Mighty Wanderers face Zimbabwe’s Caps United in the finals of the Zambezi Soccer Challenge this afternoon at Kamuzu Stadium following their 4-1 lottery penalty shoot-out win over their age-old rivals Big Bullets.
Both the final qualifying matches were decided through penalties as Caps saw off Silver Strikers 4-3 after they were tied to a 1-1 draw in regulation time earlier on. The winner of the final showdown will cart home the ultimate K3 million prize and a trophy.
For all the pre-match hype generated by this game, the Blantyre derby failed to stir the passions and was a huge yawn, and fittingly, it had to be decided by the dreaded penalty shoot-out.
Save for a vintage display by both goalkeepers—Richard Chipuwa for Nomads and Bullets’ Vincent Gona—the derby was barely recognisable as the biggest game on the domestic scene. Apart from the two, there was also a display of individual brilliance by Timothy Chitedze for Nomads and BB’s new catch Tizgowere Kumwenda.
The game staggered, without any life or colour and it was an insult to the thousands who gathered to witness what was supposed to be a showcase event.
The toast of the afternoon was Chipuwa who saved Bullets’ first two penalties by battle-hardened midfielders Fischer Kondowe and James Chilapondwa while Douglas Chirambo was the only one who converted a spot-kick for The People’s Team.
Abraham Kamwendo, Mayeso Mphanje and Jacob Ngwira converted the Nomads’ penalties with remarkable ease—sending Bullets’ goalminder Owen Chaima the wrong direction on all ocassions and then, on stepped Chitedze to provide the final flourish to send the Nomads’ faithful into delirium.
Apparently, Chaima was thrown into service with seconds before the final whitsle, specicifically for the penalty shoot-out and he got a standing ovation as he stepped on the pitch, but he could not just live to expectations.
Wanderers technical committee head David Kanyenda conceded that it was a dull affair not expected of a derby.
“Our preparations weren’t that good. The game itself failed to live to its billing probably because both teams are coming from off-season break, but the most important thing is that we have won the game and now we have to switch focus to the final match tomorrow,” he said.
In the match between Silver and Caps, the visitors were in all fairness, the better side with their fluent passing game and could have wrapped it up had they been sharp in front of goal in regulation time.
In the penalty shoot-out, the two teams were tied 3-3 going to the last kicks but while Leonard Fiyado converted for Caps, industrious Young Chimodzi Jnr missed his.
Blessings Tembo also failed to convert a penalty while Banda, Green Harawa and Ndaziona Chatsalira were on target. Tendai Samanja, Hardlife Zvirekwa and Ronard Fumbazai scored for Caps, but Phiri Jnr missed.
The turnout, that included Football Association of Malawi (FAM) president Walter Nyamilandu, was huge and colourful, but it was on the pitch where the architects were a huge disappointment.