Another big day and big game for Nyasa Big Bullets to wrap up the 2020-21 season is here as Kalisto Pasuwa’s men take on Silver Strikers in the Airtel Top 8 Cup final at Kamuzu Stadium this afternoon.
It has been a busy campaign for The People’s Team since kicking off the season last year, with fixtures in the TNM Super League, Cecafa Kagame Cup, CAF Champions League, FDH Bank Cup and now the Airtel Top 8.
The Bullets head coach previously described this term as “the longest and toughest football season ever”.
In contrast to Silver Strikers’ path to the last two, Bullets have had to endure tight encounters to book their spot in the final of this competition coming to a conclusion at the Soccer Mecca this afternoon.
Pasuwa’s men overcame what would be described as quality opposition to earn a shot at the title, edging MAFCO FC and cross-town rivals Mighty Wanderers in the semis.
However, the tactician has warned his charges to get over Wanderers result, a 4-1 big win, saying “the final is the most important game than the derby”, urging his players to remain focused and have the right attitude in order to get snatch the Airtel Top 8 Cup away from Area 47.
This final comes just two months after the two sides’ last meeting, where the Central Bankers eliminated Bullets out of the FDH Bank Cup in the quarter-final stage.
In the ongoing year, the two teams have played each other three times, with Silver Strikers winning twice and Bullets winning once.
The Central Bankers’ victories came in Lilongwe while The People’s Team won at home in Blantyre and this will be the first time for two sides to meet in a cup final at Kamuzu Stadium in more than two decades.
Their only previous cup final encounter came in the 1998 Chibuku Super Cup, where the Blantyre giants triumphed 4-1.
In 2017, Silver Strikers knocked Bullets out of the then FISD Challenge Cup through penalties. In the same year, Bullets’ Airtel Top 8 Cup dream was shuttered when they lost 1-0 away to the Area 47 side before a goalless draw at home in the two-legged quarterfinal affair.
Overall, the last 10 clashes between Bullets and Silver in all competitions have been dominated by The People’s Team, who have seven wins against the visitors’ three.
Nyasa Big Bullets will be without Misheck Seleman, who is not available due to illness and McFallen Mgwira is out with an injury he suffered during Bullets’ 4-1 friendly win over the Malawi Under-20 National Team three weeks ago.
Apart from the duo, Chimango Kayira, Righteous Banda, Precious Sambani, Pilirani Zonda and John Lanjesi remain sidelined due to long term injuries.
Bullets forward Babatunde Adepoju is the competition’s leading scorer with eight goals, followed by Silver Strikers midfielder Blessings Tembo, who has netted two goals.
Bullets’ Airtel Top 8 stats
This will be Bullets’ second appearance in the final of this competition. Having bowed out at the hands of Silver Strikers at the earliest stage in 2017, The People’s Team made amends the following year when they reached the final only to lose 1-0 to Blue Eagles through a last minute controversial penalty, which resulted into violence at the BNS and led to Bullets being slapped with a ban in the 2019 edition.
In total, Bullets have scored 12 goals and conceded six in the Airtel Top 8 history.
This will also be the first cup final appearance for Pasuwa since he took over from Rogers Yasini’s led technical panel three years ago.
How crucial is this final to Pasuwa?
Under the Zimbabwean, Bullets have won the league championship for three consecutive years, but winning a cup competition has proved to be a very difficult task.
In the ongoing season, he exited FDH Bank Cup in the quarter-finals, and in 2019 his journey in the FISD Cup was also cut short.
For him to complete a successful season, winning this afternoon’s final is a must as he eyes his first double as Bullets coach.