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Opponents watch: Bullets vs Wanderers | Castel Challenge Cup

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It’s that period when Blantyre is split into two as city rivals FCB Nyasa Big Bullets and Mighty Mukuru Wanderers battle for supremacy.

The two sides square off in the last Blantyre derby of the 2023 season when they meet for a place in the Castel Challenge Cup final at Kamuzu Stadium on Sunday.

It will be the fourth encounter between Maule and Manoma this term, having met in the NBS Bank Charity Shield and twice in the TNM Super League.

Ahead of the showdown, let’s look at how the Mark Harrison side has fared in this competition and previous meetings against The People’s Team.

Our neighbours started the campaign with a 10-1 hammering of Katete Rangers in the round of 64. It was an encounter that Harrison described as a training match as his men scored the majority of the goals in the opening 20 minutes of the one-sided affair.

Their next opponent was FOMO FC in the round of 32. Facing a Premier Division side, the game looked like another walkover for the Lali Lubani boys, but the opposition had a plan that frustrated the TNM Super League.

Harrison made several changes to his team as he handed starts to fringe players.

It looked like the match was destined for penalties but a late winner in the 86th minute saw the Nomads break the deadlock through the experienced Chiukepo Msowoya, a former Bullets forward.

In the Round of 16, Wanderers visited Balaka Stadium away to Red Lions, a team that had just confirmed their relegation from the top-flight league.

Unbeaten in their last two visits to the Balaka, the Nomads were made to sweat for their money. Their opponents kept them at bay by minimizing their goal-scoring chances in the entire opening half before Gaddie Chirwa punished the home side in the final period to take his side to the quarter-finals of the competition.

Next on their menu was another military side, Moyale Barracks, back at Kamuzu Stadium and they made sure to complete the mission in the first half to avoid a repeat of what happened when the two teams met in the league as Moyale equalized in the 90th minute to deny them all the points.

A brace from Misheck Botomani and a lone strike from Vincent Nyangulu handed them a convincing 3-0 win over the Mzuzu-based soldiers to keep their hopes of winning silverware this season after missing out on the league and the FDH Bank Cup.

The win saw the Nomads setting up a semifinal tie against Kalisto Pasuwa’s men, who have already won the league and the FDH Bank Cup and are in the final of the Airtel Top 8.

How they have fared against Bullets in previous knockout matches

Wanderers are winless in the last four semifinal encounters against The People’s Team, but they recorded victory against us in the 2022 Airtel Top 8 final to win the cup on penalties.

In 2014, the Nomads lost 1-0 to Bullets in the then Carlsberg Cup semi-final match played at Civo Stadium. Jimmy Zakazaka scored early to inspire Maule to the victory.

In 2018, we defeated our blue neighbours in another semifinal contest at Bingu National Stadium. It was in the Airtel Top 8 in which Bullets scored two second-half goals through Bright Munthali and Msowoya to beat Wanderers 2-1. Zicco Mkanda scored their consolation goal.

We met again in 2021 in the semi-finals of the Airtel Top 8. Babatunde Adepoju scored all four goals to hammer his former side 4-1. Nyangulu scored their consolation.

Last season, the rivals met in the FDH Bank Cup semis at BNS. Bullets showed Manoma no mercy with a 4-0 humiliation through a Hassan Kajoke brace and lone strikes from Gomezgani Chirwa and Adepoju.

Apart from the semis, Bullets won the 2017 Carlsberg Cup against Sunday’s opponents at BNS on penalties, beating them 5-4 after the normal time had ended 2-2.

Wanderers’ three cup victories over Bullets in the last 11 years came in 2012 when they knocked us out of the Standard Bank in the semis on penalties. The regulation time ended 1-1, and the Nomads went on to carry the day with a 4-3 post-match penalty victory.

It was followed by a 2-1 triumph in favour of the Nomads in 2015 when we met in the Carlsberg Cup final at Civo Stadium, then last season’s 5-4 penalty shootout victory to win the Airtel Top 8 after a goalless draw in regulation time.

This year, Bullets defeated Wanderers 2-1 in the NBS Bank Charity Shield at the Bingu National Stadium before playing out to a goalless and 1-all stalemate in the TNM Super League at Kamuzu Stadium.

Wanderers’ style of play

Any team can play beautiful football at Kamuzu Stadium, but the Nomads have one key secret; using their right-back Stanley Sanudi to move into the attacking zones and deliver dangerous balls into the opposition’s box.

They are also a team that has adapted well to building from the back at the Kamuzu Stadium’s artificial turf.

Against us in the league, Harrison packed his midfield with three quality players namely Felix Zulu, Mphatso Kamanga and Balikinho Mwakanyongo to fully dominate the most important area in the game of football.

Up front, they have Nyangulu and Christopher Kumwembe, who are always alert whenever a cross is delivered into the box. These two players have scored more goals from crosses emanating from either set pieces or crosses from the wingers.

Their preferred formation is a 4-3-3, but Sanudi and Isaac Kaliyati add more numbers in attack with their dangerous offensive play.

Dangerous men

The Nomads have quality in every department, but they have individual players with brilliant attributes that, if not stopped, can cause fatal damage. Sanudi is one of their dangerous men on the pitch.

In the just-ended season, the wing-back, who could also play in midfield, finished with more assists (10) than any other player. This is a defender who overlaps and can deliver dangerous balls. He can also score goals. Whenever we play Wanderers, he is the first player to give us more problems with his speed and ability to create chances for his teammates. You stop Sanudi you minimize their scoring opportunities, especially in dead-ball situations.

They also have Gaddie Chirwa, the most expensive player on the domestic scene after his transfer from Blue Eagles.

He might not be good at scoring, but his pace, aggressiveness and ability to make dangerous runs into offensive zones bring many problems to the opposition. If left unmarked on a good day, he can cause more pain. He needs someone who can match him with speed.

The Nomads also have Wisdom Mpinganjira, who can make runs into the box from the wing. The pint-sized winger can use both legs, and his most dangerous attribute is his ability to take on defenders before firing at goal. If left free, he can score goals from any angle.

Zulu, a workaholic in the midfield, is another player to watch. They call him general because he is always everywhere on the field of play, covering his area and making dangerous moves into the opposition’s half.

He makes the team play from the midfield by freeing Kamanga and Mwakanyango to roam freely in the offensive zones. He can also switch the ball at will, and his wingers are always looking for his delivery into the penalty box.

With most of their goals coming from dead-ball situations, Nyangulu is another player to monitor very closely when he is on the pitch for the Nomads. In the current Wanderers squad, he is the only player who has scored more goals against Bullets, all emanating from crosses. He is good in the air and with his height, he needs to be stopped at all costs.

Their weaknesses 

Sanudi is very good in attack but struggles to track back whenever caught off-guard or out of possession. With our quick wingers, we can capitalize on this and pounce on them.

The defensive pair of Peter Cholopi and Lawrence Chaziya is good when dealing with aerial balls due to their stature but find it very difficult to deal with a team that creates goal-scoring chances through pressing and spaces.

During our last meeting, Bullets should have had more goals in the second half if Pasuwa’s frontmen had been clinical enough because our wingers could unlock Harrison’s defence and create several chances inside the area, only that finishing was a problem.

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