Despite a gallant display, the Young Brave Gladiators went down 1- 0 against DR Congo at home in their 2016 FIFA Women Under-20 World Cup qualifier first round second leg match played at the Sam Nujoma Stadium on Sunday afternoon.
Following the 4-0 thumping at Kinshasa two weeks ago, the Young Gladiators had it all to do when they hosted their counterparts from the DR Congo and from the start it was clear that the Namibians were going to give it a go.
In defence, the acrobatic goalkeeper Mellissa Matheus, Annouscka Kordom, Emma Naris and Kamunikire Tjituka were solid, complemented by the combative pair of Asteria Angula and Memory Ngonda from midfield, while going forward striker Ivene Kooper was joined by Fransisca Haoses, Bernadette Dennis and Millicent Hikuam.
As the game wore on and the Gladiators failed to create any meaningful form of attack it was DR Congo who nearly got the goal before halftime as Mundele Makwadi’s cross was headed back across the face of goal by Joelle Muadi, but Young Gladiators captain Naris was on hand to clear from the line as they hung on to a goalless first half.
After the break, DR Congo came back stronger with the diminutive playmaker Hornella Lengi, Flavine Mawete and Ruth Kipoy helping their team turn on the style as they looked to unlock the Namibians’ stubborn defence.
After some resolute defence by the Young Gladiators and relentless pressure from DR Congo, the cookie finally crumbled and it was from a special piece of play.
Muadi found some hectares of space from about 33 metres out and she plucked up some courage to let fly a fierce shot that dipped into the back of the net over the head and despairing hands of the locals’ goalkeeper Matheus midway through the second half, much to the surprise of all including the goal scorer.
DR Congo continued to dictate matters as the Young Gladiators held back, with little if any advances. In the end, 1-0 was how it finished in favour of the visitors who advanced to the next round 5-0 on aggregate.
Bertus Bock says the Young Gladiators had a plan. “After witnessing the first game away from home, we had a plan to make sure we keep them away from scoring and also try to find a goal for ourselves. It was never going to be possible for us to score five goals here but we had to keep them out and we managed that until they got the unfortunate goal.
It is now back to the drawing board for us. Some girls will be part of the under-17 qualifiers that start later this year whereas other will join the under 20 camp for a tournament later this year as well,” Bock says.
Young Gladiators starting line-up: Mellissa Matheus, Emma Naris, Annouscka Kordom, Millicent Hikuam, Anna Shaende, Memory Ngonda, Asteria Angula, Bernadette Dennis, Kamunikire Tjituka, Ivene Kooper and Fransisca Haoses.