Namibia Off to Losing Start

Namibia's men and women's teams both got off to losing starts at the Africa Cup of Nations hockey qualifiers in Stellenbosch on Monday.

In the morning, Namibia's women suffered a major setback when they lost 1-0 to Kenya, but Namibia's men gave an inspired performance before going down 3-1 to South Africa late Monday afternoon.

In the morning match, Grace Makhokha scored the winning goal for Kenya just before the end of the third chukka when she rounded off a quick counter-attack that caught Namibia's defence flat-footed and outnumbered.

Namibia had more possession and the better chances in the first half, but struggled to break past Kenya's dogged defence.

After some early attacks by Jivanka Kruger and Maggy Mengo, Namibia's pressure started to tell as they won two short corners towards the end of the first chukka.

They, however, could not capitalise, failing to control their first effort, while Jocelle Deysel's shot was cleared by the Kenyan defence on the second attempt.

Namibia continued to pressurise the Kenyan defence and after displaying some quick short passes in their approach play, Armin van Staden came close to scoring when she just missed a cross into the box at the far post.

Kenya won a short corner after a rare attack on 20 minutes, but Namibia's defence cleared the danger and Namibia soon went on the attack again.

They finished off the first half by winning two more short corners, but once again they could not but their chances away.

Namibia captain Maggy Mengo and Phea Gerber created some more chances with strong attacks down the wings in the third chukka, and they won two more short corners in quick succession at the end of the chukka.

Namibia's failure to convert their chances, however, would cost them dearly as Kenya struck a decisive blow from the second one just before the end of the third chukka. They launched an immediate counterattack, with Alice Owiti beating Namibia's defence with her pace down the right wing before sending in a cross that was bundled in at the far post by Grace Makhokha.

Namibia pushed hard in the final chukka with Mengo, Deysel and Van Staden putting in some strong attacks, while a Phea Gerber shot was cleared off the line, but Kenya managed to hold out for a surprise victory.

With Kenya ranked 45th in the world compared to Namibia's 40th, it was a match that Namibia was expected to win and coach Erwin Handura could not hide his disappointment after the game.

"It was bad luck that we lost, but we dominated the game, we had several penalty corners, but the players could not put it away and we also made some wrong decisions at the penalty corners.

"The goal they scored was against the run of play. We had a penalty corner and they defended it and counter-attacked and we were outnumbered at the back so they scored from there," he added.

"It's very disappointing, it's a game that we really should have won and especially the first 15 minutes we were all over them, but poor decisions let us down," he said.

In another women's match yesterday, Ghana got off to a winning start after beating Zimbabwe 3-1.

Namibia's next match is against the favourites, South Africa on Thursday.

Namibia's men, meanwhile gave a great performance as they matched the hosts for most of the match.

At half time the score was still 0-0 and South Africa finally took the lead in the third chukka after a great solo goal by Dayaan Cassiem.

In the final chukka South Africa stepped up the tempo and Austin Smith scored two more goals from short corners to put them 3-0 up.

Namibia however had the final say when they won a short corner in injury time and Percy Barthram deflected a shot into the net to make the final score 3-1.

Namibia's next match is against Ghana at 15h00 on Tuesday.

In other men's matches on Monday, Egypt comfortably beat Zimbabwe 6-0, while Ghana beat Kenya 3-2.

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