Windhoek-Namibia’s senior football team, the Brave Warriors, made short work of their match against the visiting Zimbabwe to claim this year’s edition of the annual season’s pipe-opening tournament, the Dr Hage Geingob Cup.
Buoyed by a large, vociferous crowd at a packed to rafters Sam Nujoma Stadium, in Katutura, on Saturday, Ricardo Mannetti’s rejuvenated soldiers brushed aside a clueless Zimbabwean side in convincing fashion.
A well-taken brace by speedy forward Ballack Somaeb, either side of Pikes Shalulile’s strike, gifted the hosts a well-deserved 3-1 triumph – much to the delight of the appreciative crowd including the Namibian head of state Hage Geingob.
The hosts put the result to bed when South African-based winger Shalulile starched Namibia’s slender lead with a well-taken effort to make it 2-0.
Namibia, who recorded their third consecutive victory over the southern neighbours this year, enjoyed the lion’s share of ball possession – leaving the visitors with the unenviable task of trying to avoid another defeat to their southern African counterparts, but that oak door of the Namibian rearguard held firm and gave nothing away.
The Warriors held the upper hand as they built momentum from the opening whistle, showing immense composure in ball retention with some purposeful play never witnessed in our neck of the woods in a long time.
Blue Waters free-scoring striker Somaeb opened the floodgates with an ambitious strike to give the hosts a well-deserved lead with 14 minutes gone on the clock – beating the hapless visiting shot stopper Edmore Sibanda hands down.
The goal seemed to inspire the hosts as they stepped up a gear with Pikes Shalulile demonstrating why he is rated as one of Namibia’s finest footballers after the tallish fast-galloping goal poacher’s glancing header from a floated corner kick kissed the roof of the net – four minutes after Somaeb’s strike (2-0).
The visitors were thrown a lifeline after Brave Warriors reliable defender Denzil Haoseb was adjudged to have fouled Marvelous Nakamba in the danger zone. Former Orlando Pirates (SA) purple-haired striker, Tendai Ndoro, stepped up to convert the resultant penalty kick to reduce the deficit with 11 minutes left before the changeover.
However, Zimbabwe’s joy was to be short-lived with Shalulile and Somaeb causing havoc in the visitors’ defence, which led to Somaeb being brought down in the box. Match referee Thembisile Windvoel rightly pointed to the penalty spot on the stroke of halftime.
Somaeb dusted himself off and took the responsibility on his tiny shoulders, wrong-footing Sibanda to restore Namibia’s two-goal cushion.
With the result already put to bed the hosts took their foot off the pedal and there was very little to separate the two sides, despite second substitute Abes Iimbondi rattling the crossbar with a well-taken free kick in the referee’s optional time.
A delighted Mannetti could not contain his enjoy, praising the team effort while acknowledging the role played by the large crowd in attendance.
“When the stadium is packed to full capacity like today, you don’t have a choice as player and just have to respond in the most dignified fashion. It’s absolutely electrifying – well done to all the fans and those who marketed the biggest game going into this great day.”
The former Lightbody Santos holding midfielder applauded his gutsy players, saying they played very well while having a good day, including the substitutes. He reserved special praise for his defence and the unbelievable cohesion in the middle of the park, adding that the request from the Namibian head of state to win the trophy proved a motivating factor for the players. .
“Obviously it puts extra pressure on the players when the president is watching you and if you turn that pressure into motivation, his presence alone boosted the boys’ morale as they really wanted to be remembered,” said an excited Mannetti.