By Williams Gondwa:
The 2018 Carlsberg Cup party returns this weekend with two games to determine the finalists scheduled for Saturday afternoon and Sunday.
Holders Nyasa Big Bullets’ bid to retain the cup faces a litmus test when they face stubborn Masters Security Saturday at Civo Stadium while giant killers Hangover United take on free-scoring Be Forward Wanderers tomorrow at Kamuzu Stadium.
Until their quarterfinal victory over Red Lions, Bullets were deemed favourites to lift the trophy following their impressive start in the campaign when they baptised Mitundu 8-0 in the round of 32 and Kamuzu Barracks 6-0 in the round of 16.
But suddenly, Bullets seem to have lost steam after they struggled to knock out Red Lions 4-3 on post match penalties in a quarterfinal tie.
Masters Coach, Abbas Makawa, whose charges have been impressive in the competition, believes that his side can sail past Bullets to reach their first ever cup final.
“We have worked hard in all departments and I believe that my boys will make history by pushing Bullets aside to qualify for our first cup final. I know it will be tough to go past the Blantyre giants but they should expect fireworks,” Makawa said.
Masters kicked off their drinking spree with a 3-1 beating of lower division side Cobbe Barracks before booting fellow Super League campaigners Mzuni 8-7 on post-match penalties.
The Lilongwe-based side went on to edge Mafco 4-3 on post match penalties in the quarterfinals to set up a date against Bullets.
Masters will be without defender Maneno Nyoni and midfielder Tilekeleni Joseph who are on loan from Bullets and cannot face their parent club.
But the hosts have enough firepower in Nigerian striker Babatunde Adeboye, Juma Yatina and captain Francis Mkonda to upset Bullets.
James Chilapondwa, Team Manager for Bullets, said they cannot not underrate Masters.
“I want to assure our fans that technically, we have rectified the problems we noticed in the last two games in which we struggled. But morale is high in our camp. We want to defend this cup and we must beat Masters and make it to the final,” Chilapondwa said.
Captain defender John Lanjesi is not available for the People’s Team this afternoon after accumulating yellow cards and Sankhani Mkandawire or Bashir Maunde are the likely candidates to replace him.
McFarlen Mgwira will operate from the right wing to feed the trio of Chiukepo Msowoya, Bright Munthali and Patrick Phiri upfront.
The last time the two sides met was in the first round of the TNM Super League when Bullets won 2-0 at Mulanje Park.
Carlsberg beer is also expected to flow at Kamuzu Stadium Sunday as Wanderers and Hangover play in the last semifinal.
The Nomads beat Karonga United 2-0 in the round of 16 courtesy of Bongani Kaipa and Mike Kaziputa’s goals.
In the quarter finals, Wanderers whacked Dwangwa United 4-1 with goals from Zicco Mkanda, Peter Wadabwa and Precious Sambani’s brace. Ganizani James scored Dwangwa’s consolation.
Hangover shocked Super League side Moyale in the round of 16 when they won 4-2 through post-match penalties.
They went on to beat Blue Eagles 1-0 to qualify for the last four.
Wanderers Team Manager Steve Madeira said they will treat the lower division side with care.
“It is always tough to meet a team like Hangover because we do not know how they play. However, we are a big team and our supporters expect us to go through. We are not underrating our opponents as they can surprise us like they did with Moyale and Blue Eagles,” Madeira said.
Hangover Coach Alfred Chikwanje said his team has been training at Kamuzu Stadium and is ready for the Nomads.
“Wanderers are a big team and we know what to expect from them. Training at Kamuzu Stadium has also helped our players to get used to playing on the artificial turf. So we are set for the match,” Chikwanje said.
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