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By Carlos Kambaekwa

WINDHOEK

The national Under-17 football team, better known as the “Baby Warriors” brought some joy to the faces of success-starving local football fans with a faultless display against Zambia in round two of the African Youth Cup Qualifiers at a packed to rafters Khomasdal Stadium in Windhoek yesterday.

Buoyed by their outstanding performance in the first leg in Lusaka – the hosts took the game to their muscular opponents and outplayed the visitors in all facets of an otherwise entertaining match that saw action swinging from end to end.

After a goalless stalemate, Namibia emerged the deserving winners 4 –3 in the dreaded penalty shootout after burly Zambian striker Patson Kaimana’s misdirected spot kick hit the upright – much to the relief of hundreds of local fans.

Substitute striker Dene Swartz took the decisive penalty and slotted the ball past a bemused Kennedy Mumba in Zambia’s goal to send the home crowd into raptures.

The two nations played out a goalless draw in the first leg in Lusaka, Zambia a week ago and there was very little to choose from going into this titanic tie between the two teams in the second leg, where the hosts took control from the onset, marauding the Zambian goal for the better part of the exciting match where no quarter was asked or given.

The match started at a frantic pace with tricky midfielder Sylvester Ortmann dictating matters in the middle of the park while Civics’ wayward winger Enslin “Lovers” Kamuhanga proved a constant thorn in the flesh of the visitors’ rearguard with some darting runs down the wing.

However, it was the Zambians who threatened to score first in the early stages when Jimmy Ndhlovu tested Colin Ndjai in Namibia’s goal with a tricky snap shot but the agile net-minder was equal to the task.

The hosts created the first genuine goal-scoring opportunity of the match with the ball falling to the feet of Kamuhanga, but the speedy winger side-footed wide with the goal at his mercy.

After a goalless first half, Namibia stepped up a gear and attacked the Zambian goalmouth but wayward shooting and over-hastiness proved to be their downfall.

Namibia came close to getting on the score sheet but Oswaldo Xamseb’s volley lacked the necessary pace to trouble Zambian keeper Mumba.

In one of their rare forays, the visitors had the local fans chewing their nails as they hit the post twice in succession and from the resultant counter-attack – the ball fell neatly in the path of winger Samuel Uri-Khob, who found acres of space down the right wing before he picked up Benson Shilongo at the near post with a telling cross.

Shilongo, slipped unmarked behind the flatfooted Zambian defense but took his eyes off the ball and missed the target completely from close range, when it appeared much easier to score than miss.

Namibia was dealt a major blow when inspirational captain Oswaldo Xamiseb received his marching orders from South African referee Mathew Dyer for rough play in the 59th minute.

Shortly afterwards, Kamuhanga teed off Ryan Gariseb but the midfielder’s first touch let him down and the chance went begging again.

With time ticking by and the crowd urging the home side on to go forward for the sucker punch – Kamuhanga combined well with Gariseb from a well calculated set-piece with the latter getting to the end of the cleverly executed through ball.

The delivery was done with the same precision but his teammates reacted too slowly and could not guide the ball into the net.

The Zambians were more content in absorbing the pressure in the hope of catching the hosts on the counter attack but the Namibians defended like men possessed with lanky goalkeeper Ndjai standing head and shoulders above his peers with a faultless display.

The match ended in a goalless stalemate and had to be decided by the dreaded penalty shoot out.

Penalty Sequence:

Ryan Gariseb (Nam) scores, Emmanuel Masuwa (Zam) scores, Lovers Kamunhanga (Nam) scores, Arthur Shiliya (Zam) scores, Gregorious Isaak (Nam) scores, Kenny Lungu (Zam) saved, Sakeus Wilbard (Nam) saved, Patson Kaimana (Zam) ) missed, Dene Swarts (Nam) scores.

Namibia wins 4 –3 on penalties to advance to the third and final round where they will now meet Malawi in a two legged qualifier for a place in the finals of the African Youth Cup to be played in Algeria in March next year. Malawi saw off South Africa 3 –1 on aggregate to set up a date with nemesis Namibia.

Zambian coach Aggrey Shiyangi paid tribute to the gutsy Namibians and blasted his strikers for missing chances they could have easily converted under normal circumstances.

“Good luck to Namibia, they deserved to win – we just have to regroup and go back to the drawing board – because there are still some competitions coming up including the COSAFA Youth Cup.”

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