FCB Nyasa Big Bullets and Civil Service United will battle it out for a place in the last four of the Airtel Top 8 Cup when the two teams face off at Kamuzu Stadium for the second leg match, with the winner joining Mafco FC and Blue Eagles in the semifinals.
Second legs of two-legged encounters are always very exciting because you already know what each team needs to do to progress to the next stage of the competition and these quarterfinal matches will be no exception.
However, the visitors will be undertaking the difficult task of overturning a 2-0 deficit against the 2022 winners who have made their base a no-go zone area for every visiting team Bullets ran out as comfortable winners after a strike in each half from Maxwell Gasten and Hassan Kajoke in Lilongwe.
This result puts them at an advantage for their third consecutive semifinal spot in the competition. Bullets have been the lone dominant force in Malawian football for the past decade, claiming every single domestic trophy available to them, but they have struggled to make a breakthrough in the continental club football competition.
During this period, one trophy proved elusive for them — the Airtel Top 8 Cup. That is until they finally won it in 2022. The People’s Team has had seven wins in their last eight matches in all the competitions this month of October. Since their CAF Champions League defeat away to TP Mazembe at the start of this month, Pasuwa’s charges have rejuvenated by beating Bangwe All Stars, Moyale Barracks, Chitipa United and Kamuzu Barracks in the league, retaining the FDH Bank Cup after hammering Mafco FC, beating Saturday’s opposition in the Airtel Cup first leg and their only league draw against Ekwendeni Hammers.
This successful run saw them moving top of the standings by opening a three-point lead over their closest title contender, Mighty Mukuru Wanderers.
In those eight matches, Bullets scored 15 goals and conceded five, and keeping four clean sheets.
Regarding permutations, the Servants have to win by two goals and avoid conceding any goal to go through. A 2-0 lead would mean they have reversed the score and an away goal they scored towards the end of the match would see them going through to the semis.
However, beating Bullets at Kamuzu Stadium is a tall order and the visitors need to do something extraordinary to repeat what they did in 2015 when they knocked Bullets out of the then Standard Bank Cup.
Abbas Makawa’s side is struggling for results in the top-flight league, which has seen them fighting for their survival with four games remaining to play.
Their only recent victory came against Mgwirizano FC in the Castel Challenge Cup in which they won 5-0 to book a Round of 32 place.But, they have played two back-to-back goalless draws at home against Red Lions and Chitipa United to stay just two points clear of the 14th-placed Moyale Barracks FC.
The Lilongwe based have two things to fight for; a comeback against Bullets for a semifinal spot and a survival from relegation to avoid a repeat of what happened sometime back when they got relegated to the Premier Division.
In the last decade, this will only be the third cup clash between these two sides, with the other one being the then Standard Bank Cup semifinal showdown in Blantyre in 2015, and recently, the first leg tie which was won by Bullets. The Servants registered a memorable 2-1 win to boot Bullets out of the cup through a late second-half brace from Raphael Phiri, who canceled out a first-half early strike from Chiukepo Msowoya.
In the last 16 league games, it’s only in the 2017, 2022, and 2023 seasons that Civil got three points over Bullets after sharing spoils in the first and second rounds of those matches.
The latest defeat for Civil was a 3-2 loss at the hands of Bullets in August in a match, in which the Lilongwe-based side had a comfortable 2-1 first-half lead cut short by The People’s Team who staged a stunning second-half comeback in recent years.