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Gibraltar’s European sides get season underway

Gibraltar’s four European representatives played their first leg matches this week, with three of them drawing their opening matches in European competition this season.

Photo © David Roberts

After the introduction of the Europa Conference League, Gibraltar had four teams qualify for Europe for the first time – which meant Mons Calpe were making their European bow in the first match of the week involving a local team.

Cesar Vega’s team hosted Andorran’s Santa Coloma at the Victoria Stadium on Tuesday evening. Despite having the better of the first half, they went in behind at the break to a goal by Xavier Puerto. The second half was a complete role reversal – Santa Coloma had numerous opportunities and were denied by Mons keeper Christian Fraiz, before Mons striker Aritz Hernandez, who signed in the summer from Lynx, scored from close range to secure a draw.

Attention then turned to the Champions League, where Lincoln travelled to Luxembourg to face Fola Esch. Mick McElwee’s side appeared to be heading to a win after goals from Fernando Carralero and Ethan Britto gave Lincoln a two-goal lead, but Fola Esch scored twice in little over a minute through Stefano Bensi and Denis Ahmetxheka to secure a 2-2 draw – Lincoln host Fola Esch on Tuesday at 6pm, and ticket information should be released imminently.

Last night, St Joseph’s travelled to Tallinn, which at 3,373km was the longest journey made by any team in the Conference League this week, to face Levadia, but they had a nightmare start going 2-0 down in 10 minutes courtesy of goals from Zakaria Beglarishvili and Ernest Agyiri. Saints tried to battle back but conceded a third from the spot as Marko Putincanin appeared to put the tie beyond doubt. However, moments later Cristian Pecci grabbed a consolation which in the grand scheme of things gives Saints a chance, albeit low, of qualifying when they play at the Victoria Stadium next week.

The final game of the week saw Europa host Lithuanian side Kauno Zalgiris. Despite their visitors being 19 games into their league season, they came in on the back of four games without a win, and Europa dictated play for almost the entire game. However, they lacked the finishing touch on a number of occasions and in the end had to settle for a goalless draw.

It is also worth noting ahead of next week that the away goal rule was abolished for this season – so while Mons Calpe currently benefit from that rule, Lincoln and St Joseph’s goals away from home will not play a part if the scores end up tied after the second leg.

Next week’s fixtures:

Tuesday 18:00 – Lincoln v Fola Esch (Victoria Stadium)

Thursday 18:00 – Kauno Zalgiris v Europa (Suduva Stadium)

Thursday 18:30 – St Joseph’s v Levadia Tallinn (Victoria Stadium)

Thursday 18:30 – Santa Coloma v Mons Calpe (Estadi Nacional)