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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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Champions League and Europa League draws take place

Lincoln Red Imps, Europa and St Joseph’s all found out their opponents in the Preliminary Round of the Champions League and Europa League, in draws that were held this afternoon in Nyon.

Photo (C) William Gracia

Lincoln, Gibraltar’s sole Champions League representative, have been handed a seemingly tricky tie against Feronikeli of Kosovo on June 25th – who are hosting the Preliminary Round mini-tournament this season. Should Lincoln progress, they would play the winner of Sammarinese side Tre Penne, and Andorran champions Santa Coloma in the final on June 28th, at the  Fadil Vokrri Stadium in Pristina.

Meanwhile, in the Europa League draw, Rock Cup winners and league runners up Europa were drawn against Andorran league runners up Sant Julia, while St Joseph’s face Prishtina from Kosovo, who knocked out Europa at this stage last season.

The Europa League games are set to take place on June 27th and July 4th, but there is always the potential that fixtures are reversed, especially as Europa and St Joseph’s are currently set to play at home at the same day.

The draw for the First Qualifying Round of both tournaments takes place next week, where the three local teams will find out their potential opponents should they progress past the Preliminary Round.

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Ireland v Gibraltar: Preview

Gibraltar take on Republic of Ireland tonight in the second part of their June double-header, looking to build upon their performances so far in Group D.

Photo © William Gracia

After losing 1-0 at home to tonight’s opponents in March, Gib followed it up with a 3-0 loss away in Georgia on Friday night, and will no doubt be aiming to try and improve on the performance in Tbilisi, where they mustered one shot all game – albeit one that came inches from levelling the scores at the time.

Ahead of the game, Gibraltar are believed to have a fully fit squad to choose from – Louie Annesley did limp off near the end last week but the young Blackburn defender is expected to be fit tonight. The match will also be the last time Anthony Bardon will be involved in the matchday squad – the 26-year old is retiring after tonight’s game to focus on coaching in the USA. The former Lincoln midfielder is likely to add a 29th and final cap at the AVIVA Stadium tonight, either by starting in midfield or appearing as a sub.

Tonight’s hosts find themselves top of Group D with seven points in three games, and picked up an impressive 1-1 draw away at Denmark last week. Mick McCarthy’s side will no doubt be looking to improve on their performance when the two sides met in March at the Victoria Stadium, as Ireland look to end the season in a strong position in the five-team group.

The two teams last met in Dublin in 2014, where Ireland ran out 7-0 winners in what was arguably one of Gib’s worst team performances – of the eleven who started that game, only four are expected to also start this evening, and tonight could be a good chance to show how far the national team has come in that five year period.

Betting*:

Unsurprisingly Ireland are as short as 1/100 to win tonight, and there’s no value in the match result market unless you fancy a draw (31/1) or a Gib win (105/1).

If you want to back Ireland but don’t fancy 1/100 odds, then the “win to nil” market for Ireland to win and not concede is potentially more appealing at odds of 3/10. Jeff Hendrick scored in the reverse fixture back in March and is 6/4 to do the same again this evening.

From a Gib perspective, Liam Walker came closest to scoring from a free kick, and his set-piece prowess is known to be a threat for Ireland – the Europa midfielder is 20/1 to score in 90 minutes tonight.

FG’s Predicted XI:

Goldwin; Sergeant, J. Chipolina, R. Chipolina, Olivero; Annesley; Casciaro, Bardon, Hernandez, Walker; De Barr

*Odds correct at the time of writing, and taken from Oddschecker

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Georgia v Gibraltar: Match Preview

Gibraltar go into tonight’s game vs Georgia looking for an improvement on their previous two meetings against their opponents.

Photo © William Gracia

Both sides are without a point in Group D, with Gib ahead of Georgia on goal difference, having played a game less. However, this evening’s match in Tbilisi will prove to be a difficult one, with the hosts only having lost once on home soil since the beginning of 2018.

The match, which kicks off at 6pm Gibraltarian time (8pm in Georgia), is the first part of a double-header, where Gib also travel to Dublin to play Ireland on Monday night. The two away matches sees Julio Ribas side travel across the length and breadth of Europe for two games in just over 72 hours, and will be a test of the players fitness – however it is a challenge the team should thrive off.

For Georgia, their undoubted star player is Giorgi Chakvetadze. The 19-year old, currently at Gent, has five goals in seven appearances for the national side, and has been attracting interest from top sides across Europe. The midfielder is tipped to be the next big thing in Georgian football and possibly a star in Europe as well, so he will be one to watch out for. Tonight’s hosts also have Levan Mchedlidze, who plies his trade in Serie A with Empoli, but Tornike Okriashvili, who scored in both previous encounters against Gib, has not made the squad for this round of fixtures.

Gibraltar have the luxury of a fully fit 23-man squad to pick from at the time of writing, with no injuries believed to be affecting the side. Tjay De Barr was carrying an injury for the latter stages of the season, but the two game ban he received for 10 yellow cards domestically means he has had nearly a month without a match, and should be fit and raring to go at the Georgian defence. Meanwhile, the likes of Joseph Chipolina, Lee Casciaro and Roy Chipolina had been injury concerns, but appeared to be training as normal and would be expected to be part of the eleven this evening.

Betting*:

As usual, Gibraltar go into the game as massive underdogs, with odds as great as 80/1 that they can win today. The hosts Georgia are a best price of 1/14 to win, and as short as 1/33 in places, while a draw is generally around about 14/1 on average.

Chakvetadze, who scored four of his five goals for his country in the Nations League, is 5/4 to score anytime tonight and is likely to be one of their biggest threats, while for Gib, the likes of De Barr (13/1), Joseph Chipolina (14/1) and Liam Walker (13/1) are good odds to get a goal for Ribas side. A good in-play bet may be to wait for Reece Styche (currently 17/2 anytime score) to come off the bench if he doesn’t start, and get bigger odds on him scoring.

If you fancy there to be goals at both ends, BTTS is currently a best price of 5/2, while if you think it’ll be a similar game to Gib’s 1-0 loss to Ireland in March, under 2.5 goals is also a 5/2 shot this evening.

FG’s Predicted XI:

Goldwin; Sergeant, J. Chipolina, R. Chipolina, Olivero; Annesley; Casciaro, Bardon, Hernandez, Walker; De Barr

*Odds correct at the time of writing, and taken from Oddschecker

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Part Two of FG Awards 2019 announced

Part Two of the FG Awards 2019 has come to close with over 2000 votes casted – below is Adam Roberts & Daniel Griffin’s winners and the fans ones too.

FG Young Player of the Season – Tjay De Barr (Europa)

Adam – It was a no-brainer really. Tjay has been sensational this year and been the leading light in a difficult campaign for Europa. His pace, skill and eagerness to take on defenders has been a delight to watch and he will be sorely missed next season – good luck for the future.

Dan – Much like what Adam said, this was a no-brainer, with De Barr excelling more than perhaps even he may have expected in the last season. Tjay has a bright future, and the move to Oviedo should be great for his development.

FG Player of the Season – Bernardo Lopes (Lincoln Red Imps)

Adam – Bernardo has been arguably Lincoln’s best player, not just this season, but for many. The Portuguese has always been someone the Imps can rely on in those nervy situations and nearly always comes out on top. A big time player and one which Lincoln won’t want to lose.

Dan – Lopes makes the game look remarkably easy at times and is a colossus at the back for Lincoln. He’s been consistent for a good while now, and is a key reason this year why his side retained their title.

Adam Roberts’ Team of the Season

  • Jamie Robba (St Joseph’s)
  • Marcos Perez Trujillo (Lincoln Red Imps)
  • Fede Villar (Mons Calpe)
  • Bernardo Lopes (Lincoln Red Imps)
  • Ethan Jolley (Europa)
  • Anthony Hernandez (Lincoln Red Imps)
  • Mustapha Yahaya (Europa)
  • Nahuel Pereyra (Mons Calpe)
  • Tjay De Barr (Europa)
  • Salvador ‘Boro’ Delgado (St Joseph’s)
  • Leonardo Carboni (Mons Calpe)

Daniel Griffin’s Team of the Season

  • Jamie Robba (St Joseph’s)
  • Marcos Perez Trujillo (Lincoln Red Imps)
  • Fede Villar (Mons Calpe)
  • Bernardo Lopes (Lincoln Red Imps)
  • Ethan Jolley (Europa)
  • Alex Quillo (Europa)
  • Mustapha Yahaya (Europa)
  • Tjay De Barr (Europa)
  • Salvador ‘Boro’ Delgado (St Joseph’s)
  • Juanfri Garcia Pena (St Joseph’s)
  • Juan Pablo ‘Pibe’ Pereira (Mons Calpe)

FG’s Lower Team of the Season

  • Alejandro Caro (Lynx)
  • David Bautista (Lynx)
  • Brad Power (Lynx)
  • Juanma Ferrer (Glacis)
  • ‘Chuky’ Gonzalez (Lynx)
  • Nacho Fernandez (Glacis)
  • Alan Parker (Glacis)
  • Federico Cataruozzolo (Lynx)
  • Mohamed Badr (Lynx)
  • Alberto Caravaca (Lions)
  • Alberto Valdivia (Lynx)

FG Second Division Player of the Season – Matheus Assumpcao (Brunos Magpies)

Dan – Assumpcao has proven to be an inspired signing for Magpies this season, and while the term “Brazilian Flair” may sound like a cliche, the playmaker has done that to Brunos – you only have to see his goal vs Hound Dogs on the last game of the season. It will be interesting to see how he adapts to the top division next season.

FG Second Division Young Player of the Season – Egbo Godwin (FC Olympique)

Adam – After failing to make much of an impact last season, Egbo has been superb for Olympique in time around. Bossing the midfield at times, had a good partnership with Carenote and was one of Olympique’s most consistent players. It’s also worth to mention that his team-mate Uche was close in second.

FG Second Division Manager of the Season – David Wilson (Brunos Magpies)

Dan – Wilson has managed to guide his side to league and cup success, as well as the quarter finals of the Gibtelecom Rock Cup – even more impressively doing it with a vastly reduced squad for half of it. In truth, he has deserved to be managing in the top tier, and next season will be a challenge for him, but one I think he’ll thrive on.


Fans Young Player of the Season:

  1. Tjay De Barr (Europa)
  2. Ethan Britto (Mons Calpe)
  3. Chico Rubio (Gibraltar United)

Fans Player of the Season:

  1. Bernardo Lopes (Lincoln Red Imps)
  2. Tjay De Barr (Europa)
  3. Juan Pablo ‘Pibe’ Pereira (Mons Calpe)

Fans Team of the Season:

  • Marcos Zappacosta (Mons Calpe)
  • Miguel Londero (Mons Calpe)
  • Gonzalo Guijaro (Gibraltar United)
  • Aymen Mouelhi (Gibraltar United)
  • Bernardo Lopes (Lincoln Red Imps)
  • David Gomez Prieto (Gibraltar United)
  • Ernesto Cornejo (St Joseph’s)
  • Domingo Ferrer (St Joseph’s)
  • Manuel Arana (Europa)
  • Tjay De Barr (Europa)
  • Leonardo Carboni (Mons Calpe)

Fans Lower Team of the Season:

  • Bradley Banda (Lynx)
  • Courtney Lewis (Glacis United)
  • Jared Buhagiar (Lions)
  • Brad Power (Lynx)
  • Yassin El Melki (Glacis United)
  • Antonio Gonzalez Garcia (Lynx)
  • Nacho Fernandez (Glacis United)
  • Andres Jesus Medina (Lynx)
  • Mohamed Badr (Lynx)
  • Gabriele Novello (Glacis United)
  • Naoufal El Andaloussi (Glacis United)

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Oundjian appointed joint-chairman of Brunos Magpies

Second Division champions Brunos Magpies have announced the appointment of former Watford owner and vice-chairman, Haig Oundjian, as their new joint-chairman.

Oundjian, who also represented Great Britain in figure-skating at two Winter Olympics, takes up the role alongside fellow joint-chairman Louis Perry, who in a club statement commented: “I am delighted to welcome Haig to the club. His vast experience and contacts will help guide us over the next few years as we establish ourselves as a major local football force on and off the field with some interesting initiatives to come.”

The 69-year old, who resides in Gibraltar, has had a long career working in football, including serving on the board of the English Football League, and in the statement, he says: “My initial attraction to the club started with my appreciation of the club’s desires to grow on and off the pitch. The club has a vibrance, a supporter base and a desire. I believe I can assist them further whilst also bringing some value to youth development and education of young sports men and women generally in Gibraltar”.

According to the statement from Magpies, Oundjian’s interest in FC Brunos’s Magpies stems from his desire to help youth development n professional and educational qualifications. He will also take a minority stake in the club.

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Five players unfortunate not to make the national squad

The 30-man preliminary national squad for the games away at Georgia and Republic of Ireland was announced today, and now the names of those who could make the 23 are known, we take a look at five players who may consider themselves unfortunate not to be selected in the 30-man squad.

Photo © C Correa Photography

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