In a fourth meeting with his mentor Leo Mpulula, now with Azam Tigers, Elia Kananji once again showed his strong tactical spine as his Blantyre United won 2-0.
United sent rivals Tigers out of the K20 million Standard Bank Knock-Out Trophy preliminary round. The name Leo! Leo! Leo! echoed from the terraces of Kamuzu Stadium. It was not cheering but jeering.
Kananji has now won thrice against his mentor, Mpulula, whose side dominated in vain. United did just the business at the stadium.
â€œWe played good football but unfortunately our finishing was poor. I always tell them to finish off the chances. They are supposed to take shots. After missing chances, what else do you expect? You obviously get punished,â€ Mpulula said in a post-match interview.
During the game watched by a good crowd, Tizgowele Kumwenda headed United in front from a free kick on 57th minute. Then defender Isaac Mphamba bundled out of his way a Tigersâ€™ defender then placed the ball into the net in the 64th minute.
Until the first goal, United were second best on the ball, unable to find their passing range as Tigersâ€™ direct long ball game troubled them.
The result could have been different had Kananji not succeeded in reading Mpululaâ€™s mind by adding midfield bite with Patrick Thupi and Victor Limbani. The man Tigers must have expected to be Unitedâ€™s creative brain, Jimmy Chikulekule, was on the bench the entire first half.
Once Tigers dominated fruitlessly, Kananji saw the frustrations and gaps in the middle of the park. He then introduced Chikulekule, minutes after Kumwendaâ€™s goal. The second was on its way. Tigers were never to come back. Dead.
â€œIt was a tactical move to start in midfield rarely used players such as Thupi. I wanted to give Tigers an element of surprise. I sensed that they could be out to stop Chikulekule and with it, us from playing,â€ Kananji said whose side face Big Bullets in the second round.