Sunday’s FDH Bank Cup semifinal showdown between defending champions FCB Nyasa Big Bullets and Dedza Dynamos present a first-chance saloon, an unwelcome distraction, an opportunity to win the first silverware and a shot at history for the two of the three teams competing in Malawi’s version of the FA Cup.
With Mafco FC already in the final, the winner between the two teams on Sunday will set up a final showdown against the Salima based soldiers who eliminated Mighty Mukuru Wanderers with a hard-fought 1-0 away win at Kamuzu Stadium last Saturday.
For Bullets, drawn as the home side, it is a chance to write a unique history of becoming the first team to advance to the final for the second time in a row and possibly win it after they won it in its second edition last season.
For the visitors, it is also an opportunity to create their own history of becoming the first team to knock out two defending champions in a row, having knocked out the 2020/21 champions Silver Strikers on penalties in the Round 32 at Dedza Stadium last season, beating the Central Bankers 5-4 on penalties following a goalless draw in the normal time.
FCB Nyasa Big Bullets
The defending champions have dominated domestic football for quite some time while their closest rivals Wanderers and Silver have blown hot and cold with a series of mixed outcomes in each and every season.
The People’s Team, who are also favorites to retain the TNM Super League championship this season, will go for the kill on Sunday in order to keep the most prestigious Cup in their trophy cabinet.
They started their campaign with a comfortable 4-0 home win over a premier division side, Ndirande Stars in the Round of 32.
Hassan Kajoke scored a brace, with the other two strikes coming from Patrick Mwaungulu and Maxwell Phodo to secure a place in the Round of 16 where Balaka United was the next opponent.
The People’s Team showed no mercy to their opposition as they hammered them 3-0 courtesy of a strike each from Mwaungulu, Nickson Nyasulu and Kajoke to set-up a quarterfinal showdown against another unpredicted side, Extreme FC.
Their next destination was a trip away to Lilongwe to face Extreme FC for a place in the last four. As predicted by coach Kalisto Pasuwa, the rookies made Bullets sweat for their money.
With just 20 minutes played on the clock, the hosts scored a stunning goal through Gregory Mwase who capitalized on a defensive mistake by Clyde Senaji and Precious Sambani who failed to deal with a long ball from a set piece from goalkeeper Blessings Juma.
Bullets had to wait till the 88th minute to level through substitute Ephraim Kondowe, who was also a beneficiary of a defensive error from Juma to allow the striker to head the ball into an empty net, 1-1.
This meant the match had to be decided on penalties from which the defending champions scored four of their five penalties while the hosts failed to convert two of their penalties to lose 4-2.
The result saw Bullets proceeding to the last four of the competition for the second time in a row in three seasons.
The rookies have undertaken an against-all-odds journey to the FDH Bank Cup semifinal in this year’s campaign, especially considering that they are the only side to have played against three Super League teams in all the three stages of this year’s competition.
Gilbert Chirwa’s side started their journey with a hard-fought 1-0 victory away to Chitipa United in the Round of 32 courtesy of a first half strike from Alex Benson to set-up a Round of 16 clash against Ekwendeni Hammers.
A brace from Clement Nyondo and a lone goal from Limbani Phiri sealed the quarter-final place for the Central Region based side as they hammered their opponents 3-0.
From there, Moyale Barracks was next to play Chirwa’s side at Dedza Stadium.
It was an intriguing match with the visitors dominating the opening half and were able to make a breakthrough in the 10th minute through Gastin Simkonda.
But the lead was cut short just after the half-hour mark when Phiri scored from the spot to make it 1-1.
None of the two teams managed to score a winning goal in the second half, and penalties had to be used in order to separate them.
The hosts carried the day with a memorable 3-2 win over the Mzuzu based soldiers to progress to the semifinals, where they will battle it out for a place in the final against The People’s Team.
The hosts haven’t been active in the domestic competitions following their involvement in the CAF Champions League.
The last time they played in the Super League was three weeks ago when they came from behind to beat Civil Service United 3-2 at Kamuzu Stadium.
However, they go into this encounter straight from their 1-0 defeat at home to TP Mazembe in the second preliminary round first leg match at Bingu National Stadium last Sunday.
The defending champions haven’t lost any Cup match at Kamuzu Stadium since the 2015 season when they got knocked out by Civil Service United in the then Standard Bank Cup, but since then, they have been dominant force to reckon with.
The visitors are heading into this match straight from their historical 1-0 League win over Silver Strikers at Champions Stadium in Mponela.
Apart from this, Chirwa’s side almost caused an upset when they forced Bullets to a 2-2 draw in the league match played in July at Sunday’s venue.
This will be the first ever meeting between the two teams in this prestigious competition. However, they have met three times in the league since Dedza’ promotion into the top flight football.
They met in the first and second round of the 2022 season in which Bullets won 1-0 and 2-1, respectively.
In the current season, they met each other at Kamuzu Stadium in July, in which the rookies were leading 2-1 with less than ten minutes left to play for. Kajoke came to Bullets’ rescue with a goal from the spot to draw 2-2.