Some matches are won briefly, others through sweat, blood and sacrifice. This afternoon’s Carlsberg Cup semi-final between Nyasa Big Bullets and Red Lions has all the ingredients of a match capable of shaking the very foundation of the newly-built Bingu National Stadium in Lilongwe.
When the two sides clashed in a Super League fixture at Chilomoni Stadium in Blantyre two weeks ago, spectators sampled what to expect this afternoon—a match that can go either way.
Though Bullets came out victorious, courtesy of a Nelson Kangunje second-half strike, Red Lions were actually the better side on that day.
Bullets struggled to hold on to the ball as the soldiers, led by captain Chikoti Chirwa, outplayed the home side.
This afternoon, Bingu National Stadium is nobody’s land—no one can claim to be at home.
Lions coach Mike Kumange now has to prove to the Lions diehards that, indeed, they only lost to Bullets because of the hostile conditions at Chilomoni Stadium.
He is expected to deploy Kumbukani Mwambene, Benesi Kaisi, Innocent Bokosi, Peter Makwale and Loti Chawinga.
“It has been a long time since we won a cup. This is our time,” he said.
But Bullets coach Eliah Kananji, while conceding that they struggled to contain the soldiers in the last encounter, pointed out that cup games are exceptional.
“As I said before, all our games are like cup finals. But we have adapted to this pressure,” said Kananji.
In the last match, Kananji opted to start with ball-winners, not ball-players.
He left playmaker Mike Mkwate on the bench and opted for Kangunje, Chimango Kayira and Kondwani Kumwenda to do the donkey work in anticipation of a physical game.
It is yet to be seen if this afternoon he will go for the same strategy.
However, whichever strategy Kananji will use, upfront he is expected to deploy Chiukepo Msowoya, Bright Munthali and Mussa Manyenje in a three-pronged attack.
At the back, the coach welcomes back captain John Lanjesi who will partner Emmanuel Zoya, Pilirani Zonda and Miracle Gabeya .