The Coach Corner – Rock Cup Final: Tactical Analysis

GFA Rock Cup Final
Lincoln Red Imps FC vs College Europa FC
10th May 2014
Pictures by snaprimages

lincoln college

The showpiece event in Gibraltar’s football calendar saw a fiercely contested Rock Cup Final between league and cup winners Lincoln Red Imps and this season most revamped side, College Europa FC.

The game itself was played in the sweltering heat down at a packed Victoria Stadium in front of the GFA’s guest of honor, UEFA president Michel Platini along with Deputy Secretary General Theodore Theodoris, Head of Football Development Jean Francois Domergue, and Head of President’s Office Kevin Lamour. Lincoln had already secured Champions League football for next season as league winners with the major debate, which at time of writing, surrounded who should be entitled to the Europa League spot.

Line Ups

Lincoln Red Imps
Lincoln Red Imps Lined up with a 4-3-3

Lincoln Red Imps Lined up with a 4-3-3

Manager Mick McElwee fielded a strong starting 11 in a 4-3-3 formation which included their regular central defensive partnership of Roy Chipolina and Ryan Casciaro flanked by 2 young, energetic and marauding full backs in Alain Pons and Jean Carlos Garcia. The a latter having been awarded the GFT Young player of the season acolade. Mark Casciaro was deployed in his preferred and natural deep lying playmaker role and was somewhat surprisingly selected ahead of Lincoln skipper Daniel Duarte. Alongside him in midfield were Joseph Chipolina and Liam Clarke, two players who’s energy and attacking abilities are highly regarded in the local game and they were tasked with linking the play with Lincoln’s very sharp attacking front 3 which included newly crowned GFT player of the season and top goal scorer, John Paul Duarte.

On the bench Lincoln had the luxury of 2 experienced and established internationals in Aaron Payas and Lee Casciaro, with the latter having been out of action for 7 months due to a knee injury picked up in the first game of the season against Lynx F.C. and which required surgery. It could be argued this season that Lincoln’s style of play has been more direct than in previous seasons where they have preferred a more possession orientated approach.

This season however, the direct approach has worked well for them in order to take advantage of the pace they offer in the final third of the pitch. This style of play also compliments the long ball playing ability of their deeper lying players namely Ryan Casciaro, who can certainly ping a ball ‘a la Paul Scholes’ and he is probably regarded as the best in the league at doing this. Another characteristic of Lincoln’s play is their emphasis on width being supplied by their full backs which is used to great effect as it is clear that McElwee grants them license to attack when the opportunity presents itself. Lincoln certainly have the ability to easily revert to the possession based approach in order to grind down the opposition and that’s when they can take advantage and assert their domination on games. Clever infield movements of their wide players create a numerical advantage which disorganizes opponents in the centre of the pitch. Naturally the width is provided by their exciting young full backs and this has been a major attribute of Lincoln’s attacking play this season. It must be noted that all of the above shows the signs of a good team playing to their strengths with the right players in their strongest positions in order to maximize their chances of success. It’s no surprise that they have been the most dominant side in Gibraltar football within the last decade.

Lincoln Red Imps Left to right, Top row: Joseph Chipolina, John Paul Duarte, Kyle Casciaro, Jordan Perez, Roy Chipolina, Ryan Casciaro; Bottom row: Liam Clarke, George Cabrera, Mark Casciaro, Jean Carlos Garcia, Alain Pons.

Lincoln Red Imps
Left to right, Top row: Joseph Chipolina, John Paul Duarte, Kyle Casciaro, Jordan Perez, Roy Chipolina, Ryan Casciaro;
Bottom row: Liam Clarke, George Cabrera, Mark Casciaro, Jean Carlos Garcia, Alain Pons.

College Europa
College Europa lined up with a 4-4-1-1

College Europa lined up with a 4-4-1-1

College’s starting formation for this game could have been interpreted as a 4-4-1-1 or a 4-2-3-1 which are both tactical variants of the 4-4-2 however the way in which these can be set out and implemented can vary considerably and is dependent on how the manager would like his team to play. Manager Perez Herrera fielded his strongest side possible from the players at his disposal with his default central defensive partnership of Tunisian Aymen Mouelhi and promising local youngster Ethan Jolley. Both centre backs complement each other well and both have had good consistent seasons. In the centre of midfield the tenacious and tactically astute Argentinean Leandro Pereyra was partnered with Jamie Bosio who has become a regular starter for the 2nd half of the season.

Montovio and Toncheff started out on the flanks for College with the skilful veteran Joseph Chipol deployed in the ‘trequartista’ role behind sharp and tricky striker, “Tostao”. During the first half of this season College’s emphasis and foundation was built on defensive and tactical organization and credit here must go to previous manager Manolo “El Chupete” Nuñez however this seemed to be his downfall as their attacking abilities seemed to suffer slightly. Current manager, Perez Herrera, seems to have found the right balance between defense and attack and has got the team playing with greater confidence in the attacking phase. He also puts emphasis and wants his side to press and push higher up onto their opponents in order to win the ball back as close to the opposition goal as possible to maximize their goal scoring threat. College also have the ability to apply a direct approach to their game focusing their play around powerful Argentinean forward Christian Toncheff, who’s strength, ability and awareness to hold the ball for supporting players is arguably the best in the league.

College Europa Left to right, Top Row: Ethan Jolley, Joseph Chipol, Lee Coombes, Matt Cafer, Aymen Mouelhi, Cristian Toncheff. Bottom row: Aiden Victor, Robert Montovio, Jamie Bosio, Cristian Cortes 'Tostao', Leandro Pereyra.

College Europa
Left to right, Top Row: Lee Coombes, Joseph Chipol, Ethan Jolley, Matt Cafer, Aymen Mouelhi, Cristian Toncheff.
Bottom row: Aiden Victor, Robert Montovio, Jamie Bosio, Cristian Cortes ‘Tostao’, Leandro Pereyra.

The Game

Due to the magnitude of the occasion, it was clear that both sides started the game nervously as neither could really take control or assert their authority on the game in the opening stages. It was evident that the College manager wanted to press high and put Lincoln under intense pressure as soon as possible in order to force mistakes which would then allow them to recover the ball as close to their opponents goal as possible. Their formation at this stage was more of an aggressive 4-2-4 with their four front players pushing up high onto the Lincoln back line. In order to try and discourage College from doing this, Lincoln adopted their preferred direct approach by focusing their play down both flanks utilizing the pace and power of both Kyle Casciaro and John Paul Duarte. Lincoln’s system of a 4-3-3 allowed them to enjoy a 3v2 overload in their favour in midfield throughout the first half. It seemed pretty clear that Chipol, in the trequartista role, had no instruction or intention to drop into midfield to at least match up to Lincoln’s 3 midfield players and this allowed Mark Casciaro time and space on the ball at every opportunity. As mentioned earlier, Lincoln can easily adapt their game to become possession orientated so when they have a numerical advantage in the centre of midfield, they can keep and recycle possession for fun.

As the game progressed Lincoln slowly started to dominate the proceedings and they had the first real chance of the game when John Paul Duarte blazed over from about 10 yards at the far post after a Kyle Casciaro cross eluded everyone in the box. Almost immediately, the game’s best chance was brilliantly saved from College keeper, Matt Cafer, as he thwarted Joseph Chipolina’s 1 on 1 effort following a perfectly weighted defense splitting pass between College’s centre backs by John Paul Duarte.

The pattern of the game became pretty clear after Lincoln’s early chances as they started to grow in confidence and were seeing much more of the ball with College continuing to press high when the Lincoln defense had possession. Lincoln are certainly the strongest team in the league in terms of possession football so once they managed to play through the high press of College is was pretty easy for them to build attacks both centrally, but primarily down both flanks. Both Garcia and Pons had very good games as they buccaneered forward to create 2v1 overloads on the flanks which was aided by the fact that College’s wide players did not track their direct opponents. The danger of this is that extra emphasis is then placed on the central midfielders to come across to assist the exposed full backs which then creates a gap in the centre of midfield for the opponent to dominate even further. Perhaps the best option for College in this game would have been to sit deep and defend with 2 banks of four along with their attacking midfielder to drop onto the deep lying playmaker to try and restrict his influence as much as possible converting their shape into a 4-5-1. By doing this they could have contained and frustrated Lincoln with focus on counter attacking with pace and power as soon as possession was recovered. College have 2 quick and powerful players in “Tostao” and Toncheff so this tactical approach would most likely have caused Lincoln far greater problems as they would have slowly pushed further forward due to College’s deep defensive organization. The 2nd leg of the champions league semi final between Bayern Munich and Real Madrid is a perfect example of a matchup between 2 teams with completely different tactical approaches. As we all know Real Madrid defended as a unit and very compactly and were able to frustrate Bayern and win the ball back in good areas of the field. They provided a real master class in counterattacking football as they caused Bayern all sorts of problems going forward who’s primary focus was to try and breakdown the opposition with possession football. This is the problem for a team who don’t have a plan B however in this game it was clear that Lincoln could have used two different plans i.e. the direct approach or the possession based approach and it was the former which was preferred by the league champions.

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College Europa’s Lee Coombes battles with Lincoln’s John Paul Duarte

 

College’s best performers on the day were certainly their central defensive partnership of Aymen Mouelhi and Ethan Jolley who both had very solid games and continually dealt with Lincoln’s crosses from the flanks. Unfortunately for College they carried little threat in the attacking phase as their use of the ball when was possession was won was not effective enough. Lincoln continued to recover possession easily. The games next half chance fell to Kyle Casciaro but fortunately for College he blazed wide at the back post from 12 yards as a cross from the advanced Garcia bypassed everyone in the area. Lincoln continued to focus their play out wide and on one occasion exposed College right back Aiden Victor brilliantly as he was caught up field after losing possession. Ryan Casciaro played a glorious long ball to Joseph Chipolina who had drifted over to the College right hand side looking to take advantage of the space that had opened up. He played a ball through to a buccaneering Kyle Casciaro however his cross into the box proved ineffective and was dealt with by the College centre backs. It was rather surprising that the College manager did nothing to at least try and restrict Lincoln’s wide play.

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College Europa’s Aymen Mouelhi chases after Kyle Casciaro

 

The College manager made his first tactical adjustment of the game around the half hour mark as he switched his captain, Robert Montovio with “Tostao”. Out of College’s front 4 attacking players Montovio is probably the only one who carries some defensive awareness so it was as bold move by the manager to remove him from the flank but his thinking was a positive one. “Tostao” is a pacey and tricky player so the move over to the left side of midfield made sense to try and expose Garcia once College regained possession. However, their ability to effectively use possession was very limited by a well organised Lincoln side.

The ball was in the net just before half time but was promptly disallowed by referee Jason Barcelo as George Cabreras effort from 12 yards went through a crowd of players. The referee deemed the goal offside as 2 Lincoln players were in offside positions and blocking the College goalkeepers line of sight. Almost immediately College themselves had a goal ruled for offside. A neat ball was played through to Robert Motonvio who put the ball into the net after he penetrated and exposed Lincoln’s right side well. The linesman was quick to raise his flag with some questioning whether Montovio was in fact offside. The half ended a 0-0 stalemate however Lincoln were looking the more likely to break the deadlock.

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Monvotio sees his effort ruled out for off-side

 

The 2nd half started with an early College chance as Christian Toncheff latched onto a free kick which arrived to him in the area but Jordan Perez managed to deny the Argentinian with a smart save. It was interesting to see that College had now moved to a 4-3-3 to match up to Lincoln in the centre of midfield to try and limit their influence in possession. This system still encourages a team to press high up with the front three spread out across the back four however if the 2 front wide players are not in peak physical condition and are not defensively smart, the system can completely fall apart as both the flanks and the centre of midfield can become completely exposed. This was the pattern in the 2nd half as Lincoln dominated possession further and seemed to have greater freedom down the flanks as both College’s wide players failed to track back. The College manger instructed his goalkeeper to go long as soon as possible during the first 15mins of the second half to try and put the Lincoln defense under pressure to try and force errors from them. This proved ineffective as the Lincoln defense managed to easily deal with this style of play and this tactic was soon proved unsuccessful. As Lincoln continued on the front foot, Liam Clarke had a great chance to put Lincoln in the lead but he blazed over from 12 yards as a poorly cleared corner from College fell perfectly for Lincoln’s attacking midfielder. College had a good chance to open the scoring from a direct free kick 25 yards out however Toncheff’s effort was sent wide.

With UEFA President, MIchel Platini looking on, The 2nd half became very flat as College now decided to drop deeper as it was clear that they were more than happy to take the game into extra time and penalties. As the game reached the latter stages, Lincoln were overwhelmingly dominating possession as they tried everything to get the goal that would win them the Rock Cup. That moment came in the 90th minute when a long throw by Joseph Chipolina, was flicked on by Roy Chipolina, and the ball was met by Liam Clarke who managed to direct the ball into the College keepers right hand post.

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Clarke nets Lincoln’s winner in stoppage time

This proved to be the winning goal as referee Barcelo promptly blew for full time as College restarted the game. There were interesting scenes at the final whistle as the College contingent were seen celebrating as if they had won the trophy however this was related to the Europa League qualification as they felt that they are the ones who have rightly qualified for next seasons competition. It turned out days later, College Europa were in fact elected into the Europa League as per 2014/15 Europa League regulations.

 

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Lincoln captain Daniel Duarte receives the Rock Cup trophy from UEFA President Michel Platini

Conclusion

 An intense game which saw Lincoln emerge as the winners. The game, especially in the 2nd half was pretty flat and dull at times and credit must not only go to Lincoln here for completing yet another clean sweep but also to College who made life tough for their opponents and were perhaps hard done by the winning goal scored right at the death. They defended admirably with Aymen Mouelhi and Ethan Jolley putting in very solid performances however they could not build on this as their attacking play and chance creation was average at best. Credit must also go to the College manager, Perez Herera, as he was not afraid in shifting his side around to try and identify the best way of causing Lincoln problems however this proved unrewarding as Lincoln continually exposed the College flanks time and time again to take advantage of the poor defensive awareness shown by College’s wide players. Fortunately for College, Lincoln weren’t as clinical in front of goal as they have been throughout the majority of the season. College could have altered their tactical approach to a more contain and counter one which could have caused Lincoln more problems going forward instead of pressing them so high up as Lincoln continually played through the press with consummate ease. One of Lincoln’s weakness over the years has been when they have become increasingly frustrated and under pressure which can make them vulnerable. By adopting this approach College could have caused greater problems for Lincoln but only if their use of possession was far more effective in their attacking transition. Overall a deserved win for Lincoln who have once again set the bench mark for the other teams to aim for next season.

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The Lincoln Red Imps squad celebrate their Rock Cup win along with the other silverware obtained this season

GFT MOTM – Liam Clarke (Lincoln)

clarke

Lincoln’s Liam Clarke was instrumental in the Red Imps’ win

The attacking midfielder was involved in pretty much every Lincoln move as he continually showed great energy and fitness levels and linked play well. This was especially the case with with Pons and Kyle Casciaro down the left side. He always went looking for the ball to try and make something happen so it was only fitting that he grabbed the game’s only goal. It’s a shame that Gibraltar manager Bula has not included him in the recent senior squads for both friendlies coming up as he could certainly offer a different dimension to Gibraltar’s attacking play.

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The Race for Promotion in the 2nd Division

As the 2nd Division season is reaching its climax, there are still 4 clubs chasing either the title or the playoff position. Lions Pilots are not allowed to earn promotion to the Premier League, due to their affiliation to Lions Gibraltar, but nevertheless, the players will be looking to win some silverware. Lions Pilots are also in the unenviable position of challenging for a league and cup double, as the face Red Imps in the 2nd Division Cup Final.

2ndDiv promotion

Here’s how the run in for the 4 teams at the top of the table looks:

Form Guide – Last 5 games
Mons Calpe D W D W W
Lions Pilots W W W W D
FC Britannia XI L W W W L
FC Olympique 13 L D W D D

Mons Calpe SC:

The Calpeans are currently on a 7 match unbeaten run, which includes 5 wins and 2 draws. Although a new team to the division and did not feature in the early season favourites, Mons Calpe have proved everyone wrong and have surged through the league and have not been phased by the prize of promotion to the big league.

Their season started off with 4 wins out of the opening 5 games, and only a draw. The draw came against lowly Leo Parilla who had not won a game at that point.

The Calpeans have 5 games remaining and 2 of those games are against their direct rivals, Lions Pilots and FC Britannia XI. In their previous encounters against both sides, Mons have had indifferent games, losing 2-0 to the Pilots, but beating FC Britannia 2-0. Pilots are currently the form team in the Division so that game will be an interesting encounter.

Key players this season have been defender Aaron Collado. The former St Joseph’s man’s experience proves to be key in this division. Right back Alberto is a very good player and has been influential. In midfield, the quality of Stefan Cumbo and Kaylan Muscat have been instrumental in the team’s success. Shane Howe, a great player back in his youth days, is the top goal scorer. The signings of Kai and Kaylan Rumbo have given the team an important boost in speed and quality.

John Paul Bacaresse ‘Kuka’ and Giovanni Bagu are also key as they do the ‘dirty’ work for the more creative players to have a good game.

The manager, Kieran Alman, is doing a great job and is assisted by Philip Debono and James Read. The dressing room has many egos to control and the fact they are top of the league is testament to the good job the management team are doing.

If Mons can come away from both those games unbeaten, promotion could most certainly be on the cards. Only their final fixture against a rejuvenated Red Imps team could prove a difficult hurdle.

Lions Pilots:

Although they are currently the form side in the division, the Pilots by far have the toughest run in out of the 5 sides in the hunt for promotion. With 3 direct clashes against those around them, and a game against Red Imps, they could not have wished for a worse run in to the league season.

In addition to this, the Pilots also have the added distraction of playing the Red Imps in the final of the 2nd Division Cup final. This could distract the player’s attention knowing that promotion is not possible.

A few players have stood out this season for the Pilots. Most noticeably Jovan Buttigieg who has been a key player at the heart of the defence; Kenneth Chipolina who has been a driving force in the Lions Midifield. Aidan Casey has also been a key player to the team. A player who can play in all positions and has given his all when called upon. Javagn Apap has also chipped in with his fair share of goals and is a hot prospect for the future.Pilots manager Joaquin Ignacio pinned his teams’ title prospects on the upcoming match against Mons Calpe.

“We have had too many injuries and haven’t been able to field what I consider would be my best 11 but we play Mons Calpe in our next match. We won in the 1st round of the league so if we win we have a great chance.”

Ignacio also added

“Im’ also getting players back fit which is a boost.”

 

No doubt this fitness boost could be just what Lions Pilots need for this hard run in.

The Pilots know that they have a big say on whether they can win the title or not. They face Mons Calpe, Britannia and Boca Juniors in the final 5 games. In addition they also face in form Red Imps to compound the difficulty level of their run in. It remains to be seen whether this young team has it in them to pull it off.

FC Britannia XI:

Britannia were considered the preseason favourites for promotion this season. After being there or there abouts the last couple of seasons, they have gained enough experience at this level to know whats required and hopefully reach the promised land of the Gibraltar Premier League this season.

Britannia made a very strong start to the campaign, winning 5 out of their first 6 games. Their only defeat came at the hands of their promotion rivals Mons Calpe who beat them 2-0 back in October.

They did however suffer a sticky spell during the festive period where they went 3 games without a win, most notably defeats to FC Olympique and Leo Parilla by the odd goal in both occasions. Defeat last time out to Sporting dented their automatic promotion hopes slightly.

Britannia have 6 games left to catch up the leaders. 3 out of the final 6 games are against direct promotion rivals so their chances are still very much in their own hands. A mammoth encounter against leaders Mons Calpe awaits, knowing a win against the table toppers will put them in a fantastic position in terms of automatic promotion. A defeat and playoffs seem like the most likely position, especially considering Lions Pilots can not be promoted.

Playerss such as free kick specialist James Watson, tricky Paul Scholes like midfielder Christian Caetano and Kristian D’Rosiario will be crucial for their success in the final games of the season. The latter has been in great goal scoring form netting in his last 7 games. Martin Lobb is the team’s top scorer this season.

Britannia also boast from having to keepers with Premier experience in the likes of Phil Reyes and Anthony Perez.

Club Captain James Watson spoke to GibFootballTalk and said:

It’s been a typical Britannia season; some highs, some lows! We are disappointed we’ve dropped so many points but are still confident we can get the right results for remainder of season. It’s been very competitive league, the most since we started. Red imps are near bottom but are an excellent young team.

Watson also went on about their lack of fortune in the injury department:

We’ve been blighted with injuries since day 1. Martin Lobb and instrumental midfielder Liam Roche are now out for season. With George Russo being absent last month, it probably looks like he will be out for the remainder of the season

FC Olympique 13:

The new kids to the block, similar in mold to the Laguna team which emerged in 2007. A group of talented mates have come together to create this competitive side which has so far lived up to expectations and been at the sharp end for the majority of the campaign.

Their season got off to an inconsistent start with 2 wins, 3 draws and a defeat in their opening 6 games. A good run of form in the middle part of the season, in conjunction with an appearance in the Rock Cup quarter finals, propelled the team up the table.

However Olympique have stuttered of late, conceding late goals and losing out on valuable points. One win in their last 5 in addition to 3 draws is not promotion form. However fixtures favour them as the majority are against teams below them. They will face Brittania which will go a long way as to deciding their fate this season.

Most of their players will be happy staying in 2nd Division next season and taking this season as a learning experience. However should they get into the playoffs, they will give a good account of themselves.

Players will skilfull winger Daniel D’Amato, midfield general Carl Ramagge and striker Justin Santos are all players to watch out for and will give anybody a game.

Conclusion:

It has been a very exciting 2nd Division season this year. With 12 teams making up the division, it makes for end to end and unpredictable football. This year however, it may be that newcomers Mons Calpe will have just a bit too much for the rest of them and could edge out their opponents to the automatic promotion place. Lions Pilots will be the the joker in the hand. A team of very talented youngsters who can not be promoted but will go out and give professional performances which could decide where the title ends up. Brittania have been slightly inconsistent which could see them end up in a playoff spot. Olympique have been refreshing this year and had it not been for slip ups against lower league opponents, they could have well had a title winning debut season.

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U19 International – Gibraltar 2-2 Hungary Report

16/4/14 – Photos by SnaprImages

GFA v HungaryGFAu19

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.

Formations

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.

 

Gibraltar U19 Formation

Gibraltar U19 Formation

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.

Hungary U19 Formation

Hungary U19 Formation

 The Game

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.

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Balentine loops the ball goalwards

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.

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Balentine looks on as his shot ends up in the back of the net

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.

Hernandez sees his shot hit the back of the net

Hernandez sees his shot hit the back of the net

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.

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Gonzalez brought down by Lenzjer

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.

Spandler strikes the goal of the game to make it 2-2

Spandler strikes the goal of the game to make it 2-2

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.

The teams come together at Full Time in a fair 2-2 draw

The teams come together at Full Time in a fair 2-2 draw

All in all, a great result for Gibraltar as the future looks extremely bright.

 

 

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GFA Premier Division Weekend Roundup – Round 13

Photos by SnaprImages

Here is the round up of this weekends games in the GFA Premier Division:

college v glacisCollege 1-2 Glacis Utd

On Friday evening we saw the League’s 4th and 5th placed teams, College Europa FC and Glacis Utd face each other for the 3rd time this season. College recently dumped Glacis out of the Rock cup so revenge was high on Glacis’s agenda.

Despite College taking the lead early on through Jamie Coombes, who beat Keeper Joe Borg with a tidy finish within the first 5 minutes of the game it was Glacis who had a better first half.

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Jaime Coombes gives College the lead

Glacis Manager Javier Sanchez surprised many with his choice of formation; he went with a 3-4-3 formation which had only been used for 5 minutes when they played Manchester 62. College Europa did not expect this and did not know how to counteract their opponents. Glacis dominated play early on and were playing arguably the best football they had played all season. They managed to equalise within 10 minutes of College scoring, right back Juanjo Ruesca popping up with his 2nd goal of the season.

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Glacis Utd’s Alfonso Benitez in action

Moments later Alfonso Benitez was through on goal and was brought down by College defender Mausdell who should have seen red for denying a goal scoring opportunity as the last man but only received a yellow card from referee Jason Barcelo. Benitez took the penalty himself and sent the keeper the wrong way to give Glacis a 2-1 lead. As Half time approached, Kyle Moreno had an opportunity to make it 3-1 from a free kick which was saved by keeper Matt Cafer. Glacis took the slender lead into the half time break.

The 2nd half was all College Europa. Wave after wave of attacks were repelled by the Glacis defenders and the Goal keeper Joe Borg who made a string of fine saves to deny the greens an equaliser. Glacis came close to getting a third on the counter attack but Steven Soussi put the ball just wide. College continued to press until the final minutes of the game but were unable to put the ball in the back of the net. Glacis Utd moved above College into 4th in the table with the 2-1 win.

At the full time whistle, Jamie Coombes received a red card for an off the ball incident with Dexter Panzavechia which led to some unsavoury scenes both on and off the pitch as College supporters clashed with Glacis players outside the Tercentenary sports hall.

Lynx 8-2 Gib Phoenix

Gib Phoenix have been playing some of their best football this season in the last few weeks and it was no surprise that the bottom placed club took the lead against a below par looking Lynx FC. That’s as good as it got for Phoenix who were shortly reduced to 9 men after 2 red cards.

This allowed Lynx to impose themselves on the game and quickly raced to 4-1 lead at Half time with goals from Gines, Ruiz, Mendoza and Gracia.

After the break Phoenix reduced the defecit from the spot, but that was their only high of the 2nd half as 4 more goals went into their net. Gines and Gracia scored their 2nd goals of the game, whilst Kailan Perez and Sasha Funes got in on the act.

Lynx are now assured of 3rd spot in the table and play Glacis in their last game of the season.

Manchester 62 2-0 St Josephs

Manchester went into this game still harbouring title ambitions and knew nothing but a win would keep their faint title hopes alive. St Josephs with massive relegation problems of their own needed the points to move out of the relegation playoff spot.

Brazilian midfielder Bruno was the name on everybody’s lips as he control the midfield for the saints and troubled Kevin De los Santos in the red devils goals with his dead ball attempts.

The reds opened the scoring in the 1st half after Navarro’s shot was initially saved by Macedo, but the Spaniard was there to tap in the rebound.

Shortly into the 2nd half, Manchester had Kevin Martinez sent off for a foul outside the box, which reduced Manchester to 10 men and faced an uphill struggle in the 2nd half against a tenacious Saints side.

With half an hour remaining, an incisive break-away from Manchester 62 saw Jeremy Lopez play the perfect thru ball that found Estiven Morente in acres of space to tap the ball home to make it 2-0. Manchester continued to battle and defend bravely with the numerical disadvantage, but were able to cling on to the vital 3 points.

St Josephs must now win their last 2 games in order to stand a chance of staying up. They face Gib Phoenix next. If they manage to win that game, and College do them a favour by beating Lions Gibraltar in their last game of the season, it will set up a relegation playoff avoiding final game with Lions Gibraltar. The winners would then avoid playing the relegation playoff against the runner up in Division 2.

Lincoln 4-1 Lions Gibraltar

All eyes were on the Champions as the imps required just one point to take the title. However Lions, who needed the points for the own relegation battle, started in no mood to take up the part of whipping boys in Lincoln title parade. The forced several early corners which unsettled the imps defence. However against the run of play, Lincoln won a free kick out on the left hand side of the box. Kyle Casciaro took it and delivered a perfect cross which was met by this season’s top scorer John Paul Duarte at the near post, whose header left Banda with no chance.

JP Duarte puts Lincoln 1-0 up with a bullet header into the near post

JP Duarte puts Lincoln 1-0 up with a bullet header into the near post

Lions were not over awed by conceding the goal and went up the other end and continued causing Lincoln problems. A free kick was won in a similar position to Lincoln’s opening goal. The free kick was taken into the heart of the six yard box, and there was skipper Jansen Dalli who stooped low to head past the dive of Jordan Perez in the Lincoln goal for his 3rd goal of the season.

Jansen Dalli celebrates after leveling the game 1-1

 

The game continued with both teams having good possession and creating good opportunities. The best of those fell to Lincoln who were denied time and time again by young Bradley Banda in the Lions goal. However, the youngster could do nothing to stop Kyle Casciaro making it 2-1 after the youngest of the Lincoln Casciaro brothers was put thru on goal by George Cabrera and made no mistake by placing the ball into the corner of the net.

Lions nearly equalised on the stroke of half time, after a long throw was flicked on by a few players, and finally it was headed towards the bottom corner of the Lincoln goal, but Perez flung himself down low to divert for a corner.

Just before the restart, we had more action with the floodlights as the same lights which caused the abandonment of the College v Lincoln game failed again. The officials waited a few minutes to see if the lights would return, but as they did so, the 2nd south flood light nearest the stadium’s entrance went off also. This prompted referee Yaro Borge to call the game off.

However as the officials walked off, one of the floodlights came back to life. After a quick meeting the 2nd half of the game was restarted to some of the Lions Gibraltar officials’ discontent up in stands.

How the visibility was in the 2nd half

How the visibility was in the 2nd half

Lincoln continued to pressure in the 2nd half looking to seal the game. Shortly into the 2nd half and great counter attack found Geroge Cabrera bearing down the Lions left. He played an easy through ball into the centre which found an unmarked Kyle Casciaro who was left was a simple tap in for his 2nd and his teams 3rd goal of the game.

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Kyle Casciaro makes it 3-1

 

Lions battled on in search of a way back and nearly did, as their tricky number 10 Alex Gonzales, struck a shot from inside the box which curled onto the angle of post and bar.

With 10 minutes to play, George Cabrera scored a deserved goal after a beautiful cross from Alain Pons down the Lincoln left. That made it 4-1 and the champagne bottles were opened as Lincoln won their 12th straight league title and become Gibraltar’s first ever representatives in the UEFA Champions League in next season’s edition. The shield will be presented to them after their final game of the season against Manchester 62.

Lincoln celebrate the league title

Lincoln celebrate the league title

 

 

 

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The Weekend Preview – Round 13

Two more rounds to go in the GFA Premier Division season. Here are this weekends matchups:

college v glacis

Friday 11th April 2014 – 8PM

College Europa v Glacis Utd

College go into this game rejuvenated after their 3-0 win over Lynx. This moved them back into 4th place ahead of their opponents Glacis who suffered a credible 3-0 loss to leaders and champions elect Lincoln.

Both clubs are separated by just 2 points and will be looking for 3 points here to cement 4th spot for their own.

Last time out:

The clubs have met twice before this season. The greens have taken the upper hand in both occasions by winning 2-0 in the league and 4-2 in the Rock Cup Quarter finals. This surely puts them as favourites once again.

Team News:

Glacis are plagued with injures ahead of the game. Steffan Cardona was forced out after making his comeback against Lincoln as a first half sub, but only lasted a mere 10 minutes before being subbed at half time. He will be out for the remainder of the season. Mascarenhas is also a fitness doubt, whilst midfielder Ashley Rodriguez is still missing.

For College, striker Tostao is injured and will miss the game. Allegedly, he pulled his hamstring in the post match ‘incident’ where he was seen escaping from Lynx player Josh Cuby after an altercation between the two.

lynx v phoenix

Saturday 12th April 2014 – 4PM

Lynx v Gib Phoenix

Lynx suffered a surprise defeat last time out to College and will be looking for a healthy win against the basement side in order to improve their goal difference if they stand any chance of claiming 2nd place.

Phoenix on the other hand had their relegation confirmed last time out after a 5-0 loss to Manchester 62. No pressure now for the Phoenix team as they can now play without any pressure.

Both clubs are separated by just 2 points and will be looking for 3 points here to cement 4th spot for their own.

Last time out:

In their last meeting, Lynx cruised to a 7-0 win in the league after Phoenix bravely held out in the 1st half.

manchester v st jose

Saturday 12th April 2014 – 6PM

Manchester 62 v St Josephs

This is a must win game for St Joseph’s as they aim to chase down Lions Gibraltar who are 6 points ahead of them in the table. If they don’t, they will face the dreaded promotion/relegation playoff. In recent weeks they have show a lot of resilience show they should give the reds a good game.

Manchester on the other hand harbor very minor title ambitions. In order to take it to the last day, they need to beat the saints, and hope Lions Gibraltar can do them an unlikely favour by beating Lincoln on Monday.

If this happens a title showdown will take place on the last day of the season against Lincoln. However even so, they would need a landslide victory of over 10 goals to take the league on goal difference. The reds are practically battling for 2nd spot, so a win here is crucial to cement the European Spot should Lincoln complete and league and cup double.

Last time out:

In their last meeting, Manchester defeated St Joseph’s 3-0 with a Paul Podesta hattrick after he had just re-signed for the club after joining the Saints last season.

lincoln v lios

Monday 14th April 2014 – 8PM

Lincoln v Lions Gibraltar

This will more than likely be the game where Lincoln claim the title. All they need is a point against a team that they have beaten comfortably every time they’ve met this season.

Lions however need the points to stay clear of the threat of relegation. They are 6 points ahead of St Josephs with a meeting against the Saints still to come.

Last time out:

In their previous meetings this season, Lincoln have ran out comfortable winners 4-0 and 4-1 in the league and Premier cup respectively.

Team News:

Some interesting team news for Lincoln is that keeper Dale Coleing looks set to keep Jordan Perez out of the starting XI once again after some impressive recent performances.

 

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The Coach Corner – Gibraltar v Estonia

Tactical Analysis

Photos by Andrew Fortuna

GFA v Estonia Gibraltar’s 2nd international friendly within the space 4 days required a much improved performance to that of their disappointing 4-1 loss to the Faroe Islands and progress was certainly made in this game. Their opponents this time around were Estonia, a strong side and now the only team to have faced all 54 UEFA nations. They are currently ranked 91st by FIFA.

GFA v Estonia

 Line Ups / Formations

Gibraltar

 

GFA v Estonia

Gibraltar’s starting 11 and formation

Gibraltar manager Allen Bula once again stuck with the same defensively orientated 5-4-1 system he has so far used in the previous two friendlies against Slovakia and the Faroe Islands. Due to the strain of playing two games in the space of 4 days it would have been understandable for Bula to rotate his starting 11 slightly however this was not the case as he opted for a strong starting 11 with most of the players selected currently playing their club football in the Gibraltar Premier League. This would serve the players’ well as they will be playing 2 games back to back during the Euro2016 qualifying campaign. One major boost to the side was the return of Israeli based midfielder Liam Walker who is instrumental in improving Gibraltar’s flair. Joining Walker in the starting 11 was Wrexham defender David Artell, making his first start for Gibraltar, powerful left back Yogen Santos and the energetic forward Adam Priestley.

Gibraltar’s tactics once again focused on soaking up opposition pressure, winning the ball and then looking to counterattack with a much more effective attacking transition, something which they had failed to do against the Faroes. The use of 2 pacey wide players in Robert Guilling and Joseph Chipolina both in their natural positions. The width was provided by the Gibraltar wing backs Yogen Santos and Ryan Casciaro but it was the former who seemed to push up higher on the left side due to Joseph Chipolina’s aggressive diagonal attacking movements once the ball was won.

Estonia
Estonia’s starting 11 and formation

Estonia’s starting 11 and formation

 

In his 1st international match as Estonia manager, Swede Magnus Pehrsson selected a strong side which included experienced goalkeeper, Sergei Pareiko, captain and Bundesliga central defender Ragner Klavan, right back Enar Jaager and attacking midfielders Dmitri Kruglov and Konstantin Vassiljev. Between them, these players have amassed a total of 405 caps so experience was in abundance.

Estonia set up in what is now arguably considered the default formation in modern football, a 4-2-3-1. Estonia’s focus in this game was to dominate possession in midfield and put Gibraltar under pressure by defending with a high line. Both full backs were instructed to advance to as much as possible to provide the width in the system with their double pivot in midfield supplying the protection for their back 4 but they were particularly caught out down their right side due to Joseph Chipolina’s adventurous buccaneering runs down Gibraltar’s left.

Estonia played with inverted wingers with emphasis on cutting inside and in between the lines to try and exploit any gaps and channels exposed in the Gibraltar defence by the width provided by their attacking full backs. Konstantin Vassiljev was aggressive in moving centrally into Gibraltar’s final third to receive the ball to try and play incisive passes into Estonia’s other attacking players.

The Match

The game started as many would have expected with Estonia seeing most of the play in the opening stages of the game with Gibraltar comfortable to let the visitors have the ball in their own half. Gibraltar’s defensive shape was organized, compact and narrow and they were more than happy to let Estonia have most of the play down either flank knowing that they were more than covered in the centre of defence (3v2). Gibraltar felt that they would be superior in the air with three towering centre backs in Danny Higginbotham, David Artell and captain Roy Chipolina. Estonia had clearly observed and identified what they thought would be Gibraltar’s weaknesses in the centre of their final third so they continuously tried to overload this area hoping that Gibraltar’s defensive shape would be stretched by their advancing fullbacks. The host’s were not budging as their defensive organization, work rate and coverage of team mates was excellent.

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Gibraltar missed some attacking flair and creativity in the midfield in the Faroes game so the availability and inclusion of Liam Walker for this game was much needed and it certainly showed as most of Gibraltar’s attacks came via him. Walker is a technically gifted and intelligent footballer with good dribbling skills, great vision and is deceptively strong so it was clear that he would be the player to try and start effective attacking transitions for Gibraltar once they had regained possession of ball, something which they did consistently well throughout the game. He had the games first chance of the game albeit from long range. He received the ball to feet just inside the Estonia half after Gibraltar regained possession and his dipping effort fizzed just over the bar as he neatly gained a yard on the Estonia midfielder.

As the game progressed, Kink and Vassiljev had the freedom to roam in between Gibraltar’s midfield and defensive lines however they very rarely had the time and space to turn and directly attack the Gibraltar backline as they were consistently forced to carry out negative passes back to their central midfielders in order to recycle the possession. Dmitri Kruglov was also coming in field to also try and create a numerical advantage in the midfield for Estonia however he offered a more direct approach as his movement was to try and dart into the space between Gibraltar’s left full back and one of their 3 central defenders and it was he who opened the scoring. Vassiljev received the ball in space from captain Klavan before turning centrally and playing a simple through ball in behind Gibraltar’s high line which allowed Kruglov to finish neatly catching keeper Jordan Perez off guard as he took his chance earlier than he had had expected.

Walker

Gibraltar’s Liam Walker

Estonia were quite fluid in the way their front 4 were set up due to the fact that they were playing with inverted wingers whose main focus is to cut inside onto their dominant foot to either shoot or link up with team mates moving diagonally and directly towards the opposition backline but again this was being restricted well by Gibraltar’s defensive compactness and they limited Estonia to half chances. Gibraltar’s first chance within the 1st 20mins of the game fell to Joseph Chipolina who received the ball centrally and tested the Estonia goalkeeper from 25 yards however the Pareiko saved comfortably.

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Gibraltar’s Josephs Chipolina

As the game progressed, the visitors continued to dominate possession as Gibraltar were more than happy to sit just inside their own half to contain and absorb pressure with emphasis on trying to win the ball to start effective counterattacks through their best performers on the night, Liam Walker and Joseph Chipolina. Gibraltar were much more effective in winning the ball in good areas just inside their half which allowed them to undertake better attacking transitions predominately down Estonia’s flanks as their full backs were caught out of position once Gibraltar regained possession and this showed for their next chance. Gibraltar managed to win the ball centrally and play the ball down the left side for full back Yogen Santos who took a chance and burst forward. He almost conceded a goal kick however his determination and never say die attitude meant he kept the ball in play and played it back to Joseph Chipolina who blazed over the bar from just outside the area.

The best chance of the game fell to Gibraltar’s attacking wide player, Robert Guiling. Liam Walker released a ball over the top for Joseph Chipolina who then played in right full back Ryan Casciaro who once again took advantage of the fact that the Estonian full back was caught too far upfield. His cross was met by a penetrating Guiling however he missed a sitter from 6 yards out.

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Gibraltar’s Robert Guiling

Approaching half time, the confidence within the Gibraltar side continued to grow as it was clear that they were matching Estonia regardless of the score line. This was purely down to their improved performance as a team as they showed much more desire and determination to compete with a very good Estonia side. At half time, the score was 1-0 in favour of the visitors and Gibraltar knew that they were still very much in this game and should have been level at half time.

The game restarted with Bula making a change at half time bringing on Kyle Casciaro for Adam Priestley who picked up a knock just before half time. Priestley put in a good shift as the lone striker and was also key in contributing to Gibraltar regaining possession in the 1st half. Gibraltar were happy to allow the Estonia backline to have the ball so he continually dropped into the Estonia midfield to occupy the spaces close to the 2 Estonia centre midfielders with his role focusing on stifling the influence and combinations between these players. He restricted their passing lanes as much as possible and on occasions errors were made due to Priestley’s high energy and work rate which allowed Gibraltar to apply pressure effectively as a unit to win the ball in good areas of the field. Even though substitute Kyle Casciaro’s natural position is on the left side of midfield, this change by Bula made sense. Casciaro offered fresh energy and pace up top and was instructed to play on the shoulders of the Estonian centre backs. He almost made an immediate impact with a decent chance which he missed just wide after he latched onto a glorious pass by Gibraltar’s stand out performer, Liam Walker.

Entering the final part of the game, Estonia carried no urgency in their play and it seemed they were happy to hang onto the 1-0 lead. Gibraltar on the other hand knew that they could get something out of this game as they continued to attack well when possession was regained. John Paul Duarte was introduced for Aaron Payas and he played on the right side of midfield to offer a fresh and pacey attacking outlet to continue to give Gibraltar a direct attacking approach. The Walker / Chipolina link continued to be Gibraltar’s most effective attacking outlet as once again Walker played a delightful ball over the top for Chipolina and one of his clever diagonal runs. He managed to get in behind the Estonia backline and almost equalized after his fierce right foot shot from just inside the Estonia area brought out a spectacular save from the Estonia keeper. As the game came to its closing stages, Gibraltar began to push higher up and commit men further forward in order to try and get an equalizing goal but it wasn’t to be as Estonia sealed the victory by making it 2-0. Rimo Hunt scored his 1st international goal with a quality 1st time finish inside the box after a nice ball played in from the right by substitute Puri.

Higgi

Team mates approach Danny Higginbotham as he leaves the field for the final time in his career

The final substitution of the game was a rather special occasion. Playing In his 450th and final game in football, experienced defender Danny Higginbotham was replaced by Matthew Reoch. Higginbotham once again put in an assured performance, and very much deserved the reception he got when he was substituted. At the post match press conference he said:

A year ago, if someone would have said that this was the way I was going to finish my career I would have said they were stupid. I am very humble, privileged and it’s been an absolute honor for me in the way I have been taken on board to become a part of this family, because that what it is, a family.

Higginbotham now looks set to join the Gibraltar coaching staff, where his knowledge and experience of football at the highest level will be key in helping the national side as they head on towards the European Championship qualifiers.

Higgi

Matthew Reoch replaces Higginbotham

 Conclusion

A positive Gibraltar performance both tactically and as a team and one could argue that the draw should have been the fairer result. It was evident that Gibraltar had worked hard in training leading up to this game especially after the disappointing loss to the Faroes a few days prior. In our analysis of the Faroes game both the attacking and defensive aspects of Gibraltar’s play was extremely poor so it was good to see that progress had certainly been made against a strong Estonia side as they put right what they did wrong against the Faroes. Gibraltar were much more compact and organized as a unit which allowed them to win possession more frequently and effectively which encouraged a few dangerous attacking transitions which they could not take advantage of and on another day they could have had a couple of goals.

Even though the home side employed their defensive 5-4-1 formation it was clear that when set out correctly it can be very effective in both the defensive and attacking phases and this showed throughout the game. The inclusion of Liam Walker brought much needed guile and creativity to the side which was clear for all to see as he put in a man of the match performance and his link up with Joseph Chipolina and his diagonal penetrating runs was Gibraltar’s best form of attack. Credit here must go to the Gibraltar manager, coaches and players for bouncing back and producing a performance that was appreciated by all who witnessed the game

Sure there is still a lot of hard work still to be done however this performance is a positive step and one which will hopefully provide the foundation for the Gibraltar national team to develop and prepare for the upcoming return friendly against Estonia and Malta, as well as the much anticipated Euro 2016 qualifying campaign. As the saying goes…“you need to learn how to walk before you can run” needs to be the mentality employed by all involved with the Gibraltar National Team and if this game said anything, its that progress is indeed being made, something that some may have understandably questioned against the Faroes.

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Estonia Manager Magnus Pehrsson impressed with Gibraltar

At his post match conference Pehrsson confirmed that his style and philosophy of play was still a work in progress and that he felt their performance in this game could have been much better. Credit however must go to Gibraltar here for their positive performance and this was something that Pehrsson acknowledged at the post match press conference as he was very impressed with how they defended and kept the space between the lines very compact which made it difficult for Estonia to play through.

 

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Weekend Preview – GFA Premier League Round 11

We are reaching the final furlong for this league campaign as the 8 teams battle it out in their final 4 fixtures with everything still very much up in the air. We preview this weekend’s matchups below:lincoln college

Friday 28th March 2014 – 8pm Kick Off

Lincoln v College Europa

Preview:

Lincoln will be looking to go 7points clear in the table, and thus make a final push to securing their 12th straight league title, and confirmation of the spot in next season’s edition of the UEFA Champions League. College on the other hand have been unable to keep up their ambitions for a title push this season and realistically 4th position in the league is the most they will be able to aspire too. That being said, College still harbor ambitions to qualify for next season’s UEFA Europa League via the Rock Cup. Their players must keep their focus in order for their season not to derail completely.

Form (all competitions – last 3 games):

Lincoln: WWW

College: WWL

Lincoln go into this game in excellent form having won their last 3 games. In fact the last time they failed to win was the last time these 2 clubs met back in December 2013. College have had some mixed form of late. They suffered an unexpected defeat last time out to St Josephs, whilst beating Gib Phoenix in the League and Glacis in the Rock Cup.

Previous Meetings this season:

These 2 clubs have faced each other twice this season. Once in the league and once in the Premier Cup group stages. In both occasions it finished all square in 1-1 draws.

Team News:

Robert Guilling is unavailable for the game which will fuel further speculation about his future at the club. College Europa Striker Cristian Toncheff is suspended after accumulating 5 yellow cards this season. Ironcially, Toncheff is the player who has scored both goals in the previous encounters against the imps this season.

lions phoenix

Saturday 29th March 2014 – 4pm Kick Off

Lions Gibraltar v Gib Phoenix

Preview:

Lions Gibraltar have been rather lackluster in the league of late and will be looking to get a result against a Phoenix side that look rejuvenated after the hard working performance against Glacis. With St Joseph’s beating College Europa in their last game, the gap between 6th placed Lions and the relegation playoff position current occupied by the saints is just 4pts. With the pair still to face each other in the 2nd round of the league, Lions will be looking to keep that gap between both sides in order to avoid the pressure pot situation of facing a 2nd Division side to stay up. Phoenix on the other hand have a far tougher task to stay up. They are 6points from safety and after 10 games, have yet to open their account in terms of points. Relegation looks all but confirmed for Phoenix.

Form (all competitions – last 3 games):

Lions Gibraltar: WLL

Gib Phoenix: LLL

In their last 3 games, the Queensway club have been rather Jeckyl and Hide like. The convincingly dispatched FC Olympique in the quarter finals of the Rock Cup, gave a battling performance with 10 men against Lynx where they controversially lost 1-0, and looked rather abject against Manchester 62 last time out.

Phoenix however can take a lot of positives from their narrow 3-2 defeat to Glacis last Monday. They showed a lot of fighting spirit and will be up for more of the same against Lions Gibraltar.

Previous Meetings this season:

The clubs have met twice this season, and in both occaisions, Lions Gibraltar have ran out clear winners. In the league game back in November, the tangerines won 6-2. In the 2nd Round of the Rock Cup, Lions dished out a 7-0 drubbing to their opponents.

Team News:

Christopher Remorino is out for the remainder of the season as he requires an operation on an injury. Midfielders Sansolini and Thompson are out of the game as well as left back Lewis Constable, who serves a ban after being controversially sent off in the game against Lynx. Defender Nixon is once again available. As for Phoenix, there are no fresh injury news and should have a full squad available to them.

St josephs v glacis

Saturday 29th March 2014 – 6pm Kick Off

St Joseph’s v Glacis United

Preview:

This game has huge significance after St Joseph’s win against College Europa. Despite Glacis holding a 9 point gap over the saints, both club’s run in and current form are completely opposite.

Whilst St Josephs play Lions and Phoenix in the last 3 games after this match, Glacis face Lincoln, Lynx and College. As St Josephs seem to have found form at the right time, Glacis seem to be faltering, so this game is crucial to the relegation hopes of both clubs.

On the other hand, looking up the league, Glacis and College are level on 15 points. With the Dolphins facing the imps on Friday night, a point for Glacis would take them up into 4th spot which will set up an intriguing encounter with College.

Form (all competitions – last 3 games):

St Josephs LLW

Glacis: LLW

Although form is similar in terms of results, the performances of both clubs recently contrast significantly. Whilst St Josephs have been on the up lately, Glacis have been far from convincing. They staged a fightback in the Rock Cup against College but left it far to late and eventually crashed out of the cup losing 4-2. In the league they have won 2 of their last 3 games, but a 7-0 hammering to Manchester 62 and a sluggish 3-2 win over Gib Phoenix have far from convinced the fans that they can stay clear of relegation this season.

As for the saints, the managed to grab their 1st league win since beating Gib Phoenix back in December. They twice came from behind to beat College Europa 4-2, and how have their tails up. Despite a below par performance in the 4-0 loss to Lincoln in the Rock Cup, they narrowly lost 3-2 to Lynx after being 2-1 up.

Previous Meetings this season:

Both meetings between the two clubs this season were ones for those suffering from Insomnia, very few chances and just the 1 goal scored. Early in the season, Glacis defeated St Joseph’s 1-0 to go top of the table, whilst in December, both clubs were involved in a snooze fest 0-0 draw in the group stage of the Premier Cup. A draw which eventually helped the saints qualify for the Semi Finals.

Team News:

Brazilian Bruno is available against after missing out the 4-2 win against College Europa due to the clauses in his loan contract making him ineligible to face his parent club. Striker Ellul is suffering from a knock to the leg obtained in Wednesday’s reserve cup final defeater to Lincoln, but should be ok for Saturdays game.

As for Glacis, they welcome the return of Jason Pusey. Centre back Steffan Cardona has returned to full training lately and could feature for the 1st time since December. Keeper Joe Borg is in line to face his former club, whilst Mascarenhas is out after being substituted at half time in their win against Gib Phoenix on Monday. Ashley Rodriguez is still away on duty with the forces.

manchester v lynx

Monday 31st March 2014 – 8pm Kick Off

Manchester 62 v Lynx

Preview:

Undoubtedly the game of the weekend with massive implications for the race for European places. The Red devils are currently ahead of Lynx on Goal Difference so the 3points are a massive incentive here. Lynx could seal the 2nd spot avoiding defeat here know that Manchester 62 still have to play Lincoln, so they could drop points in their final game of the season. With the runner-up spot in the league having Europa League qualification (only if a team does the league and rock cup double) the outcome of this game could have massive repercussions for next season’s European campaign.

Form (all competitions – last 3 games):

Manchester 62 WWW

Lynx: LWL

Manchester appear to be in the ascendency in terms of form in comparison to their opponents. The reds are undefeated since losing to Lincoln in the Premier Cup final in February, whilst they are undefeated in the league since December where Lincoln again were victorious. Manchester have been in great goal scoring form lately scoring 13 goals in the last 3 games.

Lynx have been uninspiring lately. They have lost 2 of their last 3 games, whilst in their last 2 league wins against Lions Gibraltar and St Josephs, they have won by the odd goal and looked largely ordinary at best.

Previous Meetings this season:

The clubs have faced each other in no less than 3 occasions this season. Manchester 62 have come up on top in all these games and are favourites to make it 4 from 4 this season. In their league encounter in November, Manchester came from 2-1 down with 10 men to take the game 3-2. The other 2 matches came in cup competitions, with United winning both occasions by the odd goal. (1-0 in the Premier Cup Semi Finals; and 2-1 in the Rock Cup Quarter Finals)

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