The road to 2023 Airtel Top 8 final commenced with the confirmation of quarter-finals fixtures during the launch of the competition on 12 September at Mpira Village in Chiwembe, Blantyre.
With the competition’ regulations maintained, there was no need for a draw as the 2022 Super League log table automatically determined the fixtures.
League champions FCB Nyasa Big Bullets were automatically paired with eighth-placed Civil Service United in the last eight of the two-legged tie.
Runners-up Blue Eagles were paired with seventh placed Moyale Barracks while third-placed Kamuzu Barracks were paired against Mafco in an all-Malawi Defence Force tie.
Fourth-placed Mighty Mukuru Wanderers and fifth-placed Silver Strikers were automatically to face in each other.
A total of 11 matches were lined up with the quarter-finals set to be played on a home and away basis where goal aggregate and away goal rules were to apply while the semi-finals and the final would be played in a single fixture.
In the opening match, the title holders Nomads travelled to Lilongwe to face the Bankers at Bingu National Stadium on September 23.
The match ended prematurely after Wanderer caused the abandonment of the match by refusing to continue playing in protest against referee Godfrey Nkhakananga’s decision to award Silver a goal from Stain Davie scored after he had blown for an infringement.
The match was abandoned with Silver leading 2-1 after the Nomads had earlier on canceled out a George Chaomba’s opener through Gaddie Chirwa.
Second on the menu was the quarter-final first leg between Moyale and Blue Eagles on September 30 at Mzuzu Stadium.
Eagles drew first blood through Gilbert Chirwa in the 27th minute, but Moyale responded through their veteran marksman Gastin Simkonda after Eagles defence failed to clear the ball in the box as the two sides shared spoils.
Mafco and Kamuzu Barracks followed on October 1 in an all MDF quarter-finals first leg clash at Dedza Stadium.
The two sides settled for a goalless draw as they both fired blanks in the thrilling encounter.
Bullets and Civil were called to sort each other out on 11 October at Civo Stadium in their quarterfinal first leg.
The People Team took a giant step towards the semis as they secured a 2-0 away victory with goals from Maxwell Gastin Phodo and Hassan Kajoke.
The quarter-finals second legs kicked off with Kamuzu Barracks hosting Mafco and Civo Stadium on 22 October.
The visitors scored early through Dan Chimbalanga, but KB leveled the score line as the match ended 1-1.
Mafco progressed to the last four on an away goal rule.
On 23 October, Blue Eagles then became the second team to make it to the semis after edging Moyale 3-2 at Nankhaka in Lilongwe.
Two quick goals from Christopher Gototo and Kingsley Kuwali put the hosts in the driving seat.
Moyale pulled one back thru Charles Nkhoma and leveled moments later through Raphael Phiri before recess.
But Ganizani James secured the semis spot for Eagles late into the second stanza as they progressed 4-3 on aggregate.
Bullets then welcome Civil at Kamuzu Stadium, boasting of two away goals cushion on 28 October.
But Civil threw everything into the match as they came from behind to snatch a 2-1 victory.
The People’s team scored first through Maxwell Phodo but, Lloyd Aaron leveled from the spot after Collins Okumu fouled Luke Chima in the penalty box.
Chifundo Ngapemba then scored the winner in the 57th minute.
However, Bullets progressed with a 3-2 aggregate score.
Meanwhile, defending champions Wanderers, who boycotted their second leg against Silver, lost the match as well as their abandoned match case after the Football Association of Malawi (FAM) appeals committee threw out their appeal.
A draw for the semis paired Mafco with Silver Strikers while Bullets faced Blue Eagles.
Bullets booked a place in the final on November 26 after 3-2 victory over Eagle at Bingu National Stadium.
Striker Kajoke jolted the hosts with the opener just six minutes into the match before Nkhoma doubled the lead.
Substitute striker Gototo pulled one back, but Bullets restored their two goal lead through substitute Ephraim Kondowe.
But straight from restarting the match, they pulled one back again in the 81st minute this time through Richard Lapson.
Mafco then completed the final pair after post-match penalties 3-1 victory over Silver on Boxing Day.
The Salima-based soldiers scored the equaliser with 12 minutes to full time through Prince Kachere, who had a quiet game, to cancel out Patrick Macheso’s 28th minute opener.
The game went straight to lottery penalties, but the Salima based soldiers were calm and composed throughout.
Captain Paul Ndlovu, Aubrey Chafewa, and Peter Kasonga converted their spot-kicks, whereas substitute Paul Phiri blasted his spot-kick over.
Silver’s Innocent Shema converted his penalty for Silver, but Chisomo Mpachika and Mark Fodya blasted their spot-kicks as well, while Chikondi Kamanga’s was parried by Mafco goalkeeper Christopher Mikuwa.
The 2023 Airtel Top 8 final set for Kamuzu Stadium in Blantyre on Saturday is a repeat of the FDH Bank Cup final, which saw Bullets triumph 3-0 at Bingu National Stadium.
This year, the Airtel Top 8 winner will walk home with K17 million.