Straight from the hard-fought 1-0 victory over Bangwe All Stars in the TNM Super League on Wednesday, FCB Nyasa Big Bullets will switch attention to the FDH Bank Cup final against Mafco FC in the capital on Sunday.
The final, set for Bingu National Stadium, presents Bullets an opportunity to collect the first silverware in the 2023 season.
But the title holders will have to overcome a resilient side that knocked out our rivals Mighty Mukuru Wanderers in the semifinals of the national competition.
Ahead of the showdown, we take a look at how our Sunday opponents fared to reach this stage, their first-ever cup final in almost a decade, and how they have performed in the TNM Super League this campaign.
The Salima-based military side started their FDH Bank Cup journey in the round of 32 with a comfortable 4-2 victory over Northern Region Premier Division side, Ekwendeni Hard Knockers. Zikani Sichinga became the first and only player thus far to score a hat-trick in the competition, with the other goal coming from Peter Kasonga. The visitors scored their consolation goals through Cyrus Msiska and Tymon Gomeka.
In the round of 16, Mafco faced Blue Eagles at Chitowe Stadium. A late second-half brace from Mphatso Philemon almost secured a place in the last-8 for Prichard Mwansa’s charges in the regulation time, but the match was far from over as Eagles hit back in stoppage time through two quick goals from Christopher Gototo and Chikondi Mvula to take the game to penalties. Mafco won 5-3 in the shootout to set up a quarterfinal showdown against Bangwe All Stars at Mpira Stadium in Blantyre.
In the quarterfinals, Mafco’s progress was also decided on penalties following a goalless draw at the end of 90 minutes. Yamikani Mologeni missed his spot kick for the hosts, allowing Auspicious Kadzongola to score the winning penalty for the visitors to advance to the semis with a 5-4 victory.
It was now time for Mwansa’s side to face their ultimate test in the competition. Their next opposition was Wanderers, semifinalists in the 2021 and 2022 editions.
An early goal from Paul Ndhlovu was enough to seal a final spot, their first cup final appearance since 2013.
The battle against Bullets on Sunday will be the first-ever meeting between the two teams, but they have had several cup meetings before.
From the last-32 phase to the semis, the military side has scored seven goals from open play, winning twice from spot kicks, and have kept two clean sheets against Bangwe and Wanderers.
Their leading scorer in the tournament is Sichinga with three goals, seconded by Philemon who netted a brace against Eagles in the round of 16.
In the TNM Super League, Mafco is in seventh position with 31 points from 24 games. Their latest victory saw them beat Ekwendeni Hammers 2-0 through a strike each from Bernard Chimaimba and Prince Kachere.
Sichinga, the man who ended our unbeaten run in the 2022 season is likely to be the man to watch again in the FDH Bank Cup final at the BNS. His pace and aggressiveness have been his key attributes. With three goals already to his name, he is also one of the contenders for the Golden Boot award.
The Salima-based soldiers will also rely heavily on their defensive pillar, Ndhovu, who scored the winning goal against Wanderers. A good defence wins matches and the Mafco captain is a key figure for Sunday’s opponents with his no-nonsense approach to matches.
He is known as a calm presence at the back where he has nullified many threats. Still, an underrated part of his game is his ability to initiate attacks straight from a defensive situation through his accurate long passes that can stretch defences, creating an advantage for Mafco attackers.
Chimaimba, a former Bullets winger, is another player with varsity experience as he has added value to the soldiers with his pace, strength and eye for the goal. When left unmarked, he can cause havoc especially when in possession and needs to be taken with caution.