Day four of the Greenfields Africa Hockey Championships witnessed two outstanding efforts by less-fancied teams. Kenya’s men gave world number 20 Egypt a right run for their money before going down 4-1 while the unranked Namibia women, despite a 5-0 defeat, were incredibly brave in defence in holding world number 11 South Africa to that scoreline. The raw numbers don’t do justice as this tournament has witnessed some gargantuan scores of over 20 goals -including one 30-0 result.
Namibia keeper Petro Stoffberg was quite brilliant as she withstood a barrage of assaults on her goalline while ably assisted by her brave defenders. The SA women went on the attack from the first whistle but Namibia defended well in the six-yard area before Stoffberg made a solid glove save off a Lilian Du Plessis penalty corner drag-flick in the seventh minute. A minute into the second quarter Namibia’s defence made a couple of remarkably courageous saves in the six-yard box.
Toni Marks earned SA a second PC in the 18th and Stoffberg once again made a fine save. A goal had to come and penalty corner injector Nicole Walraven was well-placed to scramble in the match’s opening goal for SA to lead 1-0 in the 20th minute. Namibia continued to defend with dogged determination and Stoffberg made a couple more superb saves before a Du Plessis PC drag flick in the 35th minute caught the underside of her outstretch stick and edged over the line.
Walraven got her second goal when she followed up a PC before Lisa Deetlefs’ PC slap shot added to the scoreline. At 4-0 up with 18 minutes left it looked as if outright favourites SA had broken the gutsy Namibian resistance. In the 48th minute, Deetlefs nailed her second PC goal for SA to go 5-0 up.
The last 12 minutes saw Namibia keep their goalline intact. The Kenya men played with enormous spirit and no little skill against Egypt and the north Africans were made to work very hard for their victory. It was massively physical from the outset, umpires Andres Ortiz of Spain and Ghana’s Alfred Akrong having their hands full.
Drama came 21 seconds into the match as a deliberate body check in the 23 gave Kenya a penalty corner. The slip left set up Willis Okeyo’s slap shot but Egypt survived. In the seventh minute Ahmed Mohsen netted a brilliant deflection goal off a scorching slap into the strike zone for Egypt to lead 1-0.
In the 10th Egypt won their first two PCs and the crowd witnessed two stunning stick saves on the goalline by post man and captain Richard Birir and then keeper Linus Kipkemboi from drag-flick thunderbolts by the prolific Mahmood Mamdouh. This men’s clash was huge as it was likely to decide who ends first and second in Pool B with the runners-up having the unenviable task of facing five-time defending champs South Africa in Saturday afternoon’s semi-finals. This pulsating clash was stopped in the 12th minute due to the thunder, lightning and driving rain erupting from the angry cloud cover.
The winners of this match would have -at least on paper – the more palatable opportunity of downing likely Pool A runners-up Ghana in Saturday’s last-four showpiece matches. Egypt were good value for their win but the pacy Kenyans also deserve much credit for taking the game to the Egyptians and not being content to simply keep them out. Egypt’s 4-1 win came from two PC goals by the prolific Mahmoud Mandouh, a magic example of 3D skills and quality finishing by Ahmed Elnaggar and Ahmed Mohsen’s superb deflection goal.
For Kenya there was a top-class goal by the outstanding George Mutira. Earlier, the Ghana men outplayed Botswana 27-0 after leading 12-0 at half-time. Among those who got on the scoresheet, the hugely talented Johnny Botsio bagged eight goals, Kovsies star Michael Baiden got two, Isaac Moses and captain Salya Nsalbini netted hat-tricks, and a host of other players also troubled the scorekeepers. The Zimbabwe men and the Namibia men were involved in an entertaining nine-goal match with the lads from Harare 2-1 up at the interval.
Matt Williams had a dream match, netting four of the six Zimbabwe goals in the 6-3 win with the rest going to Cydreck Starch and Warwick Ullrich. Takudzwa Mangwendeza, Edwin Tholanah and Siyabonga Martins netted the Namibians’ goals. The Ghana women beat Zimbabwe’s ladies 4-0 after leading 2-0 at half-time, the goals going to Nafisatu Umaru, Martha Safoa, Elizabeth Opoku and Rachael Bamfo.
The late clash on pitch two, Kenya ladies versus Tanzania, was also halted by the adverse weather. The match finally resumed once the weather had cleared somewhat and Kenya ran out 5-0 winners after leading 3-0 at half-time. Kenya scored via the sticks of Betsy Ommala (PC), Yvonne Karanja, Gilly Anne Uma, Audrey Omaido (PC) and Caroline Guchu (PC).
Tuesday should be a treat for local fans as the South African men face Ghana at 19:00, preceded by the SA women against Zimbabwe at 16:45.
Photo credit: Marcell Sigg