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Lincoln to play Slovan Bratislava in Europa League

Lincoln will face Slovakian side Slovan Bratislava in the Third Qualifying Round of the Europa League after defeat against Cluj last night in the Champions League.

Lincoln, who travelled to Romania knowing they needed to overturn a 2-1 first leg defeat, were not able to convert their numerous chances, while the hosts were more ruthless as they ended up running out 2-0 winners courtesy of goals from Mike Cestor and Iceland international Runar Mar Sigurjonsson.

The result may have bought to an end Lincoln’s Champions League journey, but their European journey is far from over, as they now transfer to the Europa League where they will face Slovan Bratislava, who lost 3-2 last night away at Swiss side Young Boys.

The winner of that match will progress to the playoff round of the Europa League, while the loser will move into the playoff round of the Europa Conference League, meaning Lincoln are guaranteed to be the first ever Gibraltarian side to take part in the final qualifying round of any European competition. The draw for the playoff rounds of both tournaments takes place on August 2nd.

In other Lincoln news, striker Tjay De Barr appeared as a triallist for English League 1 side Wycombe Wanderers, coming on in the second half of a 1-0 victory against FA Cup Champions Leicester City. The 21-year-old, who scored twice in Lincoln’s 5-0 victory over Fola Esch earlier this month, is looking to make the step abroad once again, after an injury-hit spell at Real Oviedo Vetusta.

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Five-star Lincoln blow away Fola Esch

Lincoln Red Imps will face Romanian champions CFR Cluj in the Second Qualifying Round of the Champions League after a 5-0 demolition of CS Fola Esch yesterday at the Victoria Stadium.

Photo (C) David Roberts

Lincoln, who drew the first leg 2-2 in Luxembourg after being 2-0 up, were ruthless on this occasion against their visitors, putting five goals past two different keepers across the 90 minutes to win 7-2 on aggregate.

Mick McElwee started with seven Gibraltarian’s on the pitch, including the returning Chino in goal, while Fola Esch manager Sebastien Grandjean made five changes from the side that drew the first leg – however it did not have anywhere near the desired impact.

Liam Walker’s corner in the first half was headed at goal by Roy Chipolina, and rebound fell kindly to Tjay De Barr to open the scoring for Lincoln. Chipolina then cleared one off the line for his side, before Lincoln doubled their lead on 38 minutes. De Barr, who had a very impressive game, was fouled by keeper Thomas Hym, who was shown a yellow card, and Walker stepped up to double the Lincoln lead.

10 minutes after the break, Lincoln broke free of the Fola Esch defence, and De Barr squared it to Kian Ronan who fired his effort impressively into the top corner and make it 3-0. The tie was all but over already, but it was rubber-stamped when Hym, who had a poor night in goal, gave away a second Lincoln penalty and picked up a second yellow for his troubles. Walker stepped up and fired a second penalty past sub keeper Emanuel Cabral, while there was still time for a 5th, as Kike unselfishly squared the ball to De Barr for his second of the evening, and Lincoln’s 5th – the 5-0 scoreline is the biggest by a Gibraltarian team in Europe, surpassing Europa’s 4-0 success against Andorran side Sant Julia in 2019.

Lincoln will now face Romanian champions CFR Cluj, who stumbled through in extra time against Bosnian side Borac. Leading 3-1 from the first leg, Cluj lost 2-0 in 90 minutes but benefitted from the scrapping of the away goals rule – they then won the tie in the 118th minute. The first leg will be in Gibraltar on Tuesday 20th July at 6pm, with the second leg in Romania on Wednesday 28th July at 7:30pm.

An added bonus for Lincoln is that they are guaranteed a minimum of six more matches in Europe this season, and at very worst will reach the playoff stage of the Europa Conference League – should they win one more two-legged tie this season, they will make history and be guaranteed to be first ever Gibraltarian team to qualify for the group stage of a European football competition.

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Europa unbeaten run ends in Serbia

Europa’s 397-day unbeaten run came to an end at the hands of FK Crvena zvezda as the Serbian champions won 5-0 to progress into the next round of the UEFA Champions League.

El Fardou Mohamed Ben Nabouhane ‘Ben’ scored a double in the first half, despite looking offside for his first, to give Red Star a commanding lead at the break. Europa had a few half-chances with Juanlu’s effort going straight to the Red Star keeper and a shot from Adrian Gallardo which went over the crossbar.

Seven minutes into the second half and Ben got his hat-trick to give Red Star a three-goal lead. Liam Walker started to test Milan Borjan as Europa looked to try and grab themselves a goal.

Mirko Ivanic’s brace made it 5-0 and secured Red Star a comfortable progression into the next round of the Champions League while Europa drops into the Europa League.

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Prishtina release statement regarding positive tests

FC Prishtina have released a statement this evening in regard of their postponed match with Lincoln Red Imps which was supposed to be played today.

Only a couple of hours before kick-off, Lincoln Red Imps’ tie with Prishtina was called off with the visitors reportedly recording “5 to 8 players” testing positive with COVID-19.

After much uncertainity, FC Prishtina released the following statement:

“Gibraltar authorities did not allow the match to be held.

FC Pristina, according to UEFA recommendations, was tested in advance three and four days before the match on August 14 and 15 All IKSHPK results for 41 club expedition people had turned out negative with an official completed report.

According to UEFA recommendations, the match test should be done 72 hours before the meeting starts and the same was done at the premises of Gibraltar airport with the team arrived yesterday, Monday, August 17th.

After more than 27 hours, the team has accepted the result of the UEFA licensed lab ′′Synlab” on the occasion of 8 football players have turned out positive.

FC Pristina had 14 players available (without two reserve goalkeepers) and fulfilled the condition of the UEFA protocol that the match could take place with 13 + players.

But the alarmed authorities of Gibraltar have not allowed such a thing until the club is informed by the match delegate.

The match delegation and the official UEFA itself has not taken any decision.

FC Prishtina, after they stop by local authorities, has released the hotel and is located in the premises of Gibraltar airport where during the evening it will fly to Pristina.

FC Pristina is waiting for the decision by UEFA.

FC Prishtina announces that all requests from UEFA have been accurate. We consider that according to the protocols required by UEFA, the match had to take place. FC Prishtina has announced directly to the UEFA delegate, and will soon inform the highest European football body.

FC Pristina will test its expedition again after returning to the capital and after comparing the test results it will raise its voice to the highest European football instances.”

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Red Star Belgrade v Europa: Match Preview

Europa get their season underway with a very tough away match at former European Cup winners, Red Star Belgrade, this evening in Serbia.

Photo © C Correa Photography

Europa, who qualified for the Champions League for the first time since 2017, travelled to Belgrade knowing a victory would go down as one of the biggest upsets in the history of local football and arguably even European football – especially given they haven’t played competitively since March, while Red Star have already got their new season underway and have won all of their four league matches this season.

Europa also appear to have a few players missing from their squad, most notably in defence. Full-back duo Ethan Jolley and Ibrahim Ayew do not appear to have travelled with the squad, while centre-back Sergio Sanchez was sent off in Europa’s last European match, a 3-0 defeat at Legia Warsaw last season, and presumably is suspended – meaning 25-year-old local defender Stefan Moreno could potentially make his debut for the first team, or manager Rafa Escobar may use some of his midfield players as makeshift defenders.

In goal, the departure of Dayle Coleing to Glentoran this week means it is likely either Javi Munoz, or new signing Emilio, will take the gloves in goal, while the only other notable absentee appears to be new signing Kwadwo Poku, who also hasn’t appeared to have travelled.

As for tonight’s hosts, they come in off the back of a 3-2 victory on the weekend in the Serbian Super Liga, and Comoros international El Fardou Mohamed Ben Nabouhane, who scored twice in that win, is expected to start up front tonight – the 31-year-old has a decent return of 47 goals in 87 games for his side, including goals in Europe vs the likes of Red Bull Salzburg and Napoli in the 2018/19 season. Former Real Betis and Swansea midfielder Jose Canas does not appear to be in their squad tonight, but regardless they clearly have a strong squad who will be expected by their passionate fanbase to win comfortably tonight.

Betting:

It will come as no surprise that Red Star are overwhelming favourites to win tonight at a best price of 1/25. Meanwhile, Europa are as high as 80/1 to pull off a shock upset and win. If you at least fancy both teams to score in the match, that is a best price of 13/5, while if you think Red Star will win comfortably, you back them -4 on the handicap at best price 11/5.

FG’s Predicted Lineups:

Red Star – Borjan; Rodic, Dejenek, Gajic, Pankov; Katai, Vulic, Petrovic; Nikolic, Tomane, Ben

Europa – Munoz; Badr, Olmo, Quillo, Olivero; Walker, Rosa, Carrascal, Alvarez, Juampe; Gallardo

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Sergeant: “The team is in a positive mindset”

We caught up with Gibraltar international Jack Sergeant about life under new Imps head coach William Amaral de Andrade, tomorrow’s Europa League game and more.

Jack joined Lincoln this summer from title rivals Europa – we asked him to sum up his time at the Greens, “I thoroughly enjoyed my first season back in Gibraltar with Europa FC. We had a very strong side as we went unbeaten all season and ended at the top of the table before COVID-19 occurred. On and off the pitch, I had a great relationship with both players and staff, and I take with me good memories. My decision for leaving this season was not an easy one, however, I wish them the best of luck.”

Two years after departing Mons Calpe, William was appointed as head coach of Lincoln Red Imps. We asked Jack about life under his new manager, “We have now been training for over 6 weeks in preparation for the Europa League. Training has been positive yet intense under William. Having to catch up physically while installing and perfecting the new manager’s tactics and ideas has been a challenge after being inactive for so long. I feel the team has caught on very quickly to William’s philosophy of playing and I am excited to see where this takes us in the competitive games to come.”

Lincoln begin their UEFA Europa League campaign tomorrow at 1800 against FC Prishtina in the Victoria Stadium – we asked Jack how the team feels going into tomorrow’s game, “The team is in a positive mindset, we have done all we can in training considering COVID-19 and the restrictions it has posed. Playing friendlies has helped bring us back into the competitive mindset that we need to be in. We have a very strong squad of players who are all motivated to get back on the pitch, and with the home advantage of playing at Victoria Stadium we will do our best to win the game.”

Lastly, we asked Jack what his hopes are for this season – “Firstly, we would like to get as far as we can in the Europa League. Next, our focus will be to win the league as well as domestic cups. Regarding the National Team, the nations league is coming up where we face San Marino and Liechtenstein. Having already beaten the latter, our goal is to beat both and top the group. Overall, I am excited about what this new season will bring.”

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Saints draw in Kosovo while Lincoln & Europa lose

A goal from Juanfri secured a 1-1 draw for St Joseph’s away in Kosovo while Lincoln & Europa suffered defeats but the use of 3 Gibraltarians across 33 players left a sour taste in Gibraltar.

Two minutes into their opening UEFA Champions League preliminary and the hosts Feronikeli made it 1-0 through Mendurim Hoti. The rest of the game was quite even, very few chances were created and the Kosovan Champions held on to progress – they will play TNS in 1QR after beating Santa Coloma on Friday.

The Imps started with Roy Chipolina & Joseph Chipolina with Anthony Hernandez coming on in the 74th minute. Lee Casciaro missed out after recovering from injury while new signing Ethan Britto didn’t make the squad.

Talk before the game had this game as a Europa win all over it and it should have been but a poor defensively display could cost them dearly. Adrian Gallardo fired Europa into a 1-0 lead in the 4th minute but the hosts would equalise on the stroke of half-time.

One minute into the second half and Europa made it 2-1, Juampe’s cross found Fernando Velasco and his effort was turned into his own net by Senah Mango.

On the 64th minute, the hosts equalised against through Joel Mendez getting his second of the evening. Europa couldn’t make use of the extra-man advantage and Pedro Munoz would make it 3-2 to Sant Julia in the 93rd minute.

Liam Walker was the only Gibraltarian starting for Europa last Thursday. Dayle Coleing & Tjay De Barr picked up apparent knocks while Ethan Jolley, Mikey Yome, Jason Pusey & Jayce Olivero were all named on the bench.

After beating Europa last season, next up for Prishtina would be St Joseph’s. The hosts pretty much dominated from start to finish, having a total of 17 goal attempts with 5 on target.

Francisco Mateo Vera started in goal for Saints and pulled off an incredible piece of goalkeeping to prevent Shillova scoring a tap-in after Kreshnik Uka’s shot hit the crossbar and bounced on the line. Shortly after Prishtina made it 1-0 as captain Armend Daliku scored from the penalty spot after Shillova was brought down by Ezequiel Rojas.

Doing what Lincoln & Europa were not able to do, St Joseph’s scored in Kosovo. Just three minutes after conceding, a cross by Cristian Pecci was met by the head of Juanfri and he guided the ball into the bottom left corner.

Saints were able to hold on and take a 1-1 draw into next Tuesday’s return leg. The impressive result would not be the talking point, with many people voicing their frustrations over the use of 0 Gibraltarian’s in their starting lineup – a repeat of last season’s second leg tie against B36 Torsavn.