By Carlos Kambaekwa
The Brave Warriors finally broke their five-month jinx when they defeated Kenya 2-1 in a 2010 FIFA World Cup and CAF Africa Nations Cup qualifier at the Independence Stadium, in Windhoek on Saturday.
Gangling debutant striker Wilko Risser scored a brilliant volley in the 17th minute and engineered the all-important winning second goal for his striking partner Costa Khaiseb, with a few minutes left on the clock.
Right from the word go, expectations were high at the partly revamped Independence Stadium for the Brave Warriors to win at all costs, but those expectations were temporarily put on halt with the silky Harambee Stars threatening to upset the party mood in the early stages of the match.
Brave Warriors’ captain Michael “Dolam Tower” Pienaar and right-back Richard Gariseb were at their best as the pair contained Kenya’s danger man, the bulky Denis Oliech who plays his club football for French team Auxerre.
Titus Mulama executed a near-perfect corner-kick into the Namibian danger zone, but the reliable Jamunovandu Ngatjizeko cleared well for a counter-attack, with Brendell spreading play to right-winger Lazarus Kaimbi, whose eventual shot was easily gathered by the visitors’ goalkeeper Arnold Otieno.
Both teams tried very hard for the opening goal to settle the nerves but it was the hosts who broke the deadlock from one of their multiple counter-attacks.
The towering Risser found space in the box, executing an enviable first-time volley into the back of the net past a bemused Otieno.
The German-based striker punched the air in sheer delight – giving the success-starved home fans some measure of hope.
The game continued to produce on-the-edge-of-the-seat moments as the visitors pushed forward with ferocity in search of the equaliser, while the hosts pressed for the second goal to kill off the game.
Kenya’s inspirational captain Robert Mumba combined well with the hard working Oliech, who at times retreated deep to collect the ball before launching explosive runs at the uncompromising Gariseb.
On the half-hour mark, Kevin Opondo delivered another inviting corner kick that was well-headed for goal, only for the woodwork to save Mbaha’s blushes, before the rebound was cleared upfield by Black Leopards’ defender Hartman Toromba.
Midfield lynchpin Quinton “Magic “Jacobs was given very little room to manouvre in the middle of the park with Mumba and Austin Makacha breathing heavily down his neck.
Oliech continued to be a thorn in the flesh of the Namibian rearguard with his powerful runs down the wing, but always found himself isolated and ended up against the Chinese wall guarded by the defensive pair of Gariseb and Captain Fantastic Pienaar.
Towards the end of the first half, Oliech brought the best out of Mbaha after shrugging off some attention from Pienaar and Toromba, striking purposefully at the Orlando Pirates keeper who did well to push the goal-bound shot over the crossbar for a corner.
From the resultant corner taken by Opondo – the delivery found its way to defender Lloyd Kinguru whose overhead kick was cleared off the line by Toromba, but Makacha was the first to react with a header, leaving the score level at 1-1 with six minutes left before the break.
Ngatjizeko continued to impress in his new role as a holding midfielder with Brian Brendell and Kaimbi also in the thick of things.
In a desperate move to beef up his firing line – coach Arie Schans pulled off the ineffective Kaimbi for Ramblers’ striker Pineas Jacobs at the beginning of the second half with Khaiseb dropping to midfield, allowing the speedy striker some space alongside the towering Risser upfront.
At the other end, Gariseb and Oliech continued their battle, and the overlapping fullback pair of Toromba and Jeremiah “Bullfrog” Mbaisako started to consolidate attack for the hosts, while the tireless Risser proved quite a handful for the visitors’ rearguard with his aerial power.
Desperate to regain their slender lead, the Warriors technical team hauled off the limping Brendell and replaced the hard-running midfielder with Serbia-based Rudolph Bester.
The skilful midfielder immediately announced his arrival with some telling runs into the box but the Kenyan defence stood firm and refused to yield.
The Namibian rearguard did well to contain the danger posed by the visitors’ quick counter attacks with Oliech at the centre of their many attacks – much to the delight of the handful and vocal Harambee Stars’ supporters.
Civics’ midfielder Tuyeni Tugela came on for the tiring Jacobs late in the second half, but the usually cool as cucumber midfielder was guilty of giving ball possession away with his indecisive play.
The near capacity Independence Stadium was about to witness yet another disappointing performance by the Brave Warriors, but Risser had different ideas.
Risser turned from goal scorer to provider when the strongly built striker lobbed a dangerous delivery into the Kenyan danger zone that eluded the flatfooted rearguard. The ball fell neatly onto the path of Khaiseb who returned the compliment to Risser with a cracking shot from close range to send the crowd into raptures with few seconds left on the clock.
The victory was the Warriors’ first under the tutelage of Schans after the Dutchman took over in January early this year. Namibia has played nine matches under Schans with six defeats, two draws and one win.
Namibia is pitted in Group Two alongside Zimbabwe, Guinea and Kenya.