two teams have thrown up some of the most thrilling contests – five goal thrillers, thumping wins and even high-scoring draws. Hotly contested, feisty encounters, they have produced some unforgettable moments and we are in for an entertaining Saturday afternoon.
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