Wanderers players celebrating first leg win over Mafco FC
Karonga United and Mafco face a massive task to try and overturn first-leg deficits if they want to reach the semifinals of the Airtel Top 8 Cup when they play host to defending champions Nyasa Big Bullets and Mighty Mukuru Wanderers respectively.
The Blantyre based giants whom their opponents trail 7-0 and 2-0 respectively, are no doubt favorites to reach the last four of the competition at the expense of their opposition who got heavy defeats away from home in the first-leg encounters.
Karonga United vs Nyasa Big Bullets
On Saturday at Karonga Stadium, Christopher Nyambose’s men will welcome highly charged Bullets with a deficit of 7 goal-margin and for them to progress to the next stage, they have to score at least eight goals and ensure Bullets don’t find the back of the net.
Nyambose, though admitting that his charges have a mountain to climb, believes a comeback against Bullets is very possible but there is a need to capitalize on playing on the natural turf where, according to him, Bullets struggle.
“Anything is possible in football and we are ready to overturn the deficit. They scored seven goals past us, why can’t we do the same when we host them at our venue? They are used to playing at the artificial turf but always struggle whenever they play on the natural turf and this is where we will capitalize and torment them. We will make their lives harder on Saturday,” he told local media.
However, going by the history, The People’s Team have never conceded more than two goals to their opposition since 2017 when they came from behind to beat them 4-2 at Chilomoni Stadium in the then Fisd Bank Cup.
And there is no guarantee that Kalisto Pasuwa’s men will not find the back of the net as they are the most attacking side, scoring goals for fun, netting seven goals and had plenty of them in the league as well as the FDH Bank Cup.
David vs Goliath
The football phrase David and Goliath has become synonymous with Cup football. This phrase is often used to describe an encounter between a so-called favorite and the so-called underdog club.
Coming into this encounter, many will consider Bullets as favorites for this match and Karonga United as underdogs, as The People’s Team have the scales tilted in their favor after their convincing first leg match.
Pasuwa and his technical panel have steered Bullets to an exciting season in the 2022 where they won the Charity Shield and FDH Bank Cup before retaining their fourth straight Super League title last week.
In the league alone, Bullets registered 22 victories, seven draws and only one defeat, scoring 69 goals and conceded 21, an extraordinary performance from a newly assembled team which constitutes an average age of 23.
However, Karonga have not been too shabby especially when playing at home. They haven’t lost to Bullets in two seasons, with the latest meeting at their venue ending in a goalless stalemate.
Surely, even though they are almost out of this year’s competition, they will not go down without a fight and Pasuwa knows how dangerous it is to undermine their opponents who are always tough to face at their own backyard.
“It will not be a walkover for us in Karonga because we know them, they are a very difficult side to deal with at their home and we lost a match in the league at their stadium so we are carrying a 7-goal advantage but the match is not over yet,” he told reporters soon after the first leg match.
The debate of David and Goliath however is nullified in the following subplot:
Best defence vs Best attack
When it comes to this year’s season by numbers, Bullets have proven to be more lethal in front of goals where they scored 69 goals in the league and 14 goals in the FDH Bank Cup.
And in the Airtel Top 8, they became the highest scoring team in history when they netted seven times in the first leg of the Cup and they will likely aim to continue from where they stopped even though it has never been easy for them to play at Karonga Stadium.
However, they conceded 21 goals in the league for the first time in years where they could only concede less than 13 goals.
This means Bullets attacked more and were vulnerable in defense.
Their opposition have had a season to forget as they failed to break into the top eight and for the first time in almost six seasons, they fought relegation and were just very fortunate to survive relegation as they finished eight points clear of the relegation zone.
In the league, they scored 26 goals and conceded 41, got eliminated from FDH Bank Cup by Changalume Barracks and they are on the verge of another cup elimination after they let in seven goals to Bullets in the first leg.
Bullets are heading into this match straight from five wins in all the competitions. The People’s Team hammered Karonga United 7-0 in the Airtel Top 8 Cup quarterfinal first leg before beating Mighty Tigers 2-0 in the league.
Pasuwa’s men went on to record back-to-back victories over Moyale Barracks (3-1) and Karonga United again (4-1) in the league before completing the season with a 2-1 victory over Dedza Dynamos last week.
As for their opponents, they are winless in four consecutive games.
After they got baptized by Bullets in the Cup, they received another baptism of fire when they lost 5-0 to Mafco FC in the league.
The Northern Region based outfit then proceeded to Kasungu where they drew 2-2 with TN Stars in the league.
Karonga United returned to Kamuzu Stadium again and received another heavy beating when they lost 4-1 to Bullets.
The game of football is won and lost in the field of play and not on paper, but stats are a valuable piece of information for providing context.
We decided to look into the history books once again and see what the last league and Cup matches between the two teams have produced.
Bullets wins: 9
Karonga United wins: 2
Total Bullets goals scored: 31
Total Karonga United goals scored: 8
Bullets’ biggest win over their Saturday’s opponents was a 7-0 demolition of Karonga United at Kamuzu Stadium a fortnight ago.
This was the second meeting in a Cup match after 2017 when Bullets eliminated Karonga United in Fisd Cup at Chilomoni Stadium. The match ended 4-2 after Bullets came from behind twice to beat their opponents.
Whatever the case, Bullets have one leg already in the semis.
Mafco FC vs Mighty Mukuru Wanderers
The final quarterfinal match of the weekend will be between Mafco FC and Wanderers at Chitowe Stadium.
It’s a match in which the Salima based Soldiers have a mandate to score more than two goals in order for them to sail through and at the same time, hoping to stop their opponents from scoring any goal as this will further add advantage to the coach-less side.
Stereo Gondwe is also optimistic of coming back into the game as he was quoted by the local press.
“We can score more than two goals and defend well to progress. It’s a huge task but again this is our venue where we usually dominate and based on how we performed in the first leg, we can do it here because we had chances which we failed to capitalize so we have worked on our mistakes and we are ready to go,” he said.
The two teams have had mixed results in the current season where, for the second time running, Mafco have lost a top four berth whilst Wanderers have missed out on top two finish after they settled for a fourth position.
Mafco’s last match was a 1-1 draw away to Blue Eagles FC and their opponents had to fight hard in order to register a 1-0 victory away to Red Lions after they had registered three straight defeats in the league.
Airtel Top 8 Cup presents the only opportunity for the two sides to end the season with something on the table having missed out on league and FDH Bank Cup.
The last time Wanderers played in the competition at Chitowe saw them beating Moyale Barracks 5-4 on penalties whilst Mafco were eliminated by Bullets at the same venue, losing 2-1 and 5-2 on goal aggregate.
It’s Airtel Top 8 Cup, who will be the first to pick semifinal call? K17 million prize money and a beautiful trophy awaits.