Defending champions Silver Strikers face the bright prospect of reaching the second Airtel Top 8 final in under a year, but must overcome one last hurdle—Blue Eagles—who they face in an all Lilongwe tussle at Bingu National Stadium this afternoon.
The Bankers are, by any stretch, favourites going into the match. They have, on local football scale, been the most consistent and focused side this far; whipping, on all fronts, any opponent blocking their path.
Silver are unbeaten since losing to Be Forward Wanderers on the opening day of the Super League season. That tells a story of how the Young Chimodzi boys have transformed into a formidable force.
On the other end, Blue Eagles, under prodigal coach DeKlerk Msakakuona, have minimally improved. However, this is an outfit that still lacks key ingredients of a great team. The current inconsistency serves as a reminder of what were once much higher standards in 2012 when they won the Standard Bank FAM Cup, Eagles’ newest trophy.
To be blatantly honest, Eagles need a prayer or more than that in order to emerge victorious.
To reach the semi-finals, the cops beat out-of-form Mafco FC by 1-0 after a two-legged encounter. If the Police side had a killer injection in their attacking arsenal, the victory margin could have been much wider.
Crucially though, this semi-final, a winner-takes-all affair, will need a sharp striking force.
Maybe Silver Strikers team manager Francis Songo sensed their opponents’ vulnerability. In an interview, he was so bold in his belief that his side will carry the day.
The Bankers welcome to the fold goalkeeper Brighton Munthali and midfielder Levison Maganizo who were on Malawi national team duty at Cosafa Challenge Cup in South Africa but have been dealt a blow as their talisman Mphatso Philemon—whom they signed from Eagles at the start of the season—is suspended after accumulating two yellow cards.
“I am optimistic that we will win. The players are so focused like always. Having a full squad means we will be stronger than in the quarter-finals,” Songo said.
Silver, who beat their city rivals Civil Sporting Club 2-1 on aggregate to book a semi-final berth, generally struggle to beat Eagles, records show.
In their past 10 league clashes, Silver have won three times while Eagles has claimed two wins with five tussles ending in a draw.
Eagles coach DeKlerk Msakakuona thinks that Silver are beatable but admitted his troops must up their game to reach the finals.
“I admit we are finding it difficult to be consistent. It’s much to do with failure to convert scoring opportunities. But we have worked on that and I expect better from my players,” he said.
In absence of Philemon, Silver will bank their hopes on Jack Chiona, Newman Mwamsamale, Victor ‘Vibre’ Limbani and Duncan Nyoni to get the much needed goals.
The cops will be praying that their leading scorer John Malidadi Jnr is still in hot form and that their captain Mecium Mhone can inspire the attacking lines with defence splitting passes.