By Isaac Salima:
Determined Ndirande Stars were on Monday crowned champions of the K2.5 million Manchester Motor Mechanical Centre Under 20 Cup after beating Nyasa Big Bullets Youth 4-3 at Kamuzu Stadium.
The match had to be decided through post-match penalties after it ended 1-1 in regulation time.
Exciting Kondwani Kucheza put Ndirande in the lead two minutes into the game before substitute Matamando Matchipisa equalised for the young People’s Team in the 67th minute.
Despite being a week day, football fans thronged the stadium and went back home smiling after the young stars displayed scintillating football throughout.
Watched by Malawi national football team under 20 and under 17 coaches Patrick Mabedi and Deklerk Msakakuona, respectively, the boys did not disappoint as they kept spectators on the edge of their seats through excellent ball work and a mesmerising passing game.
Ndirande goalie Hamid Msopa was hero of the day when he saved Happy Mphepo and Kumbukani Manto’s spot-kicks to break the hearts of Bullets fans, who came in large numbers to offer support to the team.
For being champions, Ndirande pocketed K500,000 while Bullets went home with K200,000.
In a third-place battle, Griffin Young Stars beat Blantyre United through penalties to receive K100,000 while the fourth placed team carted home K50,000.
Ndirande Coach Simeon Kapuza hailed his team for a spirited performance.
“My players put up a great performance. We were first on the ball and utilised the chance we got in the first half, only that we allowed them to come back into the game but, all in all, we finished them off in the penalty shootout,” Kapuza said.
Bullets Coach Autry Kalulu said his players did not put their chances to good use.
“We played well in both halves but we were not clinical enough in front of goal. Their early goal disturbed our game plan but there are many positives drawn from this game,” Kalulu said.
Blantyre United’s Gift Namowa was voted player of the tournament and went away with K50,000. Namowa, Kondwani Mchiza from Ndirande Stars and Lovemore Lawrence of Bangwe Madrid shared the golden boot accolade after each scored four goals in the competition.
The tournament, which has been played for six weeks, involved 16 teams.