Windhoek-Despite the self-imposed inertia in domestic football, Namibia’s senior football team, the Brave Warriors, keep defying the odds stacked against them.
Ricardo Mannetti’s charges have once again demonstrated their recent rise in FIFA World rankings was no fluke after the action-starved Warriors manufactured a convincing 3-1 victory over regional nemesis Botswana in an electrifying friendly at the Sam Nujoma Stadium on Saturday.
Highlands Park gangling goalpoacher Pikes Shalulile was the chief architect in the Warriors’ dominant display after the freescoring net buster netted a brace to put the hosts in command of the game.
The two nations on Saturday returned to the same venue where hosts Namibia suffered a painful 5-4 defeat in the dreaded penalty shootout against the Zebras in the 2016 Cosafa Cup at the quarterfinals stage of the annual regional tournament.
On Saturday, the Zebras took a surprise lead with six minutes gone on the clock via the boot of Mpho Kgaswane, but the hosts upped their game and lay siege to their opponents danger zone – only to be thwarted time and again by the resolute Zebras’ defense.
However, the Warriors were back on level terms when the man for the Lions of the North, Shalulile, sent the large crown into raptures with a clinical finish to bring the teams level 1-1, with 12 minutes to go before the halftime break.
After the resumption, the fast-galloping former Tura Magic striker left his marker, Simasane Mathumo, chasing shadows. The lethal goal poacher ran almost half the length of the field before masterfully unleashing a low shot into the left corner of the goalpost to give the hosts a well-deserved lead for the first time in the match – 13 minutes into the second half.
Shortly afterwards, the Warriors should have put the result to bed, but habitual wasteful substitute Itamunua Keimuine missed the target with an invited net begging for a goal after some fine play down the right side from fellow substitute Imms Heita.
Mercurial midfielder Dynamo Fredericks also had a chance to register his name on the score sheet for his first Warriors goal in both halves, while Benyamin Nenkavu saw two close range efforts thwarted by the visitors’ net minder, Kabelo Dame, in the opening half.
At the other end, the visitors’ Keeagile Kobe fell foul of the referees’ crime sheet when he deliberately stamped on Keimuine – leaving referee Jonas Shongedi no option but to show him a straight red card with four minutes left on the clock.
Warriors gaffer Bucksey Mannetti withdrew Petrus ‘Dancing Shoes’ Shitembi for lanky striker Kumbee Katjiteo and the latter wasted little time as he combined forces with fellow substitute Abes Iimbondi. The pair cleverly beat the offside trap – leaving the former with the easiest of tap-ins to all but seal the result (3-1) in favour of the hosts.
After the match, a delighted Mannetti said his charges could not play their normal game of initiating play from the back, as the team resorted to playing long balls because they have quick forwards in the shape of Shalulile and Muna Katupose and that worked well for the team’s overall performance and discipline.
“We created a lot of goalscoring opportunities in both halves and could have put the result to bed way before the second half, but the primary objective was about giving chances to fringe players, while also keeping in mind the pressure from the fans.
“Overall, it was a good game for the fans and I’m glad we made it happen and now need to play another friendly or two next month, because this is all we need to maintain momentum”, said the former Civics and Lightbody Santos midfield anchorman.