16 January 2013

Namibia: 'We Must Maintain Momentum'

AFRICAN Stars coach Ali Akan says his side must maintain their consistency in order to wrest the Namibian Premier League title from the clutches of Black Africa.

Stars face Orlando Pirates at the Sam Nujoma Stadium on Saturday, as the two still unbeaten teams in the league look to steal a march in the title race.

Stars lead the log with 22 points from 10 matches, while Pirates are third on 20 points - the difference being that Stars have won one more match than Pirates.

Under Akan, Stars have been transformed, playing an attacking brand of football that has yielded positive results.

Off-season arrivals Bradley Wermann, Riaan Cloete and Deon Kavendji have been in fine form and Stars' erstwhile fans are streaming back in droves, hoping to stop Black Africa from claiming a hat-trick of titles.

"We have to keep the momentum. Always the first game after the break is not easy. Especially because we play against Pirates. This is a Tura Derby and one of the biggest games of the season," said Akan, who reiterated his desire to win the league.

"We have not lost in thirteen matches. The fitness levels not very high during this time but we have good players and they understand that we must keep playing better to reach our aim."

Pirates have done remarkably well under new coach Christi Guruseb, with a squad of few star players. Gustav Isaacks has been their standout player so far, but they also have one of the best defences around in players like national keeper Virgil Vries, Steven Sabatha, Brian Gurirab, Ivan Makina and Alfons Gurirab.

One player who will be hoping to make an impact in the match is striker Alfie Ndyenge, who joined Stars at the beginning of the season but later moved to Pirates after failing to get regular game time at Stars.

The Stars vs Pirates match will be the second of a double-header scheduled for Saturday evening, and will follow the encounter between Black Africa and Mighty Gunners at 16h00.

Black Africa are just one point behind Stars on the log and will need to win to keep up the pressure. They, of course, are aiming to win their third consecutive league title - a feat that only Civics has managed to do since Namibia's independence.

Mighty Gunners had a promising start to the league but then went into a slump, and have not been on the winning side for their past four matches. In the process they have dropped down to second last on the log and will be desperate to stop the slide against BA.

Friday evening will see another double-header at the Sam Nujoma Stadium, with Tura Magic taking on SKW at 19h00, while Civics will face Tigers at 21h00.

The former will be a crucial match as both teams are struggling at the foot of the table.

SKW have had their worst start to the league in recent years and are just above the relegation zone in 10th position on nine points, while Tura Magic are one position above them on 10 points.

There is also not much separating Tigers and Civics, with the former lying fifth on the log on 14 points and the latter sixth on 12 points.

Tigers have put in some scintillating performances this season, like beating Ramblers 3-1 and drawing 1-1 against Black Africa, but they have also been inconsistent, losing to smaller teams like Tura Magic and Blue Waters.

Civics are rebuilding with a young squad and although they don't seem to be as strong as Tigers on paper, they cannot be underestimated as they demonstrated in their 4-0 victory against SKW last month.

On Saturday afternoon at 16h00, eighth-placed Blue Waters will host bottom-of-the-log Rundu Chiefs at the Narraville Stadium in Walvis Bay, while fourth-placed Ramblers will host seventh-placed Eleven Arrows at the Independence Stadium at 17h00.

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