Dominant FCB Nyasa Big Bullets thrashed Mafco 3-0 to defend the FDH Bank Cup at the Bingu National Stadium on Sunday afternoon to claim our first silverware of the 2023 season.
Two quick goals from Lanjesi Nkhoma early in the opening period and Ephraim Kondowe’s strike in the second half saw The People’s Team defend the cup Kalisto Pasuwa’s men won last season.
The free-scoring Bullets, who scored the highest number of goals in this edition, made several changes to the side that defeated Bangwe All Stars in the TNM Super League on Wednesday as Yamikani Fodya, Frank Willard, Nkhoma, Ephraim Kondowe and Stanley Billiat, who is coming from an injury, were included in the starting line-up to replace Nickson Nyasulu, Ernest Petro, Anthony Mfune and Righteous Banda.
Mafco were missing the services of the leading scorer in the tournament, Zikani Sichinga, due to injury, and Duncan Mwase due to suspension, but Prichard Mwansa welcomed back Yohane Malunga and Mphatso Phillimon from suspensions.
The victory in the capital means Bullets are the first team to win the FDH Bank Cup for a second consecutive year after winning it for the first time in the 2022 season.
Maule also maintained their highest-scoring record of 16 goals in the competition after netting the same number of goals in the previous edition.
Prichard Mwansa’s men, who last played in a cup final in 2013, had the toughest mission on the day to stop the defending champions, who, before the encounter, were unbeaten in 23 matches in all domestic competitions since their 1-0 defeat away to Chitipa United earlier this year.
From the onset, it was evident that Pasuwa, despite making those changes, went for the kill as he used a very offensive formation by deploying Patrick Mwaungulu in the central attacking role to cause havoc and create spaces for the front three led by Kondowe with Billiat and Nkhoma coming on the sides.
Mafco were dealt with a massive blow early in the match when Walusungu Mpata was stretchered off after he collided with Chiyenda in aerial combat and was replaced by David Daudi.
It only took six minutes for Nkhoma to score his first goal of the tournament with a simple tap-in inside the six-yard box after receiving a sumptuous pass from Billiat, 1-0.
Bullets were relentless as they kept pushing for another goal to completely put the game beyond the visitors’ reach and the defending champions succeeded in the 12th minute when Nkhoma doubled his tally with another finish from close range.
Mwaungulu followed with another excellent pass after the midfielder had outpaced Mafco’s defence outside the penalty area to feed Nkhoma who had another simple task to slot the ball home beating Christopher Mikuwa in goal, 2-0.
The first 15 minutes belonged to Bullets as they kept on exchanging passes and created more goal-scoring opportunities, the latest being Kondowe who got the better of Paul Ndhlovu before releasing a thunderous shot that was well saved by Mikuwa.
Mafco had their first shot at the goal in the 17th minute through Kingsley Nkhonjera, whose rocket was well saved by Chiyenda, who was called into action for the first time in the match.
At the other end, Precious Phiri produced a magic moment when he outclassed Aubrey Chawewa before sending a very dangerous cross to Mwaungulu who was very unfortunate to miss from close range as he powered off-target inside the area.
The enterprising Mwaungulu was a thorn in the flesh to the visitors’ back four as he made yet another dangerous move towards the goal area, but his effort missed Mikuwa’s right-hand post with a few inches.
Mafco were handed a chance in the 40th minute when Chiyenda handed a back-pass from Clyde Senaji to concede an indirect freekick inside the penalty area. But Nkhonjera fired off target to the frustration of Mwansa’s led technical panel, which would have hoped for something better to reduce the arrears.
The missed opportunity nearly punished Mafco further as Mwaungulu’s freekick found the advanced Kondowe inside the box, but his powerful header was saved by Mikuwa, who was the busiest of the two shot-stoppers.
With three minutes left to play in the first half, Paul Phiri headed over the crossbar when he was found unmarked by a Nkhonjera from the left flank of the field, and that was all for the half, 2-0.
After the recess, Pasuwa brought in Hassan Kajoke and Blessings Mpokera for Nkhoma and Billiat as he continues managing his players with a pile-up of fixtures, the next one coming on Wednesday against Civil Services United in the Airtel Top 8.
Bullets increased their lead through Kondowe just five minutes after the half-time break with yet another simple finish inside the box.
The move started in the midfield again through Willard who released the ball to Gumbo and our number 31 found Kajoke in the offensive zone before the forward saw Mwaungulu with a through-ball. The 21-year-old made his way into the box before finding Kondowe right on the edge of the six-yard box and the forward pounced to make it 3-0.
From there, it was Bullets passing the ball at will, and at a certain point, The People’s Team exchanged more than 20 passes with Mafco nowhere near the ball.
At this point, the mission was almost impossible for the visitors to stage any comeback as they struggled to keep possession and failed to create meaningful chances.
Bullets should have scored another goal in the 57th minute through Mwaungulu, who was denied by Mikuwa’s excellent save to deny the youngster from registering his name on the scoresheet.
Mwansa made a triple substitution when he brought on Peter Kasonga, Gift Soko and Blessings Chandiyang’ana for Bernard Chimaimba, Wakisa Kalinga and Stain Malata to try to improve their attacking prowess.
Mikuwa was having a torrid time on the afternoon as he was called into action again, this time, producing yet another save to deny Kondowe from netting his second goal of the match.
Pasuwa introduced McFallen Mgwira, Anthony Mfune and Precious Sambani for Kondowe, Chirwa and Gumbo.
With six minutes left to play, Phillimon saw his powerful header hit the upright as Mafco created their first closest goal-scoring opportunity, a clear indication that they had a very tough afternoon against the defending champions.
Referee Easter Zimba, who was also in charge of last season’s FDH Bank Cup final as we faced our reserve team, blew his whistle to mark the end of the match as Bullets won the first silverware this season.
Mwaungulu, with his two assists, was named Man of the Match.
Kajoke, even though he did not score in the final, is the top scorer in the 2023 FDH Bank Cup with four goals, above Sichinga, who scored three.