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Match preview: Bullets vs Ekwendeni

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Having concluded the TNM Super League championship race, knockout football is what is remaining for Kalisto Pasuwa’s charges, who host Ekwendeni Hammers in the Castel Challenge Cup quarter-final at Kamuzu Stadium on Wednesday afternoon.

The People’s Team has already retained the FDH Bank Cup and the league, and will be looking to add another piece of silverware in a season which the head coach has described as the ‘toughest’.

Bullets and Hammers, who played to a 1-1 stalemate in the league at Rumphi Stadium a month ago, will battle for a place in the semi-finals of the Castel Challenge Cup. The winner will face Mighty Mukuru Wanderers who defeated Moyale Barracks 3-0 on Sunday.

Form Guide 

Having hammered Civil Service United 3-0 to advance to the last eight, more of the same will be required as the Malawi champions seek to extend their cup run by another round.

Before smashing the Servants, Bullets recorded a hard-earned 3-2 victory over Blue Eagles in the Airtel Top 8 semifinal match at Bingu National Stadium, before proceeding to Karonga where they recorded an important 1-0 victory over Karonga United in the league.

The final league assignment was a home clash against Silver Strikers in Blantyre where the spoils were shared and saw Bullets retaining the championship for a fifth consecutive season.

Pasuwa’s men started the Castel Challenge Cup campaign with a 2-0 home victory over a district side, Lipulumundu FC from Mangochi.

The next assignment was a clash against another non-league side, Soche Socials, in the round of 32 at Kamuzu Stadium where we had to sweat for a 4-2 victory against a side that fought hard throughout the match despite having no experience playing against elite teams.

In the round of 16, Maule hammered Civil 3-0 to set up a quarterfinal showdown against Wednesday’s opponents.

Under Elias Chirambo, Hammers eliminated Kadona Stars with a 2-0 victory in the round of 64.

They went on to defeat Raiply FC 4-1 in the last 32 to advance to the next round where they travelled to Dedza Dynamos and won 6-5 on post-match penalties following a 1-1 stalemate in regulation time.

Their last match in the league saw them beat Dedza 2-1 to survive relegation on the final day of the campaign.

Head-to-Head 

Wednesday’s tie is our second straight home match in the competition, but the fourth home game against Ekwendeni, who are yet to register a win against Pasuwa’s men at Kamuzu Stadium.

Since their promotion to the TNM Super League from the Simso Northern Region Football League at the end of the 2019 season, we have met Ekwendeni six times and Bullets have recorded five wins with one game ending in a stalemate.

This will be the first cup meeting between the two teams.

The last visit to Kamuzu Stadium for Chirambo’s side was in June, in which they got a 4-1 beating at the hands of the merciless Bullets, who have made their home a fortress for visiting teams.

Team News

Patrick Mwaungulu and Clever Mkungula, who were nursing injuries, have recovered and are available for selection for Wednesday’s match.

Mwaungulu missed Saturday’s 3-0 victory over Civil due to a knock he picked during our league encounter against Silver Strikers while Mkungula has been on the sidelines for several weeks due to a knee problem.

Kesten Simbi, Rabson Chiyenda and Alick Lungu continue rehabilitation pending their return to full fitness.

What Pasuwa said ahead of the tie

“These are cup games with different approaches. You saw how we struggled to beat Lipulumundu, who gave us a tough run. It’s a game that is supposed to end within 90 minutes and that’s a game where a team can play badly, but what matters is the result that will count by the end of it.

I think we have been conceding silly goals at times because of complacency amongst the players. We fight to get a goal but we end up giving it so easily to our opponents, something that needs to be looked into.

We are not underrating Ekwendeni Hammers. It’s a good team, and when we played them at Rumphi, they gave us a torrid time. They fared well. They have young boys who are good at passing the ball around, and also, when they lose possession, they win it back very quickly. We need to do more for us to unlock them and get the goals so that we can go to the next round.

We are not favourites against them just because we have been winning. This is a different game altogether. We are in a race, on our marks, and everyone is ready to go the moment the whistle is blown and any side that picks up very fast, will win the race.”

How to follow the game

Wednesday’s Castel Challenge Cup quarter-final tie against Ekwendeni Hammers will kick off at 14h30 and action will be live on Mpira TV. Alternatively, you can catch all the match updates on our Facebook and Twitter channels.

Match officials

Referee: Eness Gumbo

Assistant Referee 1: Evans Msonda

Assistant Referee 2: Innocent Jaha

Fourth Official: Kesten Mnenula

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