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Close calls in Top 8

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After the conclusion of Airtel Top 8 quarter-final first-legs matches on Monday, call logs read: four games played and four goals scored. Airtel’s verdict? No clear favourite going into the second-leg matches.

Holders Silver Strikers set the tone after seeing off Civil Sporting Club 1-0 through their new catch, Newman Mwamsamale, before Nyasa Big Bullets, Be Forward Wanderers and Blue Eagles followed the script to the letter by registering identical scorelines against Moyale Barracks, Kamuzu Barracks and Mafco, respectively.

Generally, there is a goal-shortage in the Airtel competition as, at this stage last year, Wanderers beat Tigers 2-0, whereas Kamuzu Barracks, Silver and Moyale saw off Eagles, Bullets and Mafco by 4-2, 1-0 and 2-0 margins.

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So, in football, what can you deduce from a 1-0 scoreline? A call on airtel line to National Football Coaches Association Chairperson, Stewart Mbolembole, yesterday explained it all.

“Such results show that the teams approached the games cautiously. The home teams must have been thinking that ‘if we do not score at least we should not concede’. The visiting teams were probably thinking about not conceding more goals.

“This was a battle of tactics as coaches are thinking about the second-legs. It shows tactical discipline as the home teams had to concentrate for 90 minutes so as not to concede. The visiting teams also were thinking about limiting the scoreline to just 1-0,” Mbolembole said.

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Such results suggest that there is all to play for in the second-leg matches scheduled for this and next weekend when Moyale call Bullets to Mzuzu Stadium on Saturday then Wanderers entertain wounded Kamuzu Barracks at Balaka Stadium.

On May 26, Mafco beckon Eagles at Chitowe Ground and, the following day, Civil have an obligation to reverse the Lilongwe derby’s one-way traffic to Area 47 when welcoming the stingy Silver.

Moyale, having succumbed to super substitute Patrick Phiri’s sucker punch in the sweltering heat of Kalulu Stadium two weeks ago, have their guns blazing waiting for the red army.

Any draw will see Bullets through but that is not what the hosts’ commander Charles Kamanga is thinking about.

“We are unbeaten at home and we intend to make this a no-gone zone for visiting teams,” Kamanga said last week.

But how do Moyale gun down Bullets when the hosts’ snipers, Gastin Simkonda and Deus Nkutu, have fired off target in the last two games?

In contrast, Bullets netted six goals and conceded once over the weekend in the league, thanks to deadly Bright Munthali and his partner-in-scoring, Chiukepo Msowoya.

On Sunday, Wanderers must be red-alert as Kamuzu Barracks’ soldiers will be armed to the teeth.

The Nomads are struggling to locate the target, having scored once in the last three games in all competitions. Nomads Captain Alfred Manyozo, after Saturday’s 1-0 win over Kamuzu Barracks, suggested that they did not feel like playing away.

“We have many supporters in Lilongwe, so playing at Civo did not feel like (playing) away. We have been struggling but we are good players. It was just a question of luck,” Manyozo said.

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