Brave Warriors frozen outBy: SHEEFENI NIKODEMUS
BAD luck, inexperience and a poor referee are the reasons the Brave Warriors’ quest for a place at next year’s Africa Cup of Nations ground to a halt on Saturday, coach Bernard Kaanjuka said.
A deafening silence fell over a freezing Independence Stadium after Liberia held Namibia to a goalless stalemate, knocking the home side out of the qualifiers.
Liberia’s Lone Star came into the tie leading 1-0 from the first leg in Monrovia and Saturday’s draw ensured they progressed to the final round of qualification.
Following a narrow defeat to Nigeria in the World Cup qualifiers over a fortnight ago and last week’s subsequent victory over Kenya in the same competition, expectations were at an all time high against a Liberian side noted for their frailty on the road.
However the Brave Warriors gave a flat account of themselves and were visibly devoid of creativity, relying on the odd half chance.
The much revered ‘cold tactic’ which Kaanjuka said had been the undoing of the Kenyan’s toward the later stages of last week’s game did little to aid the Warriors this time around.
And as the minutes ticked by, it became obvious that the home team may have been overconfident and greatly under-estimated the resolve of their opponents, who barely troubled the Namibian goal.
“Luck was not on our side. We dominated the game. We created many chances, especially in the second half, but we failed to score and that is what we needed to do,” Kaanjuka said after the match.
He added that his charges lacked the required composure – a trait that a seasoned player has in abundance - to finish off the opportunities that came their way.
“We were in a hurry. That is the problem. It is due to a lack of experience. They have to go through this for them to learn.”
Despite lacking a calming influence on the field, Kaanjuka said he would not recall any of the discarded old guard as this would disrupt his plans.
Instead he pulled the referee card.
“That referee was poor in his performance. Because of this referee we lost the game. During the whole match Liberia were wasting time but he didn’t take any action against their tactics,” Kaanjuka said. Before the match, Kaanjuka was confident that his side would have the measure of the physical west Africans – whom he assessed to have been lucky to win the first match of the tie.
But this was not to be as his charges failed to find the goals needed to turn the deficit around.
The first half saw little goalmouth action for both sides but the second half saw Namibia fashion a few good chances.
Captain Ronald Ketjijere, deployed as the lone holding midfielder, had arguably his worst game in a Brave Warriors shirt.
By his standards, Ketjijere had a shocking game, constantly losing possession and failing to connect his passes with alarming regularly.
His partners in the centre of the park, Petrus Shitembi and Heini Isaacks, who had Namibia’s best chances in the second half, didn’t fare much better either.
First Isaacks shot narrowly wide from outside the box, and then later found himself one on one with goalkeeper Nathaniel Sherman, only to shoot straight at the stopper.
When he did find the back of the net on 60 minutes, his effort was ruled out for offside.
Kaanjuka then made a double switch with 25 minutes left, bringing on Hendrik Somaeb and Tangeni Shipahu on for the ineffective Shitembi and Willy Stephanus.
While Shipahu added some impetus to the attack, Somaeb was atrocious – struggling to control the ball and giving the ball away under no pressure.
This made the Blue Waters forward the target of the crowd’s frustrations, with some calling for him to be replaced.
With time running out and presented with a chance to redeem himself, Somaeb woefully blazed a shot off target as he raced onto a through ball when he could have squared the ball for teammates in the box.
Many of the thousands of supporters that had turned up for the match dejectedly began leaving the stadium minutes before the Liberian players began celebrating their first success in 20 outings away from home.