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Opponents Watch: MAFCO vs Bullets | Airtel Top 8 Final

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FCB Nyasa Big Bullets will wrap up the extended 2023 season against Mafco in the Airtel Top 8 final at Kamuzu Stadium on Saturday.

This is our second meeting against the Salima-based military side in a cup final this campaign, having defeated Prichard Mwansa’s men 3-0 in the FDH Bank Cup final in October.

Kalisto Pasuwa’s ran riot over their opposition the last time they met at the Bingu National Stadium, but Saturday’s match should be different as Mafco are expected to come up with a better plan to stop the treble winners.

Ahead of the match, we look at how our opponents have fared in the 2023 Airtel Top 8 campaign and the previous editions.

Road to the final

They started their journey in a two-legged affair against fellow military side, Kamuzu Barracks.

In their first meeting at Dedza Stadium, Mwansa’s charges were looking for the win ahead of the return leg, but KB held their nerves to draw 0-0.

The second leg was played at Civo Stadium and the visitors scored early through Dan Chimbalanga, but KB levelled the scoreline and the match ended 1-1. Mafco progressed to the last four on an away goal rule.

However, they had to wait a little bit longer to find out their next opposition in the semis as Mighty Mukuru Wanderers, who lost their first-leg match 2-0 to Silver Strikers through a boardroom decision by the Football Association of Malawi for abandoning the game, had made two fresh appeals against the verdict.

Mafco then faced Silver Strikers at the Bingu National Stadium where Patrick Macheso gave the home side a first-half lead before Prince Phiri’s equalizer late in the second half took the match into penalties.

The military side triumphed in the shootout by beating the Area 47 side 3-1 to set up a showdown against The People’s Team in the final.

Mafco’s previous performances in the Airtel Top 8

This is their first appearance in this competition’s finals since its inspection in 2017.

In 2021, they were eliminated by Bullets in the semis, losing the first leg 3-1 before going down 2-1 in the second leg.

In the 2022 season, they were knocked out of the competition by Wanderers, losing 4-0 on aggregate in the two-legged quarter-final tie.

Other cup meetings against Bullets

In cup meetings, this will be the sixth encounter between the two teams in the last 14 years.

Bullets and Mafco first met in 2011 in the Standard Bank Cup quarter-final tie and The People’s Team lost 3-1 on penalties following a 1-1 result in regulation time.

We met again in 2015 in the Carlsberg Cup semi-final clash at Civo Stadium.

Maurice Chiumia scored in the first half before Jafali Chande’s second-half equalizer to take the game to penalties.

Vincent Gona stopped Martin Masoatheka’s spot kick, handing Dalitso Sailesi the responsibility of condemning Mafco. The winger made no mistake as he sent Bullets fans into wild celebrations.

Our next meeting was in 2016 in the same competition at the same venue.

Initially, the quarterfinal match was supposed to be played at Chitowe in Dwangwa, but the Football Association of Malawi moved the fixture to Lilongwe after an alleged attack on Bullets players by some Mafco.

Saidi Mtekama scored the only goal to knock Bullets out of the cup through a very powerful header originated from a throw-in that was flicked to the goal scorer by Bernard Harawa.

In 2021, Bullets and Mafco met again for a place in the semi-finals of the Airtel Top 8.

The first leg ended 3-1 in favour of Bullets through a Babatunde Adepoju brace and a lone strike from Hassan Kajoke at Kamuzu Stadium.

In the return leg at Chitowe, Paul Phiri gave Mafco a first-half lead to reduce the arrears, but with less than ten minutes left to play, Adepoju scored twice to inspire Bullets to a hard-fought 2-1 win, advancing to the semis with a 5-2 aggregate win.

Recently, we met in the final of the FDH Bank Cup at Bingu National Stadium in October when Pasuwa’s men thrashed the Salima soldiers 3-0 through Lanjesi Nkhoma’s first-half brace and Ephraim Kondowe’s strike in the final period.

Mafco’s performance in Cup finals

The last cup final for the soldiers was in 2013 at Civo Stadium against Silver in the Presidential Cup. The game had ended 0-0 in regulation time and they clinched the trophy following a 10-9 penalty shootout victory over the Central Bankers.

But before this win, they were the first team to lose to Wanderers 1-0 in the first final of the Malawi Government-sponsored competition.

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