Bullets return to TNM Super League action away in Dwangwa when we face Mafco at Chitowe on Wednesday.
The midweek fixture is our opening match of the final half of the 2023 Super League campaign.
Kalisto Pasuwa’s charges will be in the hunt for all three points as they look to return to the summit of the table after they were dislodged by Silver Strikers following their 2-1 victory over Blue Eagles on Sunday.
On Wednesday, Bullets, currently third in the standings from 15 matches, two points behind Silver and second-placed Chitipa United who have played 16 games, will be facing a side that handed us our only defeat in the league last season away at Dedza Stadium.
Despite a 4-0 defeat of Mafco at Kamuzu Stadium in the first round, Pasuwa expects another tough assignment away for defending champions, who haven’t had an easy first round this campaign as compared to last season when we collected 41 points from the first 15 games. We finished the opening half of this term with 30 points.
Let’s look at how our opponents have fared in the current campaign…
The Salima-based military side had a bad start to their 2023 campaign despite starting with a 2-1 win over Chitipa United in their opening match of the league through first-half strikes from Walusungu Mpata and Bernard Chimaimba
For the next five weeks after defeating Chitipa, Mafco only collected two points from the possible 15 as they lost 4-0 to Bullets in the second week before being beaten 3-2 at home by Karonga United.
Their two consolation goals against Karonga were scored by the former Bullets Reserves product Auspicious Kadzongola and Zikani Sichinga, the one who scored the only goal when we lost to them at Dedza Stadium in the 2022 season.
In the third week, they travelled to Lilongwe to face Civil Service United at Civo Stadium. The soldiers earned a point courtesy of a second-half equalizer from their captain, Paul Ndhlovu, to end the match at 1-1.
Mafco kept on sailing through troubled waters when they lost 1-0 away to Ekwendeni Hammers, and this result saw them drop into the bottom three of the standings.
They then travelled to Mpira Stadium to play Mighty Tigers in the fifth week, where they saw their first-half lead through Gift Soko’s strike being cancelled by Trouble Kajani’s second-half equalizer to collect a point.
Their second win of the season came in the sixth week when they defeated Extreme FC 2-1 at Chitowe through goals from Yohane Malunga and Chimaimba.
But the results were still not convincing for the soldiers who were still stuck in the drop zone.
To avoid further damage, heads rolled as their management made changes to their technical team, bringing on board Prichard Mwansa for Stereo Gondwe.
Mwansa’s first game in charge saw his side pouncing on fellow soldiers, Moyale Barracks, with a hard-fought 1-0 victory through a Dan Chimbalanga strike.
But they couldn’t sustain their winning streak as they registered three back-to-back losses to Silver Strikers, Blue Eagles and Dedza Dynamos.
They lost 1-0 to Silver and Eagles with the same margin before a 2-1 loss to Dedza. Their consolation goal was scored by Martin Masoatheka.
Mafco bounced back when they travelled to Lilongwe to face their military brothers, Kamuzu Barracks at Civo and goals from Kadzongola and Mphatso Phillimon inspired Mwansa to his second win after taking over from Gondwe.
For the first time this season, Mafco registered two back-to-back victories when they defeated Red Lions 2-0 in their next fixture at home.
Kadzongola and Peter Kasonga were on target for the Salima-based soldiers who then lost 2-0 to Wanderers in week 14, before being beaten 2-1 away to Bangwe All Stars to finish the first round with a loss.
Mafco’s results against Bullets at Chitowe
Since 2010, Bullets have only lost once at Chitowe Stadium. This defeat came in 2013 when they lost 2-0, but The People’s Team has had five victories over their opposition in their backyard.
Bullets have had victories over Mafco FC at Chitowe in 2010, 2012, 2015, 2017 and 2018 seasons.
Mafco’s overall form at Chitowe Stadium this season
They have four wins and three losses at home, collecting 12 points from the possible 21.
Their highest scorer in the current season is Kadzongola, who has netted three goals, seconded by Chimaimba, another former Bullets player, and Phillimon, with two goals each.
Our Wednesday opponents finished the first round on position 11 with 19 points, scoring 15 goals and conceding 21.
Their style of play
Whenever we face them, Mafco plays a very passing game, building from the back and capitalizing on set pieces. They have deadly strikers in the air with aerial advantage due to their stature.
They also have Sichinga, who has pace, can take on defenders in a one-on-one situation, and can shoot from any angle if left unattended.
Their weak points
Their defence always struggles against pacey wingers. If pressed, they commit unnecessary errors, which would normally result in fatal outcomes. They are very physical, but with pacey wingers, they become vulnerable in the defensive zone.