Lincoln keeper Lolo Soler made three saves in a dramatic penalty shootout as last season’s runners up beat Europa FC 3-1 on penalties after a 2-2 draw in 120 minutes.
Kike started his season much the way he left last season by scoring twice, but Falu twice equalised back for the Red Imps, who had a man advantage throughout extra time after Alex Quillo’s red card near the end of normal time.
Both teams had absentees, but Lincoln’s missing players were more noticeable as they only managed to name 5 subs including only one “senior” outfield player in the form of Antonio Calderon. The retirement of Kyle Casciaro, combined with a mixture of injury and suspension ruling out Joseph Chipolina, Anthony Bardon, Ryan Casciaro, George Cabrera and Bernardo Lopes meant a number of players made their official domestic debut including Falu, as well as Sebastian Nayar, a midfielder with experience in La Liga for Recreativo Huelva in 2008/09.
For Europa, Ivan Moya was the most notable absence, alongside Ibrahim Ayew, while Moya’s midfield teammate Mustapha Yahaya was missing as he could not get a Visa in time. Jorge Pina, expected by the club to replace Liam Walker who moved to Notts County, started for the first time but fellow new signings Enrique Carreno and Mikey Yome had to settle for spaces on the bench.
The opening exchanges of the game saw both teams have good chances through Sykes Garro and Roy Chipolina, but neither took advantage of their good chances with the first half hour of the game remaining goalless. It was then left to Kike to open the scoring; another Europa debutant, Nito, sent the striker off on a run with a good through ball, and Soler was dinked expertly by last season’s top scorer, a goal which separated the teams for a lot of the game.
The second half saw Europa try and kill the game off, with Kike and Garro having great chances that they were not able to take – they would live to regret this as Lincoln, who had not been as potent in attack as they would have liked to be up to that point, got themselves level as Anthony Hernandez’ shot fell to Falu who fired under Javi Munoz.
The last few minutes of the game were as frantic as they were exciting, as Europa went down to 10 men courtesy of Quillo’s red. Despite this, they almost won the game at the death. Kike sped past Roy Chipolina, rounded keeper Soler and looked certain to tap it in, but for a game-saving tackle from ‘Oli’, another new recruit, much to relief of the Lincoln fans. There was still time for Falu to get a shot on target which needed a save from Munoz before referee Jason Barcelo called time on the game.
Going into extra time, Europa had a big challenge on their hands with a man less, but instead of sitting back they went and took the lead in much scruffier fashion. Kike took advantage of some less than perfect defending to finish off a goalmouth scramble and put his team in front for the second time. This time the lead didn’t last long as Falu headed in a Calderon corner.
It was one of the last remaining actions of the extra time, bar Calderon forcing another good save out of Munoz, as the game went to penalties. Soler, who made a couple of big saves in the game, became the hero as he saved consecutive penalties from Guillermo Roldan, Carreno and Kike, while Calderon and Falu both found the net. Nayar had the chance to win the shootout but instead found the sewage facilities at the edge of the stadium. Toni got a goal back for Europa, meaning 17-year old Tjay De Barr had the responsibility of trying to win the shootout. The Gibraltar youth international managed just that to ensure captain Roy Chipolina lifted the first piece of silverware this season.