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Europa ease past Sant Julia

Liam Walker scored one and assisted two as Europa comfortably beat UE Sant Julia 4-0 this evening, 6-3 on aggregate, to progress into the UEFA Europa League first qualifying round.

The Greens made two changes to the side which lost the first leg 3-2 with Dayle Coleing & Tjay De Barr replacing Javi Munoz & Fernando Velasco – the hosts were also still without the suspended Alex Quillo.

Time-wasting from the Sant Julia goalkeeper in the opening five minutes set off a tone for the first half and after Europa’s wingers Juampe & De Barr were causing trouble, the visitors shifted to a five at the back formation.

Five minutes before half-time and Europa got their breakthrough as Liam Walker played in Adrian Gallardo who slotted the ball past the Sant Julia goalkeeper – two goals in two games for the Spanish striker.

Two minutes into the second half and Europa doubled their lead, Liam Walker once again the provider as his through ball found Tjay De Barr and he fired a low shot into the bottom corner.

Tjay should have got his brace shortly after but his close range shot went past the post after being set-up nicely by Juampe. Walker put the game to bed in the 78th minute after controlling the ball excellently in the box and smashed a shot past Kasparian.

Five minutes later and Sant Julia went down to 10 men as Jonny was sent off for a second bookable offence. Making his Europa League debut, Dayle Coleing made his first save in the 88th minute from a Sant Julia free-kick.

Europa made it 4-0 in added time as Juampe rounded the goalkeeper, dribbled past a defender and scored from close. An easy win in the end for the hosts, which proved to have broken a record in Gibraltar for the most combined goals scored by local clubs in one season in UEFA club competitions – combing Saints’ three goals with Europa’s six.

Next up for Europa is a first qualifying round tie against Legia Warsaw.

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Pecci: “Next time they will think twice about talking negatively”

We caught up with St Joseph’s midfielder Cristian Pecci as he reflects on his side’s historic win over Prishtina, the dream tie against Rangers and much more.

Second half goals from Federico Villar & Juanfri secured St Joseph’s a historic 2-0 win over Prishtina to qualify for the UEFA Europa League second qualifying round, Pecci reflected on the result – “It has been a historic victory for the club and the truthfully as a player I am proud of the team. We have, alongside the coaching staff, worked hard enough all year to have this reward.”

Prishtina went down to 9 men in 48 minutes after two red cards in a matter of seconds were given to Leotrim Bekteshi & Armend Dallku. We asked the Spanish midfielder how much of an impact the sanctions took on the game, “The red cards were important for us but I think that the opposing players lost their heads because they saw that they could not compete with us.”

After the game, quotes made from the Prishtina president surfaced on Twitter which stated that his side will easily beat St Joseph’s and were already preparing for Rangers in the next round – we asked how Pecci reacted to the news, “The truth is that they lacked the respect to speak negatively about us without knowing who we are and nowadays in football the first thing is to respect the whole world. I’m glad that their words are eaten and next time they will think twice about talking negatively about an opponent.”

Next up for St Joseph’s in the UEFA Europa League second qualifying round is Scottish side Rangers next week – Pecci gave his view on the upcoming tie, “We have a very important match against a big club but we are going to go our all like the previous two matches and with the hard-work we are doing, we will surely make it difficult for them.”

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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.

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Bardon: “We must continue to provide a platform for the youngsters to get better”

Part One of our three part series with Anthony Bardon as we talk about his time at Manchester 62, Lincoln Red Imps and much more.

  • FG – How would you look at your time at Man62?
  • Bardon – Man62 was the first club that took me in as a player in Gibraltar and I have to always thank them as they made me feel so welcome and one of their own from the very start. It was a great time in which I learned about Gibraltar football in the short 6 months we had together.
  • FG – How did it feel signing for Lincoln Red Imps?
  • Bardon – Signing for Lincoln was something I couldn’t turn down. They showed great interest in me becoming a Lincoln player so I couldn’t say no and it was the best decision I ever made playing there for the best part of 4-5 years.
  • FG – You won many trophies at Lincoln but what is your greatest achievement?
  • Bardon – My greatest achievement was when we beat Celtic. Not only that we beat them but the whole 11 months was an incredible season and that was the icing on the cake.
  • FG – How has your time at Lincoln benefitted you as a player?
  • Bardon – Lincoln benefitted me greatly because it provided me with an opportunity to train with quality players every single day, and it turned me into a much better overall player in everything.
  • FG – Since the day you arrived to when you left, what your thoughts on football in Gibraltar?
  • Bardon – From the day I came to the day I left the football in Gibraltar was so much different. The league when I left to when I started was so much different and the quality was on another level. Football in Gibraltar now is in such an important moment and we must continue to provide a platform for the youngsters to get better.
  • FG – Who is the best player you’ve played with?
  • Bardon – The best player overall would be Lee Casciaro. We fought every game and constantly got into each other but it’s because we only wanted to win. He is an incredible athlete and player.
  • FG – Who is the toughest opponent you’ve come across in the league?
  • Bardon – Mustapha Yahaya. He was the most complete and most dominant midfielder I ever faced. He is a very good player.
  • FG – Who is the best manager you’ve worked with?
  • Bardon – Julio Ribas. He has been a football father figure to me. He is an inspiration and beyond smart.
  • FG – What local player/s do you think have the most potential to succeed as a professional?
  • Bardon – I think Tjay De Barr, Jayce Olivero and Louie Annesley are the players with the age and talent to make it. Two of them now are in pro clubs and have a real chance and Jayce can do the same. Another one is Ethan Britto.
  • FG – What is your view on the new rules being implemented by the Gibraltar FA in regard of HGP & 1 league?
  • Bardon – I don’t like the 1 league because I think it kills the competition in the lower half towards the end of the season. Many problems could arise with that I feel, but we all trust the GFA to make the right decision. HGP rule is tricky because we have to get more locals playing, but not lose the quality of play because we need our best players playing at the highest level possible every week. Again, we all have to put our faith and trust in the GFA.
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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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FG Awards 2019 information

With the season now fully over and some players beginning their holidays, while others start preparing for Internationals next week, we will be announcing our yearly awards.

Part One will be unveiled on Tuesday 28th May – below are the categories:

  • Goalkeeper of the Season
  • Defender of the Season
  • Midfielder of the Season
  • Striker of the Season
  • Manager of the Season

Part Two will be unveiled immediately after Part One, but the winners will not be announced until Sunday 2nd June – below are the categories:

  • Young Player of the Season
  • Player of the Season
  • Second Division Young Player of the Season
  • Second Division Player of the Season
  • Second Division Manager of the Season
  • Adam Roberts’ Team of the Season
  • Daniel Griffin’s Team of the Season
  • Premier Division Bottom Half Team of the Season
  • Fans Young Player of the Season
  • Fans Player of the Season
  • Fans Team of the Season
  • Fans Premier Division Bottom Half Team of the Season

Part Three will be our season reviews and you can read about that next week.

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Europa retain Gibtelecom Rock Cup for a third year

Second half goals from Manuel Arana, Urko Arroyo and a Liam Walker penalty helped Europa beat Gibraltar United 3-0 and retain the Gibtelecom Rock Cup for a third consecutive year.

In the pre-Rock Cup press conference, Europa head coach Rafa Escobar didn’t give any hints as to his who his three HGP’s following the suspension of Tjay De Barr. As expected, it would be Dayle Coleing named alongside Liam Walker & Ethan Jolley.

Alberto Zapata had a glorious chance to score in the first fifteen minutes but volleyed his close range shot over the bar. Ten minutes later, Europa would reply as Manuel Arana shot just wide from inside the box.

There wasn’t much between the teams for the rest of the half apart from Liam Walker’s free-kick which was well saved by Kyle Goldwin. Herbert Warwick blew for half-time with the score locked at 0-0.

Goldwin was called into action, making an excellent save to keep out a shot from Manuel Dimas. After starting the half strong, Europa got their goal through Manuel Arana as he beat Erin Barnett to the ball, run on goal and fired past Goldwin.

Less than ten minutes later and Europa doubled their lead, Arana went from scorer to provider as he set up Urko Arroyo to slot the ball in from close.

Things went from bad to worse for Gibraltar United as Europa made it 3-0 minutes later as Liam Walker scored from the penalty spot. The holder nearly got a fourth but Goldwin did well to save a shot from Dimas.

Gibraltar United bench were furious with the decision not to send off Manuel Arana after his altercation with Carlos Carrasco. Francis Huart walked back to the bench then out of nowhere whipped out a Lincoln shirt and start shouting towards the Europa fans. This foolish act would see the Gibraltar United delegate sent to stands.

Europa held on to their lead and retained the Gibtelecom Rock Cup.

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Julian Lopez impresses as Europa Point finish second

Julian Lopez scored an impressive 14 goals in 8 league games to help Europa Point finish second in the Second Division.

The 27-year old joined Europa Point in a major rebuild after failures from the previous owners left the club in a bad state; John Gontier took back full control in January.

Despite losing their top players like Alexis Sanchez and Christian Nunez, Gontier would bring in twelve players in January which included Stefan Oliva & Aidan Casey who were at the club last season, Lions goalkeeper Kaaron Macedo, Europa’s Jonathan Rodriguez Parragues and Julian Lopez (just to name a few).

The wins would soon starting rolling in and in Julian Lopez case, the goals also. Lopez would score a staggering 14 goals in 8 league games which would result in six wins, two losses and a very respectable second place finish.

With the two leagues expected to merge next season – what’s next for Julian Lopez?

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Yome: “We are looking forward to defending the title again”

We caught up with Europa winger Mikey Yome to get his thoughts on the upcoming Gibtelecom Rock Cup final and more.

After last week’s 13-1 thrashing of FC Boca Juniors, we asked how how Europa are feeling going into this Sunday’s Gibtelecom Rock Cup final – “Team’s in good spirits, the rock cup final is probably the best game of the season in Gibraltar with regards to the way in which it’s organised and we are looking forward to defending the title again. We have a really good group of guys and personally this is probably the best group I’ve been with in terms of friendship as well as on the pitch chemistry.”

After missing out on winning the league to rivals Lincoln, we asked if there’s any added pressure on Europa to retain the Rock Cup – “We always take every game one by one, and the cup final was not a thought up until after the boca game. Missing out on the league was quite a big blow but we have moved on from it, we have a cup final as well as the Europa League to look forward to, and we need to feel privileged about our situation. Everyone feels pressure in every game but we are a team that knows how to play under pressure. We have very experienced players who have played to the highest levels and this further reinforces the teams spirit.”

It was Europa’s draw to Gibraltar United in late April which would pave the way for Lincoln to retain the league, we asked Yome if Europa will be looking for revenge on Sunday – “As I said before we have moved on from the past. Our only focus is lifting the cup. Revenge is nothing compared to lifting a title.”

Lastly, Yome reflected on his season – “I thought I started the season off considerably well, but I know I have much more to offer. All I know is that at the moment what’s important is the team and how we perform as a whole on Sunday.”