By Carlos Kambaekwa
Civics moved within five points of log leaders Ramblers following a hard fought 1-Nil win over title chasing Black Africa in an MTC Namibia Premiership match in front of an enthusiastic crowd at the Khomasdal Stadium in Windhoek, last night.
Black Africa took the match to their more fancied opponents from the first whistle and peppered the Civilians’ goalmouth with several attacks, which were easily thwarted by some stubborn defensive display by the maroon and white outfit rearguard, masterfully manned by Brave Warriors’ versatile left-winger Jamunovandu Ngatjizeko.
The visitors broke the deadlock in the 25th minute when vete-
ran goal poacher Floris Diergaardt outjumped a static Black Africa defence to head powerfully past hapless goalkeeper Stephanus Ndila –
connecting well with a cleverly executed delivery by Victor Helu.
Despite finding themselves a goal down, Smithley Engelbrecht’s charges kept their cool and never pressed the panic buttons as they matched the star-studded defending champions pound for pound in all aspects of the game.
Pint-sized midfielder cum-striker Donovan Swarts proved a constant thorn in the flesh of the Civilians’ defence with deceptive runs from the right wing and almost got his name on the score sheet on successive occasions, but Esau “Pitso” Tjiuoro, guarding the sticks for the mighty Civilians did well to deny the diminutive striker.
Ersatus Muundjunima came tantalisingly close with a well-struck free kick that was tipped over the crossbar by the ever-alert Tjiuoro.
The first half was evenly-balanced as both teams played a very cautious game with lots of emphasis placed on positional play and counter attack.
Africa started the second half like a house on fire and had the visitors pinned down in their own half for the better part of the final 45 minutes of the match.
However, Civics’ makeshift sweeper Jamu Ngatjizeko stood his ground and played a blinder in the heart of the Civilians defence with some intelligent positional play and timely interceptions.
At the other end, Geoffrey Roman combined well with striking partner Floris Diergaardt and had the visitors’ defence working overtime but the experience of veteran defenders Moses “Muree” Katjiteo and Nelson “Meester” Geingob came in handy for the youthful Black Africa outfit.
Brian Bantam and Dacosta Angula held their own in a congested midfield and their counterparts were not to be outdone either with Tuyeni Tugela and second half substitute Brian Brendell, also throwing their weight around.
The visitors almost grabbed a second goal but were denied by some brave goal keeping by Africa’s keeper Ndila who dived at the feet of Roman, after the former African Stars player was sent clear by Brendell.
With time ticking by and sensing defeat, the hosts resorted to pumping long balls into the visitors’ defence – much to the relief of Tjiuoro and company, who dealt easily with the desperate attempts.
Ndila almost turned from hero to villain when he recklessly rushed off his goal to clear a harmless looking long ball before making a mockery of his clearance with the ball falling neatly at the feet of Roman, but the veteran striker for some strange reason delayed his shot and allowed the defence to regroup and put up tent by the time he eventually decided to shoot for goal.
Midfielder Uatavi Tjiueza almost brought the teams level in the dying minutes of the match but his glancing close range header went inches past the upright.
The Civilians survived some scary moments in the dying minutes as Africa threw more bodies upfront in search of the elusive equalizer that was never meant to be and the Civilians held on for dear life.
Credit must go to referee Reinhold Shikongo, who controlled the match well with his spot-on interpretation of the rules governing the beautiful game.
With all the other title contenders in action this weekend – Africa could find themselves dropping further down the ladder and might have kissed their title aspirations goodbye, but coach Smithley Engelbrecht would have none of that.
“We just need to regroup and start focussing on our next game. I still believe the chase for the title is not over yet. It’s only that some of our top players are currently firing blanks and hopelessly off form, but this is something that happens in football all over the world and I’m 100% sure we will bounce back,” said a clearly dejected Engelbrecht after the match.
His counterpart Ricardo Mannetti praised his charges for sticking to their game plan, but also made his feelings known in no uncertain terms on his team’s somewhat lukewarm and sometimes casual showing in the second half.
“The players took their foot off the pedal in the last 45 minutes and that’s unacceptable at this level, but nevertheless, we managed to collect three valuable points that might come in handy in the final analysis – so we just have to keep on winning and put the pressure on the forerunners.”