If form were the only decisive factor in derbies, then today’s homeless local derby involving Nyasa Big Bullets and Be Forward Wanderers at Bingu National Stadium, Lilongwe, could have been a foregone conclusion that the red side of town will prevail and grab the bragging rights.
The Blantyre derby has not taken place in the commercial capital in the last two seasons due to the closure of Kamuzu Stadium, rendering this a derby without a home.
Nonetheless, Bullets have form in their favour having won all their last four consecutive matches, including the Charity Shield, while conceding just one goal.
It is all thanks to a very economic John Lanjesi-led defence and free-scoring Chiukepo Msowoya upfront.
It is clear that Bullets, who have not tampered with their ageing squad, have built on their last season’s form that saw their defence emerging the best after conceding the least goals (10) in 28 games as they finished on second place.
Add the fact that Bullets have not lost in the league to Wanderers in over 10 consecutive matches then the People’s Team has every reason to walk with a spring in their step.
Afterall, Bullets defeated Nomads 1-0 then drew 0-0 last season.
The current run of Bullets pales in comparison to two wins and two losses for Wanderers in the last back-to-back games, starting from the Charity Shield.
In those last four games, the Nomads have conceded four goals or one goal per game.
But such is the crazy nature of derbies they always fashion unimaginable twists to the tale, leaving fans, if not bewildered, then bemused and insane.
Derbies, Wanderers Coach Yasin Osman admitted, defy logic for, beyond the three points and silverware, pride is the overiding stimulant that triggers the adrenalin.
“Why is our game against Tigers or Bullets versus Tigers not a derby? I look at this as a mere meeting between rivals. It is just another fixture we have to fulfil.
“It is a game of tension and anything can happen in this sort of game. A player you never expected to score can score. In this game of tension, it can even end in a draw,” Osman said.
It is for this reason that Wanderers, step on the turf believing that everything is possible against their rivals.
Wanderers’ seasoned midfielder Joseph Kamwendo, admitted that this afternoon’s contest is more about restoring pride following years of Bullets’ dominance of league games.
“When we meet Bullets we always play for pride. But our recent results against Bullets in league matches have not been that good. We have intensified our preparations, knowing that we are going there as underdogs. However, we are determined to win this game,” Kamwendo said.
The performance of Wanderers, who emerged from the pre-season with doubts hanging over their shoulders, has been far from convincing.
But six points in two opening league games suggest that the Nomads still know how to grind out results.
Bullets veteran winger Fischer Kondowe has since challenged Wanderers to expect the People’s Team to dominate in this derby.
“When it comes to such games, motivation for players comes on its own. We cannot afford to lose such a kind of a game. I know what the Nomads are up to. They want to assign defenders [left-backs] Ted Sumani and Francis Mlimbika so as to minimise my runs but they are just wasting time because I have an answer for every plan they have,” Kondowe said during the week.
Bullets have started the season strongly but they are yet to meet other potential championship contenders, hence today’s game should give them a stern test of character.
In this game, Bullets might opt for experience with Ernest Kakhobwe, John Lanjesi, Pilirani Zonda and Yamikani Fodya manning the defence with Chimango Kayira, Henry Kabichi, Righteous Banda and Kondowe keeping the midfield pot boiling. Msowoya and Bright Munthali are assured starters upfront.
Wanderers might opt for Richard Chipuwa between the sticks, behind Lucky Malata, Stanley Sanudi and Denis Chembezi in defence. Kamwendo should dictate play from midfield while being assured of Yamikani Chester, Alfred Manyozo and Isaac Kaliyati’s support. Peter Wadabwa and Esau Kanyenda might start upfront.
A vibrant writer who gives a great insight on hot topics and issues