FCB Nyasa Big Bullets and Mafco FC will face off for the first time in a cup final when they battle it out for the prize money in the FDH Bank Cup at Bingu National Stadium on Sunday afternoon.
Bullets, the defending champions, will aim to retain the cup and become the most successful team in the history of the competition since its launch in the 2020/21 season, while Mafco will be aiming to end their trophy drought which has now lasted for a decade.
But before the encounter, let’s take a look at the playing style and tactics for the two teams, head-to-head in league and cup competitions for the last decade and key players ahead of the showdown…
FCB Nyasa Big Bullets
Kalisto Pasuwa’s side tends to be built on two principles: lots of ball possession and intense pressing. His team is no different, with everyone from goalkeeper to stiker comfortable on the ball. On rare occasions, Bullets lose it, the hunt is on to win possession back as quickly as possible, and spring another attack.
With fast attackers, there is a steel to this side, which means they can stand up to virtually any physical challenge. With a backlone that possesses rare athleticism and speed, they are difficult to counter-attack against. Doing so also leaves gaps for Bullets to exploit when they force those quick turnovers.
Frank Willard acts as the destroyer in midfield with Patrick Mwaungulu, Lanjesi Nkhoma, and the injured Ernest Petro, a trio of masterful creators. Up top, Hassan Kajoke is the focal point with four goals in this edition of the competition as he set his eyes on winning the Golden Boot award.
Against Dedza, four of the five goals were scored through a well calculated stunning counter-hurricane attack originated from their quick wingbacks.
Bullets have been hit with massive injuries to several of their key players, a situation that has forced Pasuwa to rotate his squad in almost each and every game in order to last the season.
Mike Mkwate was ruled out for the rest of the season after he sustained a tibiofibular fracture to his right leg while Alick Lungu is undergoing his rehabilitation after suffering fracture during one of the team’s training sessions in August.
To make matters worse, Petro, who is Bullets’ engine room in the midfield, suffered a knee injury during his side’s hard-fought 1-0 victory over Bangwe All Stars on Wednesday.
However, there is good news as Precious Sambani, Blessings Mpokera, and Stanley Billiat have all recovered from their injuries and are all available for selection.
Bullets’ performance at BNS in cup final
Ever since the Stadium was officially opened in 2017, the People’s Team has played three different cup final matches, winning once and losing twice.
They defeated their rivals in the Carlsberg Cup on penalties in 2017 before losing 1-0 to Blue Eagles in the Airtel Top 8 Cup. Four years later, they lost to Wanderers on penalties in the same Airtel Top 8 Cup.
The Salima based military side had a tougher run to the 2023 final than their opponents, dispatching three Super League clubs out of the four round played to reach this stage. They did at least have the advantage of playing two times at Chitowe Stadium, where Ekwendeni Hardknockers and Blue Eagles were all beaten by Prichard Mwansa’s charges.
A tense semifinal against two-time semifinalists, Mighty Mukuru Wanderers at Kamuzu Stadium, saw Mafco scoring an early goal through their skipper, Paul Ndhlovu to advance to the final with a hard-fought 1-0 win.
Style of Play
They have shown significant tactical improvement under Mwansa, who took over from Stereo Gondwe in July this year.
They soldiers have climbed from a disappointing 14th position in the league to a spot in the top eight as they sit in the 7th position with 31 points.
They are unbeaten in six games after victories over Ekwendeni Hammers, Mighty Wakawaka Tigers, Civil Service United, and a goalless draw against Dedza Dynamos Salima Sugar in the League.
Topping this list in their impressive performance are their quarter-final victory over Dedza Dynamos and the historic 1-0 victory over Wanderers in the Cup semi-finals at Kamuzu Stadium.
They have managed to do this by blending an improved defense with an unpredictable attack.
When they face Bullets, they also play similar possesion based football, building from the back and advance into the transition.
They have Yohane Malunga, who gives them increased stability in midfield, allowing dynamic forward line-boasting Zikani Sichinga, Bernard Chimaimba, and Peter Kasonga- to thrive.
Sichinga is their leading scorer in this Cup with three goals as he is the only player to net a hat-trick in this edition.
Mwansa will welcome back Malunga and Mphatso Phillimon from suspension while Duncan Mwase will play no part as he is suspended.
The coach is likely to give Sichinga the nod up front after netting the three goals against Ekwendeni Hardknockers in Round 32.
This will be their third cup final appearance since 2009, in which they lost 1-0 to Wanderers in the inaugural year of the then Presidential Cup before beating Silver Strikers on penalties in the same cup in 2013.
A historical occasion awaits the two sides, who are set for their first-ever cup final encounter, but since 2010, they have had 23 league meetings between them, with Bullets registering 11 wins and sharing the spoils in ten meetings, with Sunday’s opposition winning twice.
In cup meetings, this will be the fifth encounter in the last decade.
The first knockout meeting between Sunday’s finalists was in 2011 when the soldiers booted out Bullets on penalties in the then Standard Bank Cup after the regulation time ended 1-1.
They met again in 2015 in the then Carlsberg Cup semi-final clash at Civo Stadium in August of that year.
Maurice Chiumia gave his side a first-half lead before a Jafali Chande’ second half equalizer to level for The People’s Team after he picked a rebound from his own shot which was spilled by Mafco shot-stopper, Jailos Kapalamula.
With the scores at 1-1, the match had to be decided on penalties from which Bullets triumphed.
In 2016, they met again in the same competition at the same venue. Initially, the quarterfinal match was supposed to be played at Chitowe in Dwangwa, but the Football Association of Malawi moved the fixture to Lilongwe after an alleged attack on Bullets players by some Mafco FC players.
Saidi Mtekama scored the only goal to knock Bullets out of the cup.
In 2021, they battled it out for a place in the semifinal of Airtel Top 8 Cup when they met in the two-legged quarterfinal ties at Kamuzu Stadium and, Chitowe Stadium.
The first leg ended 3-1 in favor of Bullets through a Babatunde Adepoju brace and a lone strike from Hassan Kajoke. In the return leg at Chitowe, Paul Phiri gave Mafco a first-half lead to reduce the arrears, but with less than ten minutes left to play, Adepoju scored twice to inspire his team to a hard fought 2-1 win, advancing to the semis with a 5-2 aggregate win.
Recently, the two teams played out to a goalless draw in the league in the reverse fixture as Bullets won 4-0 in the first round match played at Kamuzu Stadium in Blantyre.
Patrick Mwaungulu (Bullets): The youngster will require some special attention from Mafco’s defense on and off tap-ins and through balls from Frank Willard’s led midfield footwork. It’s not a secret, the winger poses a threat to whoever comes up against and with two goals already to his name this season in this competition, he will likely go for the kill in order to continue his brilliant work ever since he got promoted to the main team at the start of last season.
Hassan Kajoke (Bullets): The forward has been a revelation this season in this edition and has had four goals to his name as he eyes the Golden Boot award. He is mainly utilized on the right side of the attacking third, where he has caused problems for defenders with pint-point balls into the box as well as clever runs on the flank before targeting the goal with his ferracious shots.
Paul Ndhlovu (Mafco FC): A good defense wins matches, and the captain has been a revelation throughout the season with his no-nonsense approach to matches.
He is known as a calm presence at the back, where he has nullified many threats. Still, an underrated part of his game is his ability to initiate attacks straight from a defensive situation through his accurate long passes that can stretch defenses, creating an advantage for Mafco attackers.
Zikani Sichinga (Mafco): He is the man who ended Bullets’ unbeaten run in the 2022 league season, and he is likely to be the man to watch again. His pace and aggressiveness have been his key attributes. With three goals already to his name, he is also one of the contenders for the Golden Boot award, and this final match allows him to write his history.
The winner will walk away with MK 30 million in prize money and a beautiful trophy.