A clearly under-strength Brave Warriors side came from a goal behind to beat Zambia 2-1 in an action-packed CHAN Cup first leg qualifier during a well-attended match at the Sam Nujoma Stadium in Windhoek yesterday.
Rocked by the shock resignation of head coach Ricardo Mannetti three days before the match, the makeshift Warriors side started sluggishly and found themselves on the back foot for the better part of the opening stages.
Fresh from their recent defeat at the hands of the fast improving Namibians, the visitors started off brightly and had the hosts’ rear guard back paddling enjoying the lion’s share of ball possession with much of the play confined mostly to the Namibian territory.
The strongly built Zambians peppered their hosts with long balls from stocky left back Fackson Paumbu, whose long throw-ins were causing havoc in the improvised Namibian defence. The Warriors found themselves a goal down when burly Zambian striker Winstone Kalengo was given acres of space in the danger zone through poor marking.
Kalengo rose unchallenged to head home an innocent-looking free kick past the outstretched hands of Warriors goalkeeper Charles Uirab to make it 1-0 in favour of the visitors.
Veteran goatee bearded midfielder Heini Isaacks combined well with co-midfielders Wangu-Batista Gome and debutant Benyamen Nekavu, but the trio was always found wanting in the final quarter of the field.
The teams went into the change with Chipolopolo enjoying a one-goal cushion.
A thorough tongue lashing from Brave Warriors’ interim coach Ronnie Kanalelo saw a rejuvenated Warriors side trotting onto the field in the second half.
Attacking midfielder Awilo Stephanus brought the teams on level terms sending the entire stadium into rapture (1-1).
The goal seemed to be just what the good doctor ordered, as the Namibians started to play with more confidence taking the game by the scruff.
Urged on by a partisan crowd, the hosts started paying frequent visits into the visitors’ danger zone but wayward shooting by twin strikers Ita Keimuine and Pikes Shalulile proved to be Namibia’s Achilles heel.
Tigers’ habitual free-scoring midfielder Benyamen Nekavu vindicated Kanalelo’s decision to throw him into the deep end by handing the skilful midfielder a starting role. Nekavu was a thorn in the flesh for the Zambian defence with some clever play and was finally rewarded when he netted the decisive winner late in the second half to send the crowd into uncontrolled jubilation.
The goal will go down as one of the most well-crafted piece of genuine teamwork in the history of domestic football. The hosts exchanged and strung no less than a dozen passes together en route to the goal – with the silky Nekavu returning the compliment with an absolute copybook finish, beating Zambian goalkeeper Danny Munyao hands down.
Final score: Namibia 2, Zambia 1.
Brave Warriors starting line-up: Charles Uirab, Dennis Tjetjinda, Junior Gebhardt, Denzil Hoaseb, Tebs Lombard, Pikes Shalulile, Benyamen Nekavu (Sadney Uri-Khob) Wangu-Batista Gome, Awilo Stephanus, Heini Isaacks, Itamunua Keimuine.