Shilongo’s brace sinks Mauritius

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Botswana-based lanky forward Benson Shilongo scored a brace to steer Namibia to a well-deserved 2-nil victory over a stubborn Mauritius in their second match of the Cosafa Cup, at the Maruleng stadium in Rustenburg, South Africa, last night.
The dreadlocked striker was drafted straight into the starting line-up after he missed Namibia’s opening match – a dull goalless draw against regional minnows Seychelles on Sunday. Shilongo was one of three changes made by coach Bucksy Mannetti to the Warriors starting line-up.
Fullback Dennis Tjetjinda made way for Denzil Hoaseb, while the striking pair of Shilongo and debutant Itamunua Keimuine were given starts at the expense of Ballack Somaeb and Nicky-Boy Musambani.
The match started at a frantic pace with Namibia taking the initiative and forcing their opponents on the retreat with their pressing game.
The Warriors were rewarded when Benson Shilongo found himself at the end of Itamunua Keimuine’s centre pass after a well-orchestrated quick counter-attack to give the enterprising Namibians a well-deserved 1-0 cushion in the 5th minute.
The Namibians should have been two goals to the good when Keimuine found himself with acres of space, latching onto a defence splitting pass only to balloon the ball over the crossbar.
The Indian Ocean islanders were not to be outdone and launched attacks of their own – only to stumble in the final quarter where the Namibian back four of Chris Katjiukua, Dudes Mwedihanga, Junior Gebhardt and Denzil Haoseb stood firm.
Mwedihanga ventured forward to meet a well-executed free kick from Deon Hotto but his diving header from close range went tantalizingly inches over the bar from six metres out.
It was then Petrus Shitembi’s turn as the midfielder let go with a rasping long range effort but the giant Mauritian shot-stopper Kevin-Jean Louis was equal to the task.
The islanders showed some good flashes of ball retention in the middle of the park but could not penetrate through the resolute Namibian rearguard.
Lousi Darza was the first player to go into the referee’s crime sheet after a dangerous tackle on Gebhardt.
Keimuine ran out of ideas as he stumbled over the ball with the goal at his mercy. The Namibians grew in confidence and controlled the game with intensity only to be let down by poor decision making in the final quarter. Shitembi missed a sitter from three metres out in the 38th minute.
At the other end, attacking midfielder Joseph Particos caused his Namibian counterparts a few headaches with his strong runs.  With halftime approaching, Keimuine beat the offside trap and found himself one on one with Louis but instead of laying the ball off to the unmarked Hotto the youngster elected to dribble past Louis, whose huge frame came in handy as he blocked the attempt – much to the chagrin of the Namibian bench.
Shilongo skinned two defenders with a combination of step-overs before he lost his footing in the process – another golden opportunity going to waste.
John Calaban became the second player from Mauritius to be entered into the referee’s crime sheet following a foul on Wangu-Batista Gomes.
The Warriors stretched their slender lead when they were awarded a highly disputed penalty in the 63rd minute after a Mauritian defender was adjudged to have handled the ball with his hand though television replays showed he cleared the ball with his head. Shilongo stepped up and sent Louis in the wrong direction from the resultant spot kick to make it 2-0. Bruno Ravina received his marching orders for protesting vehemently and the Warriors made full use of their numerical advantage. From thereon, it was one-way traffic with Namibia creating countless goal-scoring chances that went astray.
Such was Namibia’s dominance that coach Mannetti could afford the luxury of giving his fringe players a run with Joslin Kamatuka coming on for Shilongo, while the Tura Magic pair of Neville Tjiueza and Pikes Shalulile came on for Shitembi and Hotto.
Namibia will play against Zimbabwe in their last group match tomorrow with a likely victory set to guarantee them a place in the quarterfinals.

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