Big Bullets have once again failed in their attempt to win their first ever Standard Bank Knock-Out Cup title after going down 2-1 to Civo United at Kamuzu Stadium on Thursday.
Bullets have only reached the Standard Bank Cup final once where they lost to Moyale Barracks on post-match penalties in the 2008 edition.
This is Civo’s third final after losing to Tigers in 2009 and to Moyale in 2010.
Yesterday’s loss was Bullets’ first at home in over two seasons.
Civo, who produced an energetic performance throughout the 90 minutes, had to come from behind to shock thousands of Bullets supporters that once again swarmed the stadium in anticipation for victory to break their curse in the competition.
From the moment referee Dennis Nguluwe blew the first whistle, Civo were on top of their game, closing down Bullets playmakers Jafali Chande, Dalitso Sailesi and Jelesi Lufeyo.
Blessings Kawanga was given the core responsibility of keeping Bullets top striker Chiukepo Msowoya quiet and he followed his every movement.
Innocent Msimuko did the dirty work in midfield whereas Nelson Kangunje, Gerald Nkungula and Raphael Phiri tried to punish Bullets on a break with their shrewd tricks and nippy speed.
Bullets’ central defensive pair of Miracle Gabeya and Chikondi Likwemba was tested earlier on when Zoya headed over in the ninth minute, before Bullets goalkeeper Chimwemwe Kumkwawa tamed another dangerous ball from the left side of Civo’s attack where Isaac Msiska proved to be a menace to Pilirani Zonda.
Bullets took the lead against the run of play in the 17th minute when Msowoya escaped his marker Kawanga to instinctively head in Yamikani Fodya’s corner-kick from the left.
There was a bizarre incident immediately after the goal when Sailesi had to whisk away a crow which had ‘trespassed’ onto the pitch.
Bullets supporters applauded Sailesi’s action and they almost doubled the celebrations in the 25th minute when Sailesi, who had shifted to the right flank, beat three defenders, but his shot hit the side-netting.
Civo kept fighting and they kept the scores at 1-0 when the teams went for recess. Before the break, Civo brought in Thoko Harrison for Charles Chirembo and at half time, Bullets also introduced Eneya Banda for Henry Kabichi.
Civo’s revival started in the 48th minute when Raphael Phiri was given room and freedom inside the Bullets penalty area to rise and head in Zoya’s free-kick from the left into the top left corner, leaving the dazed Kumkwawa crawling helplessly.
Bullets responded by pulling out the ineffective MacFarlen Ngwira for Fischer Kondowe, but Civo maintained their rhythm.
Phiri completed his brace in the 63rd minute when he broke through the Bullets defence on the left before flicking the ball past Kumkwawa who was charging in after his barricade was shattered.
Bullets changed their formation to 3-5-2 by pulling out defender Gabeya for Diverson Mlozi in the 68th minute.
The move almost paid dividends but Chande’s shot from close range was blocked by Civo goalkeeper Duncan Mkandawire.
Civo’s confidence grew as the game wore on and Nkungula had the luxury to display a couple of step-overs in the Bullets box, but Fodya cleared the resulting effort off the line 16 minutes from time.
Bullets’ hopes of a comeback were shattered in the 86th minute when Mkandawire kept out Wyson Nkana’s deflected clearance.
Bullets technical director Billy Tewesa said his players were not at their best.
“Civo were better than us in all departments. We had several setbacks which disturbed our focus,” he said.
Civo United coach Oscar Kaunda had praise for his players.
“The guys really worked hard and I look forward to the final,” he said
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