Newly crowned MTC NFA Cup champions and reigning MTC Namibia Premiership champions Civics Football Club moved closer to an unprecedented fourth title with a well-deserved 2-nil win over Oshikandela Ramblers in a fast-pace MTC Namibia Premier League clash at the Khomasdal Stadium in Windhoek last night.
The Civilians made two changes to the squad that started against African Stars in the MTC NFA Cup last weekend, with first-choice goalkeeper Esau “Pitso” Tjiuoro (flu) and Tuyela Tugeni (fatigue) notable absentees.
The agile Erwann Ofouya replaced Tjiuoro in goal, while Zedecias Haukambe came on for Tuyeni in the engine room.
The match started at a frantic pace, with both teams looking for early gaps but the bumpy pitch that resembled a garbage pitch made it difficult for the players to control the ball and exchange decent passes.
The Civilians were the more enterprising side with former Ramblers striker Patrick M’Kotwana proving quite a handful for the Ramblers rearguard with some deft runs into the danger zone and long-range shots.
At the other end, Ramblers veteran goal-poacher, John Samson put a couple of dangerous balls into the box but his co-strikers were too slow to return the compliment.
Civics’ inspirational captain, Floris Diergaardt, had his shot saved by Ramblers goalkeeper, Lukas Hashiti after the veteran striker pounced on a defensive mistake by Luther “Bigman” Kanalelo.
Soon afterwards, Brian Brendell beat an offside trap and delivered an inch-perfect cross across the Ramblers’ goalmouth, but there was nobody to finish off the move – much to the relief of the Ramblers bench.
Salomon Henock and Victor Helu combined well in the middle of the park and dictated play against the midfield pair of Michael “Dolam Tower” Pienaar and Amy Savihemba.
Ramblers’ winger “Nelson Dicky” Akwenye found himself in space after he was sent through by Pienaar, but the wasteful midfielder directed his shot tamely into the waiting hands of Ofouya.
The Civilians started to gain the upper hand as the match wore on with Helu the chief architect behind many of their moves.
Ramblers coach, Eric Muinjo hauled off the ineffective Gary Keister and dispatched Jeremiah Bullfrog Baisako in the 28th minute in a desperate effort to beef his team’s remote attacking options, but both sets of defences held firm and the teams went into the changing rooms with the scoreline still 0-0.
Ramblers upped their play after the restart and the introduction of leading marksman Pineas “Heel Extension” Jacob for Bradley “Asprilla” Wermann, breathed some life into an otherwise suspect strike force.
With Jamu Ngatjizeko and Erastus Ndjavera marshalling the Civilians defence with ease – the Ramblers striking pair of Jacob and Akwenye resorted to long-range shots which were easily dealt with by the Congo Brazzaville net minder in Civics’ goal.
Civics mentor Ricardo Mannetti unleashed Tugela in place of Henock and the veteran midfielder immediately announced his presence with some telling passes to his forwards – leaving the Ramblers defence in disarray.
Ramblers almost grabbed the lead when Akwenye put in a good cross from the right wing but the danger was quickly averted and the ball was scrambled up field.
From the resultant counter attack, Diergaardt caused confusion in the Ramblers’ rearguard and tussled with a defender before the loose ball fell at the itchy feet of M’Kotwana, whose long range left-footer kissed the back of the net with Hashiti stranded in no man’s land in the 68th minute.
The goal seemed to awaken the sleepy Ramblers team and through one of their rare forays – Jacob let go with a ferocious long-range shot which deflected off a defender, but Efouya was equal to the task.
Staring defeat in the face – Ramblers replaced the totally out of sorts Pienaar and introduced Bernadine Mbilizi deep in the second half, while Civics retaliated by bringing on enterprising winger Enslin “Lovers” Kamuhanga in place of the tired Brendell.
Efouya was once again called into action, stopping the ball from entering the net after a misdirected back header from Ngatjizeko.
Savihemba found himself into referee Reinhold Shikongo’s bad books for simulation after an innocent looking challenge by Haukambe on the edge of the penalty box.
Despite their slender lead, Civics finished the stronger of the two and with minutes ticking by before the final whistle – Tugela put the final nail into Ramblers’ coffin with a close-range goal to send Master van Staden and his vocal band into raptures in the dying minutes of the match.
The victory lifted Civics into joint first place with leaders Orlando Pirates on the MTC Namibia Premiership log standings on 35 points each.