Lincoln returned to the top of the table on goal difference after Joseph Chipolina’s brace helped them beat Europa 3-2 today.
Photo (C) William Gracia
Chipolina, who later limped off injured, opened the scoring with an excellent penalty and scored Lincoln’s 3rd in the second half, while Juanma also scored his third in as many games, which proved enough to take all three points.
Europa had made it 2-1 and 3-2 courtesy of maiden goals for the club from Manuel Arana and Lee Muscat, but despite a late push they could not get a draw which arguably would have flattered the former league leaders, who looked disjointed for large parts of the game.
Both teams had new managers in the dugout, but while Lincoln had announced the appointment of Manolo Nunez Sanchez, the appearance of assistant manager Miguel Angel Leon as head coach today for Europa may have caught those not following the local game very closely a bit by surprise.
A tense opening passage of play was punctured when a poor backpass set Juanma on his way, only to be felled by a desperate Javi Munoz who could see what was going to happen had he not rushed out. The keeper got booked, but Joseph Chipolina’s top corner penalty wouldn’t have been saved if two keepers were in goal.
The game then reverted back to being a very tight, tense affair until a moment in the second half changed the game. Tjay De Barr was penalised for a free kick which looked like he may have won the ball – from the resulting free kick Juanma tapped in at the far post to double Lincoln’s lead – at that point the result looked secure, but Europa would fight back.
Liam Walker, who otherwise was nowhere near as good as we know he can be, set up Manuel Arana and the former Brisbane Roar, Mallorca and Vallecano attacker fired in just under the bar to reduce the deficit. However, it was Chipolina who was to strike the eventually fatal blow.
Europa failed to play to the whistle expecting the Gib international, playing centre-midfield today, to be flagged offside but the Maltese officials kept the flag down and Chipolina made sure to restore Lincoln’s two goal advantage. They had chances in truth to end the game completely; Munoz stopped Lee Casciaro from scoring in two great situations which eventually led to the finish we got.
Lee Muscat, who came on off the bench, found himself in on goal and his shot was too strong for Lolo Soler despite the keeper getting something to it, and suddenly Europa were back in with a chance. Their best chance came in injury time but a combination of Soler’s excellent save and the offside flag denied a great chance from close range, and Lincoln eventually saw out the victory.
The result sees Lincoln go back on top on goal difference from Europa, having played a game less, while after their win on Friday Gib United are third, two points off the top and on the same amount of games as Lincoln. With not long until the first round of fixtures are over, the battle for league supremacy is tighter than ever, with many unexpected surprises already in such a short time.