Airtel Top 8 Cup final preview: Bullets, Wanderers gear up for Blantyre Derby showdown


For the first time in years, two foreign coaches will lead their teams in the Big Blantyre Derby as cross-town rivals Nyasa Big Bullets and Mighty Mukuru Wanderers face-off in the most anticipated club fixture in Malawian football.

Kalisto Pasuwa, a Zimbabwean and Mark Harrison from England, will go head-to-head for the top prize of MK17 million and a beautiful trophy when the two rivals cross paths in the 2022 Airtel Top 8 Cup final to be staged at Bingu National Stadium on Saturday afternoon in Lilongwe.

Under the Zimbabwean, The Peoples Team have already won the Super League and the FDH Bank Cup whilst Harrison has had a good start to his role as the head coach after he registered five wins in all competitions, the recent one being the 2-0 victory over Blue Eagles in the semifinals of Top 8 competition.

Ever since he took charge of Bullets, Pasuwa only lost once, a 1-0 defeat in September last year but since then, he has had more victories over The Lali Lubani side across all the competitions.

However, Saturday’s showdown will likely be different from October’s semifinal fixture in the FDH Bank Cup in which Bullets hammered their rivals 4-0 at the same venue.

For Bullets, it will all be about retaining the cup they won last season whilst Wanderers will be giving it all in order to end their three-year trophy drought as they last won a title in 2018.

Blantyre derbies are always huge affairs with a mixture of anticipation, excitement and anxiety building up in the days leading up to matchday.

With the talks having started in taxi ranks, minibuses, work places, streets and every corner of the country, the moment that the fans have all been waiting for has finally arrived. The Blantyre Derby promises to be a humdinger as Bullets will be eyeing to retain the cup they won last season whilst from the Nomads’ perspective, it’s about reviving their hopes of at least winning a trophy this season after missing out on the Super League and FDH Cup to their rivals.

Road to finals

The fixture take place a little over 50 days since the two teams met in the semifinals of FDH Bank Cup at the same venue in which Bullets won 4-0 to advance to the final which they eventually won by beating their Reserve team 3-1 at Kamuzu Stadium.

The People’s started their title defence with a convincing 8-1 win over Karonga United in the two-legged ties which was mostly done in the first leg that ended 7-0 before playing a 1-1 draw at Karonga Stadium in the second leg.

Next on the menu was two-time winners Silver Strikers in the last four. Bullets showed no mercy as they hammered the Capital City giants 3-1 to proceed to the final.
From the quarterfinals to the semis, Bullets are the highest scoring team with eleven goals and they conceded two goals.

As for Wanderers, they started their campaign with a convincing 2-0 first leg quarterfinal win over Mafco FC before eliminating the Salima based Soldiers with the same margin to progress to the last four with a 4-0 goal aggregate win.

Their next opponents were the 2018 winners Blue Eagles in the semis. The Lali Lubani boys made no mistake by pouncing on the Area 47 with a comfortable 2-0 win to set up a final showdown against their cross-town rivals.

Wanderers, who were finalists in 2017 and semifinalists in 2018 and 2020/21 seasons, have never won the cup and the only season in which they failed to reach the last four was in 2019 season after they got eliminated in the quarterfinals by The Central Bankers.


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 comeback with seven minutes to play through substitute Curthbert Sinetre who canceled out a Diverson Mlozi’s 38th minute 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 spot kick 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 goalscoring 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 Adepoju who had just joined The People’s Team in June from Wanderers.

In 2022 season, they faced-off in the last four of FDH Cup from which Bullets hammered their rivals 4-0.

Now, after their last Cup semi-final encounter, they meet again at the same venue in the final which the winner will claim the bragging rights and will send an early Christmas gift to their fans.
Previous meetings in Airtel Top 8 Cup between Bullets and Wanderers

The first ever meeting between the two cross-town rivals in this competition was in 2018 at BNS in the semifinals where Bullets scored two quick second half strikes through Bright Munthali and Chiukepo Msowoya to beat their rivals 2-1. The Nomads scored their consolation goal in the dying minutes through Zicco Mkanda.

Three years later, they met again in the last four of the cup at Kamuzu Stadium in the 2020/21 season and once again, Bullets had the last laugh when they hammered them 4-1 courtesy of Adepoju who scored all the four goals. Wanderers’ only goal came from Vincent Nyangulu

Previous meetings between the two teams at BNS

History favors Bullets at Bingu National Stadium because in three previous official cup meetings at this venue which was opened in 2017 have all gone to The People’s Team.

The first meeting was on 9th September, 2017 in the then Carlsberg Cup final which Bullets won 5-3 on penalties after the regulation time ended 2-2. Twice, then Nomads had a lead through Bullets’ former player Jafali Chande and Isaac Kaliyati but The People’s Team hit back in style through Muhammad Sulumba, who was also joined the team from Wanderers and Nelson Kangunje who went on to score the decisive post-match penalty.

In 2018, they met again but this time, in the semifinals of this Cup.

The first half belonged to The Nomads who dominated play and created lots of goal scoring opportunities but failed to find the back of the net only to be punished in the second half through strikes from Munthali and Msowoya.
In short, Wanderers have never beaten Bullets at BNS in official competitions but they only won twice in Bus Ipite and a friendly fundraising match.

Then they met again in the last four of FDH Cup. Bullets showed no mercy by smashing their rivals 4-0 through Gomezgani Chirwa, Hassan Kajoke, Anthony Mfune and Adepoju.

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They are all coming from convincing wins after they got the better of two Lilongwe giants to advance to the cup final but Wanderers have kept three straight clean sheets unlike Bullets who have conceded twice.

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