All Blacks perform the Haka before the 20-6 semi-final demolition of Australia yesterday at Eden Park Stadium in Auckland. New Zealand will now meet France in the Rugby World Cup finals on October 23. France defeated Wales 9-8 in the other semi-final on Saturday to earn their Cup Final berth. Nampa pic
Contrary to the psychologically calming statements that the winner between Black Africa (BA) and African Stars represents the league title-course more than just three points, the quality of football exhibited at Independence Stadium on Saturday was far from that of league title contenders.
A solitary strike from Marco Van Wyk was enough to put the defending champions Black Africa, three points ahead of Stars on the league summit.
The match started at a lively pace, with Hartman Toromba typically committing the first foul in the opening exchanges.
However, the game failed to develop, as both sides took a cautious approach although Stars’ Edwin Korukove looked more threatening with his bustling runs.
Tara Katupose’s header from a Korukove cross whistled the crossbar before Rudi Louw’s corner was connected by Korukove whose thunder-strike hit the upright in a goal mouth melee, followed by Stars’ appeal for a penalty as the ball landed on Denzil ‘Khuboni’ Haoseb’s chest.
For 20 minutes, Stars seemed more eager to be on top of the table this week using a highway on the left where Marvin Katire was kept busy by Louw and Katupose.
Yet for all the perfection of Ronald Katjijere’s geometric passing, Korukove’s brilliance and the authority shown by Jamu Ngatjizeko in holding midfield, BA’s organised flair punished Stars’ profligacy.
In the 30th minute, Willy ‘Awilo’ Stephanus countered on a defensive lapse and momentarily found himself one-on-one with Max Mbaeva. The Stars shot-stopper was forced to a great save, his first real action since kick off, and BA’s first corner kick.
From there on, it was BA all over but struggled to carve out chances, as dangerous Brayn Bantam and Jerome ‘J-Lo’ Louis lost each other in transition in the final third.
Five minutes later, Mbaeva failed to negotiate a J-Lo cross and as Van Wyk pounced on the mistiming he was wrestled to the ground by the goalie, winning BA a penalty and Mbaeva, a yellow card.
Van Wyk converted from the spot but referee Ronald Shilongo called for a retake, which Mbaeva coolly stopped.
The real goal finally came in the 52nd minute, from an outrageous piece of skill from J-Lo who ghosted past defender Chris Katjiukua before curling a shot into the far corner, where Mbaeva parried it but back into play.
Van Wyk was there to pounce on the rebound in that goal-mouth scramble and his pedestrian shot strolled in an empty net, Mbaeva still sprawling on the other side of the post.
Stars wilted in the second half, lacking any guile or real attacking intent until the introduction of Edison ‘Masinga’ Muhuea, Milton Chapo and Muna Katupose which sparked Stars fans, but did little to affect the turgid pace of their game.
Another moment of awe was when J-Lo’s free-kick grazed the cross bar, Mbaeva a beaten man.
There was nothing sublime to write home about, except referee Shilongo’s second controversial call of disallowing Bryan Bantam’s 56th minute goal from a free kick although near-side assistant referee Stephanus Swartbooi’s flag stayed down.
Brian Isaacs, despite making it four wins out of four, will however come to regret his side’s unusual inability to convert their pace into goals.
With BA more comfortable on the ball in the second stanza, Stars sought to come back through Katjijere, Korukove but found the tough going, as trusted assassin Denis Ngueza’s mobility was limited by Eslin ‘Lovers’ Kamuhanga.
A seemingly overweight Rudi Louw was a shadow of himself in the second half but nearly capitalised on BA’s concentration lapse as he curled a sumptuous screamer towards the top corner, only to ricochet on the cross bar, with Subeb, far from the action.
In the dying minutes, Stars tried to look to Louw’s experience for a point but his shot went wide, before Awilo capitalised on the counter outrunning Freedom Puriza, Katjiukua and Pat Uanivi, only to give Mbaeva with a low shot in the last kick of the match.
For now, BA can be satisfied that they have momentum after doing something no other team has done or might do this season – beating a rival in African Stars.
But everything about Namibia’s own version of El Clasico lacked flair expect a few moments of awesome brilliance from Korukove, Louw, Willy Stephanus and to some extent Jerome Louis.
Black Africa has the edge for now, but their act is not for defending champions.