The Airtel Top 8 showpiece semi-finals lived to their billing with the first hat-trick, dreaded penalty shoot-out and the two remaining Malawi Defence Force (MDF) teams being kicked out.
After 40 minutes of the first semi-final match between Be Forward Wanderers and Moyale Barracks, defeat stared the Lali Lubani Road outfit in the face as they trailed 0-2 and it took striker Khumbo N’gambi’s clinical goal-scoring instincts to revive their campaign with a hat-trick.
Ng’ambi had been reduced to a sideshow since the season started and there could have been no better platform to win coach Yasin ‘Titch’ Osman’s heart than scoring a hat-trick.
“To me, it was about proving that I deserve to be in the team and when the opportunity came, I had to grab it with both hands. Over and above that, it was about the team.
“We needed to win that match to keep up with our proud tradition of winning inaugural tournaments,” said Ng’ambi in an interview on Sunday.
Victory appeared to be within touching distance for the Kanin’gina Lions through two first half goals from Boy-Boy Chima and Dan Katunga, but such is the beauty of football that the mood can swing so quickly.
And as Osman looked bemused and a little out of place, Ng’ambi provided some solace for him with a cracker just before half time to reduce the arrears.
And the Nomads were on song in the second half as Moyale danced to Ng’ambi’s tune. It was the first game in the tournament for a team to come from behind and win a match.
The hat-trick has seen Ng’ambi topping the scorers chart with three goals, on course to winning the Golden Boot award which has a K500 000 prize.
In the other semi-final, Silver forward Mathews Sibale took it upon himself to set the tempo when he swung upfield from the blind side, his imposing frame defying gravity, his gaze fixed at the ball as it spun towards him at pace and then there was that snap header into the net.
But just when it appeared like the Bankers had it over and done with, there was that sudden handball foul by defender Chisomo Mpachika in the goal area, and the referee had no choice but to award KB a penalty. Up stepped Dan Ziba who did the rest to perfection—it was game on.
In the end, it had to be decided through the dreaded penalty shoot-out and when the diminutive Silver winger Thuso Paipi converted the decisive kick, the race had been reduced to two.