Football is full of dramatic somersaults and comebacks. But Be Forward Wanderers and Masters face an impossible mission to overturn tables in their respective assignments in Lilongwe next week.
Turn back the hands of time and reminisce about Liverpool’s resurrection from 3-0 down to AC Milan in the first-half, force a draw and claim the 2005 Uefa Champions League title in Istanbul on the night that had drama unfolding all over the pitch.
Last season, Barcelona were written off when they returned from France with an excess baggage of 4-0 after a sound hammering by Paris Saint Germain, only for the unthinkable to happen in the return leg.
Deportival La Coruna vs AC Milan is another interesting part. The La Liga giants eventually won the game 6-1 to clinch a Champions League semi-final berth 6-5 on aggregate.
Back home, Wanderers and Masters, Malawi’s unusual representatives in Confederation of African Football (Caf) competitions, face similar mission impossible.
Beaten soundly and thoroughly 4-0 and 5-0 in Angola and the Democratic Republic of Congo over the weekend, Nomads and Masters host Atletico Petroleos de Launda and AS Vita Club on Tuesday and Wednesday, respectively, at Bingu National Stadium.
On paper, in as far as the two teams’ continental adventure is concerned, the journey ended.
Even Wanderers Coach, Yasin Osman, upon touch down from Kinshasa on Tuesday afternoon, admitted that their Champions League adventure might as well be over.
It now is a question of damage limitation, Osman admitted.
“Can we score five goals and overturn the deficit? If not, what else can we do? I think it is just a question of limiting the damage that was done and try to win 1-0 or 2-0,” Osman said.
In Luanda, Masters flattered to deceive by holding Petroloes for the opening 40 minutes before the inevitable happening.
Most disappointing was the fact that Wanderers could only keep Vita at bay for 17 minutes before crumbling.
Vita scored three vital goals in the first-half, and when the second- half resumed, it was just a stroll in the park for the hosts.
In the second-leg Wanderers should not only be bothered by whether they can score five unanswered goals but the awe-uninspiring thought of how to tighten the loose bolts and nuts to prevent the rampant Vita from scoring more goals.
Osman must be wondering how Peter Wadabwa and Esau Kanyenda, the only out-and-out strikers Wanderers registered for the continental competition, will find space in that water-tight defence.
To say that Nomads were outplayed in Kinshasa would be an understatement for the
TNM Super League champions were harassed and bullied into submission.
Wanderers’ goalkeeper Richard Chipuwa could pass the ball to either right-back Stanley Sanudi or Harry Nyirenda for these ball playing defenders to launch forward forays.
But Sanudi and Nyirenda were not allowed the luxury of linking up play with midfielders in Vita’s half, and, as a result they were forced to strike the ball around in circles in Nomads’ own half. Vita pressed all over pitch and every time a player for Wanderers received the ball and tried to turn, Vita used brutal force and power to drag Nomads players back into their own half.
Immense pressing meant that Nomads struggled to clear their lines and as a result they made unforced errors, which Vita pounced on.
The Kinshasa giants were simply fitter, well-drilled and solid compared to the slow Wanderers who lacked the physique and pace to get out of their own half.
Vita just needed three passes to get into Nomads’ 18-yard-box while the Malawi champions hardly had a sniff of the ball in Vita’s area.
The Congolese side played a more direct game and allowed Wanderers to make nonprogressive passes in their own half.
Wadabwa was isolated and could not escape his a guard of markers. Vita won all first balls, stretched Wanderers and stuck to their game-plan.
In the reverse fixture, Osman should expect Vita to deploy suffocating tactics, time-wasting to frustrate Wanderers and kill the tempo.
He needs to re-jig his tactics and deploy more numbers and add pace in attack while sorting out the defence.
Starting with Felix Zulu and Mike Kaziputa to provide width on the wings can do Wanderers good. More important, this being a lost cause, starting with two strikers would make more sense.
With the game almost sewn in the back, it is difficult to imagine Vita Coach, Jean-Florent Ikwange Ibenge, sending out his charges to play an open game.
“They [Wanderers] are not a cheap team. They are a top team. We had better pedigree than them. We just have to take them seriously and not underrate them, because they have some skilful players like that jersey 10 [Kamwendo] and the goalkeeper,”
For Masters, well they have never been a strong team in the TNM Super League and their flirtation with Confederation Cup was more about going into a battle that was already lost. Right from the three friendlies they played before going to Angola, they have always looked suspect in defence and upfront.
If they grind out a draw, it would be a good result for the Abasi Makawa side otherwise another loss looks inevitable for Masters.
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