Home ground advantage played a vital role yesterday as Nyasa Big Bullets and Moyale Barracks marched into the Presidential Cup final after defeating travellers Mafco and Be Forward Wanderers respectively.
A missed 13th minute penalty proved to be the turning point at Kamuzu Stadium as Bullets immediately used the loss of concentration on the part of visiting soldiers to take a lead.
Mafco, who started strongly pinning hosts Bullets in their half, had a chance to take the lead when defender Miracle Gabeya handled in the box, but striker Richard Mbulu’s spot kick went straight into the palms of Ernest Kakhobwe.
From that counterattack, midfielder Henry Kabichi confidently rounded off Mafco goalkeeper Jailosi Kapalamula to turn Bullets’ moment of sadness into happiness within 60 seconds.
Three minutes later, a disorganised Mafco defence could only watch as impressive midfielder Mike Mkwate burst deep in midfield and unleashed a volley just outside the box.
Poorly positioned Kapamula’s fingertips managed to reach the ball but it was just too powerful to stop.
Down two goals at half-time, Mafco tried to come back into the game, but Bullets were just too good for the soldiers.
Marksman Mbulu was a shadow of himself as he was tamed by George Nyirenda.
On the other end, striker Aimable Niyikiza had a grand game as Bullets played a rare 3-5-1 formation with Mkwate playing just behind the Burundian.
No wonder Mkwate, partnering Henry Kabichi in central midfield, McFarlen Mgwira and Dave Ng’ambi on the flanks, proved a menace to the defending champions.
The pint-sized midfielder proved football brains are lethal than physical presence as he outwitted Mafco’s Chikondi Maloya, Paul Phiri and Stain Malata.
He completed a brace in the 81st minute when Mafco defender Paul Ndlovu failed to clear long cross from the right.
Lurking on the post, Mkwate hammered the last nail of the coffin to send Bullets into the final.
Mafco team manager Dave Gulaimfa blamed the penalty miss for the loss.
“In football this is what happens if you don’t utilise the chances you get. We missed a penalty that could have made a big difference and Bullets score a minute later,” he said.
His counterpart Rahim Ishmael thanked the players for showing character after losing to Karonga United in Super League last week.n