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Long travels, tough results but a positive finish

Three games, three defeats, fifteen goals conceded – we review the past four days of international football.

After a long trip to Tbilisi, Gibraltar got their second game of the group underway in the beautiful Boris Paichadze Dinamo Arena. Head coach Julio Ribas named the same team which lost to Ireland 1-0 at home in March.

A poor performance saw Gib lose 3-0, one which the players would later take into account and make right in Dublin on Monday night. It was always going to be a big ask, especially when you take into account that game time is few and far between in their domestic clubs for a lot of the players.

Goldwin found himself in the wrong end of Twitter discussions by people after what he would see as a below-par performance (highlighting also how easy it is to forget the good performances when a player has one bad one, and how thankless a task it is to be a keeper in general). Chino would come out on twitter and say, “Not my best day at the office! Onto ireland. Thank you to the traveling fans and everyone at home supporting the team.”

Credit where credit is due – it’s easy to post pictures when things are going your way but when they don’t? While others cower away, Chino stood up and took responsibility, showing that the leadership he shows on the pitch also transfers off it.

Attention swiftly moved towards the Under 21’s who would be travelling to Belarus, looking to build on their impressive display against Cyprus in June. David Ochello made three changes to the side that lost 1-0 in June with Jamie Serra, Liam Crisp & Kevagn Ronco replaced Leon Clinton, Patrick McElwee and James Parkinson.

To the shock of many, Belarus would come out 10-0 winners. A tough result to take for many of the squad, who, like the senior side, found themselves on the wrong side of some harsh criticism. The U21 goalkeeper Bradley Banda, like his national team compatriot Chino, would come out on Twitter and post “Fail, fail again, fail better! Real learning curve today vs one of the best high pressing teams i’ve ever played against. Only up from here, we’ll be ready for Portugal in September.”

It is a tough ask being the U21 manager, probably more than other roles within the Gibraltar national coaching team. While others are able to take their strongest squad, give or take when there’s exams on at school, David Ochello’s pool is very limited.

Tjay De Barr is a regular figure in the senior national team, Louie Annesley has found himself more involved over the last few weeks while players such as Andrew Hernandez and Ethan Britto find themselves on most occasions on the bench – surely they should be on the plane with the U21’s? Especially considering the next game is against Portugal, while two games vs Netherlands still await.

With a good bulk of the squad made up of players in Universities, and a uni football system which in truth is not good enough for players looking to play at the level Gib U21s have to play at, “keeping track” of players and their game time is always an uphill task. Results won’t get any better if Ochello isn’t able to pick his strongest team.

Lastly, a trip to the Aviva Stadium in Dublin would be calling for Julio and his squad. After announcing his retirement prior to matchday, Anthony Bardon would find himself on the bench with Anthony Hernandez while Alain Pons and Andrew Hernandez would be their replacements.

Bardon would be granted his farewell appearance, earlier than many would have expected as he replaced an injured Lee Casciaro in the 9th minute, but one which he rightfully deserved.

Gibraltar frustrated the hosts for large parts of the game and only lead at half-time through an unfortunate own goal by Joseph Chipolina. Julio would opt out of bringing in two strikers and instead Ethan Britto would replace Alain Pons in 64th minute then Ethan Jolley for Andrew Hernandez, the latter being an understandable change given the distance covered.

Robbie Brady would double Ireland’s lead in injury time against a very tired Gibraltar team who had gave their all in 90 minutes. Apart from the performance, positive improvements are being made when you look at previous meetings with Ireland which ended 4-0 & 7-0.

Conclusion: More help needs to be given to the Under 21 squad so results such as 10-0 against Belarus doesn’t happen again, and also lessons from the game are learned by the players and staff.

Regarding the national team, Julio has probably already watched the games against Georgia, Ireland and already looking to improve for future games – given the type of manager he is. Finding a replacement for Anthony Bardon will hopefully spark some competitiveness within the squad and hopefully Julio is looking for tweaking in other positions also. Next up is Denmark at the Victoria Stadium, thankfully – not being thankful for the opposition, but I guess you could say that the local TV commentary could do with major tweaking also.

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