By Kuvee Kangueehi
Namibia’s campaign of qualifying for the African Nations in Ghana next year got back on track on Saturday as Namibia recorded a significant 1-0 win against Libya at the Independence Stadium. A fifth minute goal by Hamburg-based Collin Benjamin after a well-calculated pass from Angolan-based Meraai Swartbooi was enough to give the Namibians the needed victory.
Namibia climbed two places to second thanks to the fifth-minute winner from Benjamin while Libya cursed their luck after hitting the post twice and crossbar once. The victory put Namibia second in Group 10 on 6 points, only a point behind the leaders, DR Congo, whom they now meet in Windhoek on June 16.
Ethiopia, who beat the DRC 1-0 on Friday, are on 6 points and Libya are now bottom of the log on 4 points .
Although Benjamin will be getting all the headlines this morning it was Swartbooi who in making his debut for Namibia made the most significant contribution to this match on Saturday. After the Libya defence failed to clear an innocent looking ball, the stocky midfielder collected the ball and gave Benjamin an open goal pass, which Benjamin slotted easily after beating the goalkeeper.
It was the start Namibia needed for the match as they controlled better parts of the game after the goal. Sidney Plaatjies, who was dropped by the coach during the previous game, gave the right response and he threantened the Libyan goal with fierce shots.
Namibia did the early attacking and Sydney Plaatjies had a long shot well saved and then another Plaatjies cracker went wide of the mark.
In the 17th minute Plaatjies sent a freekick into the box and Letu Shatimuene shot the rebound over the crossbar. Libya came close to scoring two minutes later when their captain Nader Abousalam hit the crossbar with a 30m piledriver, and Rahuma’s shot from the rebound went narrowly wide.
Libya kept up the pressure and Wisam Aboktaif headed wide from centre by Elmughraby Abdulaziz.
Namibia did most of the defending and tried to catch Libya on the rare counter-attack.
In the 34th minute Benjamin launched a counter-attack and passed inside to Robert Nauseb, who’s scorching shot was tipped for a corner.
At the other end Libyan striker Abdulnaser Slil blasted wide of the goals after receiving the ball unmarked at the far post.
Shortly after halftime Libya came close to scoring when defender Walid Ejlal hit the post with a header. Namibia immediately launched a counter-attack but Benjamin’s cross into the box was cleared away.
In the 57th minute, Swartbooi and Plaatjies combined well to put Benjamin clear in space, but his shot on the turn was well saved by Libya’s goalie.
The match became bogged down in the second half with few attacks from either side. Oliver Risser headed wide of the goals after a Namibian freekick into the box, while Letu Shatimuene put in a few good runs down the right wing.
In the final minutes, Shatimuene had a shot well saved, but Namibia once again had a bit of luck on their side when Libyan defender Naje Shushan hit the crossbar with a cracker in the final minute.
But Namibia managed to hang on for victory and when the final whistle went the crowd of about 6 000 fans went wild with delight.
Meanwhile, there are reports that twelve fans were killed and up to 20 injured as celebrations turned to a crushing stampede at the Chililabombwe stadium in Zambia on Saturday.
The fans were celebrating Zambia’s 3-0 win over Congo, in the country’s Group Eleven Cup of Nations qualifying match, as they exited the stadium.
The Chief of Police in the Copper Belt region of the country, Antoneil Mutenthwa, said: “A stampede ensued as too many fans tried to squeeze through the few exits available.
“Twelve people have been killed, 9 men and 3 women.”
It is thought none of the travelling contingent from Congo were injured.
Provincial minister Mwansa Mbulakulima is expected to travel to the region to assess the situation.
– Additional reporting various reports