By Carlos Kambaekwa in Sekondi, Ghana
SEKONDI – Namibia’s Brave Warriors bid farewell to the 26th edition of the ongoing MTN Africa Cup of Nations in Ghana with some measure of satisfaction.
The Warriors, looking for a comprehensive win over Guinea in their final Group A match, had to settle for a 1-all draw in an otherwise entertaining match at the Sekondi Stadium last night.
As widely expected, coach Arie Schans rang the changes to the line-up that did duty against Ghana in Namibia’s second match and brought on the trio of Lazarus Kaimbi, Muna Katupose and Meraai Swartbooi in place of Sydney Plaatjies, Rudolph Bester and the injured Quinton Jacobs.
Guinea had to battle it out without the services of inspirational captain Pascale Feindounou who was serving a one match suspension following his dismissal in Guinea’s nail-biting victory over Morocco.
Mohamed Sakho took over the responsibility and pulled the strings in the midfield – spreading passes across the field but Collin Benjamin and company were not to be outdone as the match gained momentum with the Namibians also making their presence felt.
The West Africans were the hungrier side in the opening stages and pinned the Warriors down in their own half for the better part of the opening half.
Jabi Daouda tested Athiel Mbaha in Namibia’s goal with a fierce free kick in the 5th minute but the Orlando Pirates net minder was equal to the task and stretched full length to palm the goal-bound shot away for a corner.
Hard working midfielder Brian Brendell delivered a telling cross in the path of the on-rushing Katupose, but the pint-sized striker headed over the crossbar with the net begging after some good work by Kaimbi down the right.
Action swung from end to end with Sakho proving a thorn in the flesh of the Namibian defence as he was allowed too much room to manoeuvre on the right and putting in dangerous aerial deliveries into the Namibian danger zone – much to the delight of Mbaha who dealt with every aerial danger.
As the match progressed, the Warriors grew in confidence and started to string a couple of decent passes together and when tireless midfielder Oliver Risser set Brendell free, there was no one to pick up the pieces and steer the loose ball into a vacant net with the Guinea defenders all at sea.
Benjamin missed the easiest of chances when the Hamburg’s midfielder hit the side net with only the goalkeeper to beat after the Warriors launched a well calculated counter-attack with Swartbooi the main architect.
Shortly afterwards, Guinea retaliated with their counter-attack but greed took the better of Souleymane Youla who elected to go for glory while two of his team mates were better positioned.
The striker shot wide with only Mbaha to beat, much to the dismay of his team mates.
Benjamin and Ngatjizeko combined well on the left side and launched several various moves but the Guinea rearguard, marshalled by Glasgow Celtic’s giant defender Bobo Balde, averted any danger.
The first half ended goalless – courtesy of Mbaha’s bravery between the sticks, and to a certain extent the Warriors’ goal-shy strikers.
With news reaching the Sekondi Stadium that Ghana had taken a 2-goal lead against Morocco in the other Group A match that was played simultaneously at the Ohene Djan Stadium in Accra, Guinea upped their game and Youlla made up for his earlier miss when he broke the deadlock in the 65th minute.
The Warriors fought back gallantly and were back on level terms when Brendell scored his second goal of the tournament with ten minutes left on the clock.
The result means Morocco will be joining Namibia on the early flight back home after the Atlas Lions were beaten 2-Nil by hosts Ghana in the other Group A match.
Guinea will now join the Black Stars in the quarterfinals of the three-week tournament after the host nation collected maximum points from their three matches in the group stages.