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Halftime substitute Mbenza inspires Republic of Congo to comeback draw against Namibia in Johannesburg

Les Diables Rouges of the Republic of Congo did their supporters proud on Thursday after going down in the first half against Namibia, surging back to claim a road point in their 1-1 draw with an excellent second half performance in FIFA World Cup qualifying. Namibian creative source Deon Hotto provided the first half opener when his free kick was redirected by Vetunuavi Hambira into the Congolese goal, but forward Guy Mbenza led the comeback for Republic of Congo and was responsible for the equalizer in the second half to restore parity. Both teams are looking up at Senegal in Group H following their splitting of the points.

The Congolese looked a bit sluggish in the first half with the Namibians looking more assured on the ball, but both teams struggled to create firm chances in the opening 20 minutes. Yann Mabella took advantage of a poor giveaway from the Namibian defense to get a shot off but sent his effort high and wide in the 17th minute. The hosts, playing their home match in South Africa due to an unsuitable stadium, were gifted their first opportunity in the 21st minute when a turnover in a horrible position had Willy Stephanus one on one with Congolese keeper Christoffer Mafoumbi, but Stephanus placed his shot off the post and failed to direct the rebound into the goal.

Hotto, playing in the stadium where he plays his club football for Orlando Pirates, created the opening goal when his inswinging free kick from the right flank bounced off teammate Hambira and snuck just inside Mafoumbi’s far post to put Namibia up. Bradley Mazikou attempted to respond for Republic of Congo in the 33rd minute but after cutting inside from the left wing, the CSKA Sofia player sent his shot over the bar and it was 1-0 to the hosts at halftime.

The visitors came out looking like a brand new team after the break and proceeded to take the game to Namibia. Halftime substitute Mbenza was the highlight of the Diables Rouges comeback effort and provided the energy that the team was lacking in the first half. The Royal Antwerp forward’s effort led to the Congolese leveler in the 57th minute. Silvere Ganvoula uncorked a blast from the corner of the Namibian penalty area that was beat back by keeper Lloyd Kazapua, but Mbenza ran onto the rebound, slotting a low shot from a tight angle past Kazapua. Hambira took up guard on the line but could only react quick enough to clear Mbenza’s shot into the side of the net, resulting in an initial ruling of an own goal.

Republic of Congo had a golden opportunity to win it late when an aerial ball took a fortuitous bounce past the Namibian defensive line. Mbenza was quick to react once again and ran in through on goal, but slammed his shot past Kazapua, off the post and back out into play. Namibia had their golden chance to win the match as well, but when a cross found a wide open Peter Shalulile, the Mamelodi Sundowns star failed to direct his header on target.

Highlights of the match are in the link below.

FIFA TV Highlights

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