Hosts Namibia were left with a mountain to scale going into the decisive second leg of the 2017 CAF Under-20 Africa Cup of Nations Qualifier against old foes South Africa in three weeks’ time.
The Young Warriors were held to a goalless draw by the visiting South Africans in a tightly contested encounter at Sam Nujoma Stadium in Windhoek on Saturday, a result that leaves Gerald Guther’s team with a heavy task on their tiny shoulders if they are to pull off a surprise away-win in South Africa.
The Namibians took the fight to their more illustrious opponents right from the word go, but could not break down the visitors’ watertight rearguard. At the other end, the visitors were also eager to get on the score sheet, as they sought to claim the all-important away goal, but the Namibian defense held on.
Despite both teams’ failure to break the deadlock, it was end-to-end stuff, with McCartney Nawaseb firing a shot in anger with the first real goal attempt – letting fly with a ferocious stinker from 25 metres out, but the visitors’ wide awake shot stopper Mondli Mpoto was equal to the task.
With goal-scoring chances hard to come by, it was left to the Namibian defensive pair of Kennedy Eib and Baloyi Tsandib to contain the rampant South Africans – keeping the marauding striking twin centre-forwards Katlego Mohame and Tercius Malepe at bay.
After a goalless first half, both teams stepped up a gear after the resumption of business and just four minutes into the second half Nawaseb’s header narrowly missed the target after he connected with Katiti Hakuria’s delivery from the left flank. A few moments later enterprising skipper Pandeni Kandjambanga delivered an inviting cross, which evaded the ball watching South African defense, but with no one to pick up the pieces.
Substitute Sbongakonke Mbatha caused the overworked Namibian defense all sorts of trouble as he masterminded the South African attacks with brutal force. At the other end, Eib almost put the hosts ahead on 63 minutes after the lanky striker rose the highest to connect with George Hummel Jr’s well-executed corner kick, but his powerful header ricocheted straight into the waiting hands of Mpoto.
As the match wore on, Guther decided to make tactical changes, hauling off ineffective playmaker Venovineja Tjikundi and dispatching Alberto Klukowski in his place, while impressive midfielder ‘Kokorot’ Willemse made way for Romeo Kasume.
Clearly isolated during the entire match, striker Jandjamuje Maharero was also withdrawn, with Hiha Katjivena taking his place as the hosts surged forward in search of that elusive goal. Despite the wholesale changes the match did not yield any goals and the tie ended goalless.
“We tried our best to score a goal, but it never came. Going into the second leg we will keep the same crop of players, because they are very positive. We will go to South Africa and play our normal game, while trying to register a good result, although it will be tough but we will go there with our heads held high, because we’re confident of getting through,” said coach Guther after the match.
The decisive 2nd leg will be staged in Johannesburg on June 11. The winner faces either Mozambique or Lesotho for the final qualifying berth.