14 May 2019

Namibia: Pirates' Relegation Fears Growing

ORLANDO Pirates' relegation fears are now very real after they suffered an agonising 1-0 defeat to Julinho Sporting at the Sam Nujoma Stadium on Sunday.

Pirates were unfortunate to concede a penalty five minutes from time when Amos Iyambo handled the ball in the box, and despite profuse protestations that the ball had hit his chest, the referee pointed to the spot.

Mwala Muwana made no mistake, to send Pirates packing with a 1-0 defeat, which leaves them rooted to the bottom of the log.

Julinho did the early attacking with Muwana and Patrick Matengu providing some great assists, but Gabriel Ntjamba and Reinhold Shavuka could not take their chances.

Pirates managed to keep them at bay and by the end of the first half came close themselves when Jackson Eliakim had a shot tipped over the bar, while George Haikali shot narrowly wide.

Pirates stepped up the tempo and did most of the attacking in the second half as Desmond Isaak and Brenwell Mentoor both came close to scoring.

Julinho, however, took the lead through Muwana's penalty, but Pirates continued to attack and were unlucky not to equalise as Eliakim hit the post as well as the side netting in the closing stages.

Pirates now remain bottom of the log on 22 points, but they can still catch Blue Waters (on 23 points) and Civics on 25. With only three matches remaining, however, they will have to start winning to avoid being relegated from the Premier League for the first time since independence.

Their chances of doing so, however, are becoming increasingly difficult as their next match is against the log leaders Black Africa, who now just need a point to win the Premier League title, and they could well become champions against their arch rivals on Thursday.

Pirates' faint hopes of survival were aided when Civics lost 1-0 to Citizens on Sunday, but Blue Waters held African Stars to a goalless draw in Walvis Bay, to remain just above Pirates on the log.

A lot can, however, still happen before the end of the league, and up to six teams are still in the danger zone. Besides the bottom three, Okahandja United and Tigers, who are both on 26 points, and Young Brazilians on 28, can still be caught and are not out danger.

The chief administrator of the Namibia Premier League, Harald Fuelle yesterday, meanwhile confirmed that the bottom two teams will be relegated this season.

There have been rumours and reports circulating on social media that the NPL had decided against promotion-relegation this season, since the Nationwide First Division has still not started, with the result that there are no teams to be promoted to the Premier League.

"We haven't made a decision yet and a task force comprising members of the NPL and the Normalisation Committee is still looking into the matter. But we have a responsibility to our sponsors to ensure that it (promotion-relegation) still takes place so that the leagues won't be disrupted," he said.

Regarding the nationwide first divisions which are still in limbo, Fuelle said they will still take place.

"We need to find a formula to kickstart the first division. My view is that we can have a similar situation to last season when the three nationwide first division matches were significantly reduced and they held mini leagues, with the winners being promoted, but we still need to finalise this," he said.

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