Malawi Defence Force outfit Mafco have become the first team to qualify for the 2023 FDH Bank Cup final after a narrow 0-1 victory over Mighty Mukuru Wanderers at Kamuzu Stadium in Blantyre on Saturday.
Mafco captain Paul Ndhlovu’s powerful header from a Dan Chimbalanga corner kick sent the Salima-based outfit in their first final in 10 years.
They last made it to a cup final in 2013 and went on to beat Silver Strikers in 10-9 through post-match penalties after a stalemate in regulation time to win the Presidential cup.
In the FDH Bank Cup semi-final, Mafco were more organised in their attack and defended in numbers, forcing Wanderers to rethink their approach.
Ndhlovu marshalled the defence well while Paul Phiri and David Daud controlled the midfield in the battle against Wanderers’ Felix Zulu, Gaddie Chirwa and Wisdom Mpinganjira.
Wanderers had a chance to level just before recess when Chirwa played in Christopher Kumwembe in the box but he shot wide with Mafco goalkeeper Christopher Mikuwa already beaten.
After recess, Mafco pulled out Daud who paved way for Ernest Tambe as they look to bring in fresh legs for the battle.
Wanderers’ Chirwa wasted a golden opportunity when he shot wide in the 52nd minute after he was set up by Francisco Madinga.
The first substitution for the hosts came in the 67th minute as Vitumbiko Kumwenda paved way for Vincent Nyangulu and later in 72nd minute Chiukepo Msowoya and Francis Mkonda came in for Madinga and Kumwembe.
Mafco almost doubled the lead in the 82nd minute from another set piece, but Thole equal to the job, tipped over a powerful free kick from Chimbalanga.
The Nomads on the other hand were denied an equaliser in 87th minute when Mkonda’s effort hit the upright.
And so it ended 0-1 as Mafco claimed a rare cup victory at Kamuzu Stadium in a match they started as underdogs but marched out in style with a mock parade.
In post-match interview Wanderers coach Mark Harrison conceded having been overwhelmed by Mafco’s resilience and tactical discipline.
He said: “We didn’t turn up in the first 30 minutes. We gave away a silly goal from a set piece which we should never concede.
“Second half we had 85 to 90 percent possession, getting into good areas, but we never created a chance worthwhile. We didn’t create enough chances. So we don’t deserve to be in the final.”
Mafco coach Pritchard Mwansa said it was a dream come true to be in the final for the first time in 10 years.
He said: “We are very happy to qualify for the final. It wasn’t easy. You could see how we played. We had only one chance in the first half and we scored.
“It was just too good to watch the boys defending the goal playing good football. Wanderers came hard in the second-half.
“They were knocking on every door. But we blocked all areas. We blocked every angle. I must applaud my boys for playing according to our plan.”
Mafco will face the winner between FCB Nyasa Bullets and Dedza who play in the second semi-final at the same venue next Sunday.