An 75th minute header by Henrico Botes gave Namibia a crucial 1-0 victory against Kenya in their World Cup qualifying match at Windhoek’s Independence Stadium on Saturday evening.
Wing back Larry Horaeb sent in a cross from the right wing and Botes met it with a header that went into the net off the bottom of the crossbar.
It was a deserved victory for Namibia who dominated most of the possession and were quite unlucky not to have scored more goals.
Lazarus Kaimbi hit the upright in the 59th minute, while Kenya’s goalie Origi Otieno brought off two stunning saves in the first half.
The victory saw Namibia moving second in Group F of the African World Cup qualifiers after Nigeria and Malawi drew 1-1 in Blantyre. Nigeria now lead the group with 4 points, followed by Namibia on 3, Malawi on 2 and Kenya on 1 point.
Namibia had an early scare when Kenyan defender Mandela Onyango headed over the bar from a long throw-in, but Namibia soon got into their stride.
With Lazarus Kaimbi and Heini Isaacks setting up attacks through the centre and Eslin Kamuhanga and Tangeni Shipahu industrious down the wings, chances soon came Namibia’s way.
Isaacks burst into the Kenyan box on 21m but his shot was well saved by Otieno, and three minutes later the Kenyan keeper once again blocked a shot by Shipahu.
Namibia kept up the pressure winning three corners in a row but Kenya’s defence stood firm.
Otieno brought off a spectacular diving save from a Kaimbi pile-driver on 38m and two minutes later he was at it again, when he saved a volley by Shipahu.
Kenya applied the pressure early in the second half when they won a corner but Namibian keeper Virgil Vries did well to punch the ball clear from Kenya’s towering defender Joseph Shikokoti.
But Namibia were soon on the attack again, coming close to scoring twice on a three minute spell. First Kamuhanga broke past several defenders with a fine run, only to see his throughpass ruled offside, and then Lazarus Kaimbi ran onto a Shipahu throughball in the box and hit the upright from an acute angle.
Namibian coach bernard Kaanjuka brought on Willy Stephanus for Tangeni Shipahu in the 61st minute and he immediately made an impact with his tricky runs down the right wing.
Petrus Shitembi also came on for Lazarus Kaimbi who hobbled off with an injury, and he, too, had the Kenyan defence at sixes and sevens with his surging runs.
Kamuhanga and Isaacks both shot narrowly wide of the target, before Namibia’s pressure finally paid off on 85m. Stephanus launched an attack down the right wing and put Horaeb clear, who’se cross was headed into the net by Botes.
The stadium erupted in joy and as much as Kenya tried to come back in the final stages, they could not break through Namibia’s defence.
It was a great performance by Kaanjuka’s young squad who are now growing by leaps and bounds.
Kaimbi was the player of the match with his strong attacks and powerful shots, but it was Botes’ physical presence that got the breakthrough.
Kamuhanga, Isaacks and Shipahu all created numerous chances on attack, while Ronald Ketjijere and Denzil Haoseb provided the link between defence and attack.
At the back, Da Costa Angula and Willem Mwedihanga were steady in defence, while Virgil Vries brought off some solid saves.
But the most exciting aspect of this squad is the depth and talent on the bench.
Willy Stephanus changed the complexion of the game with his tricky runs down the right wing, while Petrus Shitembi and later, Hendrik Somaeb also put in some strong surges from midfield.
Although its still early days yet, and a victory at home was non-negotiable, this team certainly has the quality and potential to develop into serious contenders for a place in the second round of the World Cup qualifiers.