- Nomads, BB meet in Carlsberg finals for the fourth time
Blantyre derbies come and go but this one will be remembered in years to come.
For many decades Lilongwe was forced to play second fiddle to Blantyre which hosted the country’s most famous fixture.
But the crumbling of Kamuzu Stadium and opening of the Bingu National Stadium has collapsed Blantyre’s dominance forcing its most sought after fixture to shift to the capital city.
This afternoon Lilongwe hosts yet another Blantyre derby which is special because it is coming at a time both Be Forward Wanderers and Nyasa Bug Bullets are enjoying sublime form.
Unlike in the past when it would often be a one-sided affair, this time the derby is unpredictable.
But there is something even more special in this afternoon’s derby—it is a Carlsberg Cup final.
Not only is pride and pleasure or bragging rights at stake—a cool K12 million awaits the winner.
The last time the two sides met was a month ago when Bullets triumphed in a league encounter at the same venue.
The win meant Bullets have maintained the league’s unbeaten record against their city rivals since 2012.
This afternoon, Wanderers will be out to revenge the loss and at the same time defend the cup they have kept since 2015.
There are plenty of talking points on the battle on the field of play.
Though the Nomads will be without tantalising midfielder Yamikani Chester (injured), captain Francis Mulimbika (injured) and midfield work horse Alfred Manyozo Jnr (suspended), coach Yasin Osman has several options.
The Nomads’ game plan will revolve around Joseph Kamwendo, who on a good day performs wonders for Wanderers.
His leadership and experience will be crucial in buoying up the back four of Bongani Kaipa, Lucky Malata, Stanley Sanudi and Foster Namwela.
He will have to orchestrate the attack from the central midfield with the help of Rafiq Namwela, Felix Zulu and Jaffalie Chande so as to create openings for strikers Peter Wadabwa and Esau Kanyenda.
Bullets coach Eliah Kananji has a largely fit squad and could welcome his captain John Lanjesi from injury.
The captain’s command and his lieutenant Emmanuel Zoya, Miracle Gabeya and Yamikani Fodya and Emmanuel Zoya, gives Bullets confidence.
When Zoya and Zonda surge upfront to support midfielders Fischer Kondowe, Chimango Kayira, Mike Mkwate and sniper Nelson Kangunje, with strikers Chiukepo Msowoya and Muhammad Sulumba lurking in the box, it takes a formidable defence to prevent a goal.
But then most of the time such cup finals force coaches to play it safe and it will not be a surprise if the match ends in post-match penalties.
If that is the case, two brilliant goalkeepers—Richard Chipuwa for Wanderers and Ernest Kakhobwe for Bullets—will be called to duty.
They both have proved stable when it comes to penalties.
In fact, Wanderers only won one match in open play (against Mafco in round of 16 ) on their way to the final while the other three (Moyale Barracks in semi-final, Blue Eagles in quarter-finals and Fish Eagles in round of 32) were won from post-match penalties where Chipuwa proved the difference.
Bullets also had to rely on penalties against Kamuzu Barracks in the round of 16 in which Kakhobwe proved his worth.
However, they won in open play the other matches against Civil Sporting Club (round of 32), Cobbe Barracks (quarter-final) and Red Lions (semi-finals).
But whether the match ends in post-match penalties or open play, fans will be drunk with Carlsberg Cup final action.
What the coaches say:
Yasin Osman: “It’s going to be a tough one. It can go either way.”
Elia Kananji: “Cup games are always tricky. Only God knows what He has prepared for us.”