Bullets, Karonga United face off in Airtel Top 8 Cup opening match


By Antony Isaiah Jr:….

With FDH Bank Cup already in the locker, TNM Super League just inches away, Nyasa Big Bullets are starting their journey in the 5th edition of the Airtel Top 8 Cup with tricky fixture against Karonga United.

Kalisto Pasuwa won it last year after beating Silver Strikers which was under the mentorship of Zambian Coach, Daniel Kabwe at Kamuzu Stadium on penalties as they settled for a 1-all stalemate in regulation time.

Looking at the recent form of Karonga United, one could easily jump judge it as a walker-over for Bullets who have only suffered one defeat in their last 36 games at domestic level.

In League, Christopher Nyambose’s side are toiling on position 11 with 31 points from 27 games while Bullets are isolated leading the table with 61 points from 26 games.

However, a game between the two sides have proved to be cracker since the Northerners earned an elite league status back in 2016.

While managing only two wins in their 14 meetings, Karonga United have been giving Nyasa Big Bullets a good run of their money and this can also happen this Saturday coupled by being a Cup game.

It is a two-legged fixture and Nyasa Big Bullets will need to do the job at Kamuzu Stadium as they have a bad record when playing away against the Crocodiles.

Out of their 9 wins against Karonga, six came while playing at home while only three came away from home.

In 2016, Nyasa Big Bullets suffered a 1-0 defeat at Mzuzu Stadium courtesy of Hygiene Mwendepeka’s free-kick strike before another defeat in 2020 at Karonga Stadium, thanks to Clement Nyondo’s goal.

The two teams only met twice in Cup games and Bullets managed to go through the next phase in both matches.

Their first Cup-game meeting was in 2017 when they faced off in the Fisd Challenge Cup and Nyasa Big Bullets thumped Karonga United 4-2 at Kamuzu Stadium. Bright Munthali scored a hat-trick before Jimmy Zakakaza netted a fourth goal while Anthony Mfune who is now playing for Bullets scored a brace.

Again, in 2019, they also met in the same Cup and Bullets had to rely on penalties after a 1-all stalemate in regulation time with Hassan Kajoke on target for Kalisto Pasuwa’s boys while Misheck Seleman who is now playing for Bullets scored for Karonga United.

Pasuwa cautions players of conceding first

Kalisto Pasuwa has cautioned his players to avoid conceding first as it has been in their previous games where they could come from behind to earn something.

Bullets came from behind to smash Sable Farming 5-1 at Kamuzu Stadium before another come-back against Blue Eagles in a 1-all stalemate.

However, the people’s team could not do their magic to salvage a point as they saw their unbeaten run this season being put on hold by Mafco FC at Dedza Stadium.

Pasuwa said his boys need to be very careful as they welcome the Crocodiles on Saturday.

“We have gone four to five games where we are conceding first then we look for an equalizer but, in this Cup, you cannot be doing that, we need to be very solid [and] at the same time we also need to be very offensive, so it’s a game which is very tactical in terms of attacking prowess and also the defensive side of it. A game that we also need to be very careful. Being two legs, we wouldn’t want to be so reluctant to say we are at home because we can be surprised. We need to have everything in place for us to get the result” Pasuwa.

The Zimbabwean added that Karonga United are not a side that need to be underrated as they can pull a surprise against any side.

Nyasa Big Bullets came from behind last season to beat Karonga United 3-2 in their last meeting at Kamuzu Stadium after Josiah Duwah and Mphatso Kamanga had put the Crocodiles in front in the first half but Hassan Kajoke and Lanjesi Nkhoma showed class to prevent Bullets from tortures.

“Karonga United is a side not to underated and considering also the fact that it’s a Cup game. We need to work on our weaknesses of conceding early and it’s a thing that we, solidly, need to rectify our defensive part of it and then we also need to have goals coming.

“It is essential for us to bounce back. It’s like we saw a crack when we were about to roof, which is one thing where we need to be very careful about it. At the end of the day, you might end up destroying the whole building, so we have been talking to the boys, and everyone in the house is aware that this is not the time to relax. Let’s go back to where we think we were making mistakes, but again if you saw the game that we played in Dedza, it’s a small mistake that you do on transitions and then a negative part also of going backwards and considering the surface of the pitch, we ended up conceding a goal, so we need to quickly look for what’s on the ground then work with the advantage of our side.

“We can’t be looking at that defeat. I need to motivate them, I need to talk to them, we need to sit down with each and everyone who is in the house to try and encourage these boys to say it’s over and let’s look at the games that are coming. It mustn’t affect the games that are coming in front of us. We need to be very positive, if you see me on the touchline, I try as much as I can to be motivating them. It’s not the time for me to be hammering them, it is the time to be praising them so that they can do better,” added Pasuwa.

Hassan Kajoke, Blessings Mpokera and Yankho Singo have been sidelined with various reasons which are flu and injuries.

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