Big Bullets and Blantyre United will meet in the final preliminary game of the Standard Bank Cup after booting out Red Lions and Azam Tigers, respectively, by 2-0 margins on Saturday.
The Bullets moved forward courtesy of goals from their red-hot forward Gabadini â€˜Gabadinhoâ€™ Mhango and veteran Heston Munthali in Balaka whereas at Kamuzu Stadium in Blantyre, the student that is Elia Kananji once again got the better of his master Leo Mpulula as a spirited United side saw off the Kau-Kau Boys.
In Balaka, â€˜Gabadinhoâ€™ drew first blood in the third minute through a header before Munthaliâ€”who keeps getting better with age like old vintage wineâ€”headed in the second in the 59th minute. It was over for Reds with no chance of fighting for the K7 million (about $28 000) Standard Bank ultimate prize cheque.
Bullets fan Robert â€˜Robbieâ€™ Tembo said he was happy with his teamâ€™s performance.
“Red Lions are one of the best teams this season and we knew it was not going to be easy. Gabadinhoâ€™s early goal did the trick,” said Tembo from Balaka.
In Blantyre, after a dour kick-and-rush first half that failed to stir the passions, United stepped up the tempo in the second half and surged ahead in the 58th minute through Tizgo Kumwendaâ€™s flicked header that was parried into the net by Tigers goal-tender Dave Mphaya.
Isaac Mphamba sealed Unitedâ€™s win in the 65th minute with a simple finish after a beautiful move orchestrated by Brown Mizeyi.
Tigers tried to come back into the game with some fascinating moves but were too casual in the last quarter in which they were guilty of terrible wastage.
As desperation took its toll, Tigers coach Mpululaâ€”a former long-time United coach, could not help cool off the heat with mineral water as he sat helplessly on the bench.
“Football is about scoring goals and we created a number of chances, but sadly we failed to make good use of them and in the end we got punished,” said a visibly disappointed Mpulula after the game.
His counterpart Elia Kananji was over the moon.
“I told my players to engage an extra gear in the second half and it paid off. I am happy that we have proceeded to the final round of the preliminaries,” said Kananji.
â€”Additional reporting by Joy Khakona, Correspondent