16/4/14 – Photos by SnaprImages
After the U19’s failed to score a goal in their Euro U19 qualifying group in the Czech Republic last year, an International friendly in the more recognisable surroundings of the Victoria Stadium in Gibraltar was a welcome sight.
Their opponents on the night were Hungary who will host the UEFA European Under-19 Championship from 19 to 31 July 2014. Seven teams will join Hungary in the finals, the 13th to be held since the switch from U18 classification.
This was a great opportunity for the Hungarian coaches to scout their youngster’s abilities ahead of the tournament this summer. The majority of the squad which faced Gibraltar are predominantly from Hungarian sides, but they fielded some players who ply their trade outside of Hungary; Akos Kesckes (Atlalanta), Tamas Szanto (rapid Vienna) and Rajmund Csima (Stuttgarter Kickers)
Gibraltar’s U19 players are already making a name for themselves in the Premier Division locally, in addition to some already gaining caps for the senior side at UEFA International Level. Jack Sergeant and Anthony Hernandez featured in the senior sides friendlies against Faroe Islands and Estonia respectively, whilst the likes of Scot Balentine, Erin Barnett, Francis Picardo, Alain Pons, Daylian Victor, Bradley Banda and Alex Gonzalez have been regulars for their clubs in the Premier Division this season.
Gibraltar lined up with the traditional 4-2-3-1 formation which appears to be the way Alen Bulla wants all the youth sides to play in order to facilitate the transition up the ranks as their careers progress in International football. Jolley and Sergeant added the protective layer in front of the back four, whilst the pacey Mikey Yome was the main outlet in Gibraltar’s attacking phases, supported by the trio of Anthony Hernandez, Scot Balentine and Alan Parker.
Hungary set out in a 4-1-4-1 formation. Their forcus was to have the full backs Tabaler and Spandler overlapping the wingers Csima and Toth to overload in attack and provide support for lone striker Murai.
The opening exchanges were fairly cagey as both sides looked to assert themselves on the game. It was Gibraltar who had the 1st really shout in the game as their penalty appeals were turned away by local referee Jason Barcelo. Ethan Jolley grabbed possession in the midfield and played a thru ball to Mikey Yome. Although the defender had the positional advantage of the striker, Kecjkes played a horrific back pass to the keeper, which Yome latched onto in a flash. The keeper came out and clattered into the Lincoln front man but the appeals were ignored by the referee. The crowd were buoyed by this early chance for the hosts as the atmosphere grew more electric.
Hungary’s 1st meaningful opportunity on goal came on the 10th minute, as a cross from Spandler was met by Szanto, who’s header went over the bar. Shortly after, a Hungarian long throw was played into the box. The big number 9, Murai tussled to gain an advantage in the box with a defender in close proximity, but could only guide his header at the near post over the bar.
Gibraltar weathered the small period of Hungarian pressure and started to claim more of the possession. On the 17th minute, after some good hold up play by Yome, he played the ball out wide to Balentine, the Manchester 62 youngster did well to get his cross into the box, but just evaded Yome in the middle. Parker on the opposite side, collected the cross and played it back into the middle. Yome collected the ball in the box but was forced outside and eventually laid the ball off to the arriving Sergeant who struck the ball wildly without troubling Horvath in the Hungarian goal.
At the other end, Hungary won a free kick outside the Gibraltar box. A rehearsed free kick with 3 players standing over the ball was played to across the box. Spandler collected it out wide and played a consummate ball across the heart of the defence as 3 lurking Hungarian players strived to meet it. Eventually after the ball was half cleared by the Gibraltar defence, an effort was hit which Coleing in the Gibraltar goal did well to parry for a corner.
The deadlock was broken on the half hour mark. A ball was played long and high into the Hungarian box. Horvath went up for the ball and was challenged by Yome. The keeper was unable to grab the ball and only parried it to Yome’s feet, who then turned and shot. Horvath made a great save to block the striker’s effort, but Balentine was on hand to collect the loose ball and dink it into the back of the net avoiding the Hungary defenders on the goal line. 1-0 to Gibraltar as the fans went wild celebrating the goal.
Hungary were not deterred by the goal and went on the hunt for the equaliser straight away. The Rapid Vienna player, Szanto, burst forward on a mazy run, avoiding Gibraltarian challengers and was eventually brought down by Jolley outside the box. Tabaler picked up the ball and struck it down low thru the wall but Coleing was there to again parry the ball out to a waiting Hungarian player, whose subsequent effort from 3 yards out hit the post and went out for a goal kick, however the linesman had raised his flag for offside.
A couple of minutes later Gibraltar made it 2-0. A mistake from the Hungarian defence gifted the ball straight to Hernandez. The Cadiz C.F. player had the simple task of slotting the ball calmly around the on rushing Horvath into the net to put Gibraltar 2-0 up. Jubilant scenes of celebrations by the players and fans ensued at this magnificent score line.
The Gibraltar players had not stopped celebrating as soon after, Hungary bombed down the right and Csima played a ball into the box for Szanto who was unmarked and placed a low shot beyond the reach of Coleing to make it 2-1 which is how the teams went into the dressing rooms at the half time break.
Hungary made two changes at half time. Koszecz went in goal in place of Horvath and Sejben came on in place of Csima.
The second half started slowly but after 10 minutes, Murai had an effort inside the box, but his weak effort was easily gathered by Coleing.
Gibraltar made their first substitution of the game after 55 minutes, with College Europa player Daylian Victor replacing Alan Parker, whilst Hungary brought on Jancso and Salloi in place of Vida and Murai respectively.
Salloi had two decent chances within minutes of him entering the field. Firstly, he was played through on goal down the left, but his effort was well saved by Coleing up high for a corner and within minutes he had a carbon copy of his earlier effort which he blazed over the bar.
At this point, Gibraltar replaced goal scorer Scot Balentine who had performed admirably and replaced him with Lions Gibraltar player Jules Origo.
With 25 minutes to go and Hungary seemingly on top of proceedings, they went for the jugular. Their coach pushed their full backs on and at times looked like they were playing a 3-2-5 formation as they desperately searched for an equaliser. Spandler played a dangerous looking ball into the box but Lee Coombes was there to clear for a corner. Coombes had been involved in a challenge with striker Murai at the end of the first half and required treatment at half time. The centre back had been through the wars and was visibly struggling after his encounter with Murai. He was replaced by Chad Gillingwater to a rapturous ovation by the home fans. Tristan Sergeant (Jack’s younger brother) and tricky forward Alex Gonzalez also came on in place of Lincoln pair Alain Pons and Mikey Yome.
Hungary continued going forward for that illusive equaliser. But Gibraltar were looking to attack on the counter attack. The two substitutes combined as Tristan Sergeant played Gonzalez, who has scored 2 goals in the Premier Division this season, seemed to have been played clean thru on goal, but was unable to get the ball under control. Shortly after, Victor had a shot but fired it over the bar.
Hungary nearly equalised with a direct free kick on the 80th minute. Victor brought down the marauding Hungarian player outside the box. Tabaler hit a shot which curled up and over the ball and just missed the top corner as Coleing desperately dived to try and save it.
With 7 minutes to go Hungary were dealt a blow as Lenzjer was given his marching orders for tugging back Gonzalez as the striker was flying towards goal. Referee Barcelo produced the player’s second yellow card. Victor struck the free kick but his shot went high wide and not very handsome.
With 5 minutes to go it was all Hungary as they bombarded the Gibraltar goal. Spandler hit a shot which was heroically blocked by the Gibraltar defence whilst Sejben later had a shot which went over the bar.
Just as Gibraltar looked to have again weathered the Hungary storm, up popped Spandler down the left and let fly an absolute rocket of shot which flew into the top corner past Coleing. If any goal deserved to level a game, that goal was certainly it.
The dying embers of the game were a scrappy affair as both teams looked happy with the result. At full time the Gibraltar players were joyous in their celebrations. From their defeats in the EURO qualifiers to a credible performance and draw against the U19 Euro hosts. The biggest of critics could say the players should not have been so happy to celebrate the draw just when it could have been a victory. However, the lads all gave a massive effort and to come away with a positive result was very impressive.
The Hungarian team was disciplined, moved the ball about well and were hard to break down. Had it not been for individual mistakes which lead to the goals, it would have been difficult for Gibraltar to break them down.
All in all, a great result for Gibraltar as the future looks extremely bright.