They came, they played and they conquered. Wearing an underdog tag did not bother Civo United on Thursday as they staged a fierce comeback to snatch a memorable 2-1 victory over puffed-up Big Bullets at Kamuzu Stadium, and storm into the Standard Bank Knockout Cup final.
Little-known Raphael Phiri, who is on loan from Karonga United, will be remembered after he masterminded Bullets’ downfall as he bagged a brace to render Chiukepo Msowoya’s first-half strike impotent.
Chiukepo glanced in an in-swing from Dalitso Sailesi and Jeresi Lufeyo short corner kick in 18th minute for the first-half to end 1-0 in favour of the hosts. But Civo vigilantly executed a comeback sealing off their area with stout central defenders Emmanuel Zoya and John Lanjesi, fullbacks Wyson Nkana and Blessing Kawanga while sending forward their lethal midfielders Gerald Nkungula, Dan Msimuko, Isaac Msiska and two-goal hero Phiri.
This paid instantly as Phiri took advantage of sloppy defending from off-form defender Pilirani Zonda and blunder-prone Miracle Gabeya to rise and head in a Zoya set piece just three minutes into second half silencing a sea of red that witnessed the match.
Phiri came back to haunt Bullets defence this time outpacing rigid Gabeya and Chikondi Likwemba before beautifully looping the ball over hapless Chimwemwe Kumkwawa.
It was all over for Bullets and they just hanged in there to keep the scores at a respectable margin.
“In a game of football, there are days when you perform and there are days when you don’t. Today wasn’t our day. They have beaten us clean,” technical director Billy Tewesa accepted defeat after the match.
Civo coach Oscar Kaunda said they managed to sucker-punch Bullets because they were at their best.
“We saw the way they were playing and discussed a strategy at half-time in the dressing room and the players did what I told them. We look forward to the final,” Kaunda said.
Civo now wait for the winner of the second semi-final between Blue Eagles and Mighty Wanderers. n