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Bullets win Airtel Top 8 to complete historic quadruple

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FCB Nyasa Big Bullets made a dream start to the new year by becoming the 2023 Airtel Top 8 winners following a 2-1 triumph over Mafco FC at the Kamuzu Stadium on Saturday afternoon.

Lanjesi Nkhoma scored in both halves to settle what was both a physical and captivating cup final that marked the very end of Malawi’s top-flight football season.

What happened

Looking nothing sort of fresh, the two finalists, off the back of a long absorbing season, started the biggest showdown struggling to be on the ball.

Sooner the fouls and the misplaced passes vanished with Bullets beginning to discover their quality on the ball and invading the military outfit’s back-line through all channels.

Nkhoma found himself behind Paul Njobvu and Aubrey Chafewa but could not win the footrace over the two towering centre-backs.

The breakthrough would follow quickly after our first asking as, on the second attempt on target, Kalisto Pasuwa’s men found themselves in front.

Our top goal scorer this season in all competitions, Nkhoma, perfected his run to be at the right place to meet a well-weighted low cross from Antony Mfune for a clever tap-in and the scoreline was 1-0 after 22 minutes of football.

The lead could not last longer as the MAFCO were level 12 minutes after going behind when Nickson Nyasulu’s failed clearance went into his own net and it was all square.

From that costly lapse in communication at the back, Maule looked to bounce back with a swift restoration of their lead but it could only be even at the halftime break.

With renewed hunger, Bullets started the second half quite offensively, putting the soldiers in all green under intense pressure.

Ten minutes from the hour mark, a clever exchange of passes led to Mwaungulu escaping the well sit defence but the young creative midfielder failed to beat Christopher Mikuwa with a powerful shot which was parried away for a corner.

Giving the opponents no breathing time, Mwaungulu threatened again before Nkhoma also had his strike fly over the bar.

The pressure was increasingly becoming unbearable for Mafco who in the 69th minute conceded a penalty when Aubrey Chafewa brought down Maxwell Phodo who was having quite a fine final upfront.

Showing some bravery, Nyasulu dared to take the penalty looking to redeem himself after scoring into his own net in the first half, but it was just not his day as the defender’s effort was parried away by Mikuwa.

Big luck enough  Nkhoma, who would go on to be voted Man of the Match,  was focused on outrunning the on-looking Mafco in-field players to score emphatically on the rebound to make it 2-1  and reclaim our lead back while completing his precious brace.

Fuelled by our second goal on the day and the vociferous chanting of the fans, we went on to attack Mafco wave after wave but a third was not coming in the absence of a defining touch in the final third.

Although the scoreline remained the same until four minutes were shown as added time, coach Kalisto Pasuwa considered Mafco to be still alive and not ruling out the possibility of the tie reaching the shootout stage, he brought in dead-ball expert Yamikani Fodya who replaced Mwaungulu.

Most of the defining games for Bullets have been decided on post-match penalties this season but it wasn’t to be on Saturday as Nkhoma’s strike in the 69th minute proved to be the cup final winner.

What it means

History! It is what Saturday’s 2-1 victory over Mafco means for the Bullets family who have now repeated a feat they last achieved way back in 1973, managing to conquer all the domestic titles which were there to fight for.

The Airtel Top 8 triumph is a completion of a remarkable quadruple for Maule who had already swept the FDH Bank Cup, TNM Super League of Malawi and the Castel Challenge Cup before Saturday’s feat.

Next

What comes up next is rest for the Malawi champions after a long journey of fighting the good fight which has brought a total number of five titles to the trophy room, including the NBS Bank Charity Shield we won at the start of the season.

Starting XI

Clever Mkungula; Gomezgani Chirwa ©, Nickson Nyasulu, Clyde Senaji, Precious Phiri, Yankho Singo, Ernest Petro, Patrick Mwaungulu, Lanjesi Nkhoma, Maxwell Phodo, Anthony Mfune.

Subs

Rabson Chiyenda, Yamikani Fodya, Kenneth Pasuwa, Chawanangwa Gumbo, Peter Banda, Stanley Billiat, Righteous Banda, Hassan Kajoke, Ephraim Kondowe.

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