Nyasa Times veteran Sports Correspondent Alex Mwazalumo gives a comprehensive account on how the Nomads grabbed their second trophy of the season and where the General Griffin Supuni-Phiri troops lost the plot including the match hype.
Prior to this historic cup final, there was tough talk from both camps with Wanderers mocking the soldiers of playing a boring type of game of long high balls. KB, on the other hand accused Wanderers of trying to use clandestine means to win the cup by looking for the identity of the referee assigned to officiate the final.
With the two teams trading bulbs during the count-down to the D-Day, the FISD Group, sponsors of the cup stepped up the hype on the eve of the final by holding a trophy parade within Lilongwe City. A military helicopter branded in FISD colours also went round the capital city and beyond the city’s borders, landing with the trophy in designated locations such as Lumbadzi, Area 25, Namitondo and Kamuzu Institute of Sports, where scores of people converged to catch a glimpse of the chopper and the trophy.
The branded chopper also went as far as Chimbiya, Nathenje, Mvera and Malingunde, where it flew at low at low attitude, attracting attention of residents from these areas.
The military helicopter brought the trophy to the stadium on the day of the final and cheer ladies dressed in blue skirts and while jerseys delivered the cup to Fam president Walter Nyamilandu, who handed it over to State Vice President Saulos Chilima.
The final action started at exactly 2.30pm with Mzuzu based referee Misheck Juba taking charge of the match assisted by Innocent Kaundula and Clemence Kanduku. Nyerere, as Wanderers is fondly called by its fans swarmed over the soldiers after the first whistle but it did not take long for the militia men from army headquarters to settle down. By and large, the soldiers chased the Nomads into their own half, exposing all the weak links in the Nomads’ works, including the left back manned by Kondwani Lufeyo, who stood up for injured captain Francis Mlimbika.
Peter Wadabwa was the lone fighter upfront for the visitors whose midfield comprising Joseph Kamwendo, Isaac Kaliati, Alfred Junior Manyozo and Mike Kaziputa struggled to contain the Harvey Nkacha led KB midfield.
Pundits as well as Wanderers fans wondered why the Nomads technical panel of Yasin Osman, Bob Mpinganjira and technical director Jack Chamangwana started with spent forces Jimmy Zakazaka and Mike Kaziputa, leaving out star players Jabulani Linje, Rafiq Namwera, Felix Zulu and Nigerian Amos Bello on the bench.
In the heat of the battle, Wanderers got a chance to disarm the marauding soldiers, when Wadabwa eluded two central defenders on the centre of the pitch and raced towards goal only to have his effort blocked by alert KB goalkeeper Lemani Nthala in a one-on-one situation.
Came the second half, Kamuzu Barracks picked up from where they had left in the first half but Wanderers’ veteran goalkeeper Valence Kamzere was in superb form to thwart attempts from free scoring strikers Kelvin Hanganda and Manase Chiesa.
Sensing danger, the Nomads’ technical panel made a double substitution, bringing in super substitute Bellow and holding midfielder Zulu for Jimmy Zakazaka and Isaac Kaliati. The coming in of the two players brought a new lease of life in the Nomads’ camp with the Nigerian striker drawing all the attention to himself with his dangerous runs and pin-point passes, which caused panic and discomfort in the soldiers’ defence.
As the match drew towards the end KB brought in Gift Mbwana for Samuel Chibvunde with the Nomads resting Kaziputa for youthful Khumbo Ng’ambi but both substitutions had little impact and the game was to be decided by the dreaded penalty shoot-outs.
Mustafa Salim, Pempho Kansichili and Manase Chiesa converted for Kamuzu Barracks but Nthala and Gift Mbwana had their spot-kicks saved by the inform Kamzere, who deservedly earned the man-of-the-match accolade.
Wanderers scored through stand-in-captain Kamwendo, Wadabwa, Bello and Manyozo but defender Stanley Sanudi had his kick parried away by Nthala.
Nthala’s penalty miss left many people including this writer wondering as to why KB left the responsibility of taking their last penalty to a goalkeeper, who largely uses hands during play. True to the fears, the KB goalkeeper gave an early Christmas gift to his Wanderers’ counterpart, who dived to the left to save the penalty.
While KB left the responsibility of taking the last penalty to their goalkeeper, Wanderers gave the task to experienced Alfred Manyozo, who delivered the killer blow with a well-taken penalty kick.
Both Wanderers and Kamuzu Barracks came into the final without conceding a goal in normal time and they preserved that record after playing a goal-less draw in regulation time.
All three national trophies- the Presidential Cup, Carlsberg Cup and FISD Challenge have been won via penalty kicks this season.
All three Lilongwe giants- Kamuzu Barracks, Silver Strikers and Blue Eagles, who were in the competition’s semi-finals against a single representative from the south- Mighty Be Forward Wanderers have missed the cup.
Wanderers have become the first team to win two national trophies this season after grabbing the Carlsberg Cup on September 10, 2016.