FDH Bank Cup final preview: Who will make final transactions?

Mafco football club in Malawi

Annually, the FDH Bank Cup ignites the dreams of many Malawian teams. Both the Super League teams and the Premier Division teams have a fair bite at this prestigious soccer knockout contest.

The third edition of the competition will come to an end on Sunday at Bingu National Stadium in Lilongwe when the defending champions FCB Nyasa Big Bullets will take on Mafco FC in the final match where the former are an overwhelming favorite, while the latter will be out to make history after making their first appearance at a cup final since 2013.

Heading into the final, which is set to kick off at 2:30 PM, Kalisto Pasuwa’s charges will be the big dogs and Prichard Mwansa’s men the underdogs. However, the clash is likely to be tightly contested despite Bullets’ dominance in the domestic scene.

There is no room for complacency in this competition. Just ask the likes of Mighty Tigers, Red Lions and Silver Strikers, three teams that were left nursing wounds after being bitten by the so-called ‘underdogs’.

Now let’s preview the final…

The defending champions have breezed into this Cup final by conceding only two goals and scoring 13 goals, making them the highest scoring team in the third edition of this competition.
However, Pasuwa’s men failed to surpass a 16-goal mark they set in the run-up to their first ever FDH Bank Cup triumph last season.

Last season, they eliminated Sable Farming with a 3-1 comfortable win at Mulanje Park in Round 32 before beating Moyale Barracks in the Last 16 on penalties after the regulation time ended 4-4.

In the quarterfinals, they overcame a very resilient Chitipa United at Rumphi Stadium with a 2-0 win to book a semifinal spot where they hammered their cross-town rivals, Mighty Mukuru Wanderers, 4-0 at BNS to set-up a final showdown against their own reserve team at Kamuzu Stadium.

In the final match, they convincingly won the Cup with a 3-1 win, taking their goal tally to 16, thereby becoming the first team to score more goals in the history of the competition.

In the current season, they have had a fairytale run in which they have had two Premier Division teams in Round 32 and 16, respectively before facing two Super League teams in the last eight and four of this prestigious Cup.

How Bullets made it to their second final in a row…

Bullets started their title defense with a comfortable 4-0 win over Ndirande Stars through a Hassan Kajoke’ brace and lone strikes from Patrick Mwaungulu and Maxwell Phodo before eliminating Ndirande Stars in the Round of 16 with another comfortable 3-0 win courtesy of a strike each from Kajoke, Mwaungulu and Nickson Nyasulu to set-up a quarterfinal showdown against Extreme FC at Civo Stadium.

Against the Mchinji based side, we were behind through a Gregory Mwase’ 20th minute goal before Ephraim Kondowe’ equalizer towards the end of the match to take the game to penalties from which Bullets won 4-2 to advance to the last four.

In the semis, a brace from Anthony Mfune and further strikes from Patrick Mwaungulu, Collins Okumu, and MacFallen Mgwira sealed the final spot for Bullets with a comfortable 5-1 win over Dedza Dynamos Salima Sugar FC.

Mafco FC

Unlike their opponents who are serial winners in this Cup, the Salima based Soldiers had a rude awakening in the previous edition when they got knocked out of the competition in Round 32 by a Premier Division team, Changalume Barracks at Balaka Stadium. The second half strikes from Amidu Mapila, and Emmanuel Allan handed the giant killers their ticket to Round 32 at the expense of the Super League side, which scored their goal through Yohane Malunga.

That marked the end of their journey in the competition.
In the current edition, the military side has scored seven goals from the open play, winning twice from penalties, and have kept two clean sheets against Bangwe All Stars and Wanderers.

This will be their first ever Cup final since 2013 after they defeated Silver Strikers 9-8 on penalties in the then Presidential Cup final in Lilongwe.

Road to the final…

They started their journey in Round 32 with a comfortable 4-2 victory over the Premier Division side, Ekwendeni Hard Knockers from the Northern Region. Zikani Sichinga became the first and only player to score a hat-trick in the competition, with the other goal coming from Peter Kasonga. The visitors scored their consolation goals through Cyrus Msiska and Tymon Gomeka.

In the Round of 16, they faced Blue Eagles at Chitowe Stadium. A late second-half brace from Mphatso Phillimon almost secured a place in the last 8 for Prichard Mwansa’s charges in the regulation time, but the match was far from over as Eagles hit back in the additional minutes through two quick goals from Christopher Gototo and Chikondi Mvula to take the game to penalties.

Mafco won 5-3 in the shootout to set up a quarterfinal showdown against Bangwe All Stars at Mpira Stadium in Blantyre.

In the last 8, the match was also decided on penalties following a goalless draw in the regular time. Yamikani Mologeni missed his spot kick for the hosts, allowing Auspicious Kadzongola to score the winning penalty to advance to the semis with a 5-4 victory.

It was now time for Mwansa’s side to face their ultimate test in the competition. Their next opposition was Wanderers, semifinalists in 2021 and 2022, respectively, at Kamuzu Stadium.

An early goal from Paul Ndhlovu was enough to seal a final spot, their first cup final appearance since 2013.

The showdown on Sunday will be the first-ever meeting between the two teams. The winner will walk away with MK 30 million in prize money and a beautiful trophy.

What did the two coaches say before the showdown?

Pasuwa was quick to downplay an assertion that Bullets are favorites going into the match.

“I am sorry to say this, but us as Bullets, we play each and every game as it comes. I am one person who believes in winning by working hard. If we work hard tomorrow, then we are winning. We can’t talk about history just because we won it last time. We need to fight hard in order for us to retain the cup. Remember, some of the players who were part of the successful team are no longer with us, and also, we have more youngsters whom we got from our Reserve team and this makes us a new team,” he told the press.

His opposite number said his players are motivated to make their own history after almost a decade without winning anything.

“This is the time for the players to make their own history. Like I said, ten years is a very long period, and this makes it very important for us to win this Cup. However, it will not be easy to beat the defending champions, but as Mafco, we will fight with everything in order to take this cup to Salima.

“I should also take this opportunity to thank my players for how they fought in order to reach this level. The way we have been performing in this tournament gives me hope that they are ready to complete the assignment on Sunday,” he explained.