Gibraltar’s final game of the UEFA Nations League sees them take on Group D leaders FYR Macedonia in the Philip II Arena at 20:45. Continue reading
After Gibraltar’s winning run came to an abrupt end in a 6-2 defeat against Armenia last night, FG writer Dan Griffin looks at six things he learnt from the performance in the Nations League match.
Photo © William Gracia
Unwelcome cameo from ghosts of Gibraltar performances past
The first four games of the group had suggested that the meltdowns and multi-goal flurries of previous Gib sides was beginning to disappear under Julio Ribas. Unfortunately, a six-minute spell of madness at the start of the second half was an unwelcome return to that. It ultimately killed the game off as a contest, and was a reminder of the fact that this team is far from the finished product – hopefully last night was the exception and not the rule.
Luck not on Gibraltar’s side
If people may have accused Gib of being “lucky” away at Armenia, it is safe to say that such luck deserted them last night. The Armenia equaliser had more than a suspicion of being offside, while a couple of the other goals were arguably tight and on another day may have been flagged. Obviously you make your own luck but last night Gib didn’t get the rub of the green in that aspect.
Midfield is too ‘nice’ for its own good sometimes
Gibraltar tends to produce technically skilled, attack-minded midfielders more often than not, and the midfield last night, while all talented in their own right, perhaps lacked the bite needed at times for the battle against an Armenian side who pushed the boundaries of physicality to the extreme (three yellow cards was perhaps a bit on the low side for the away side last night.) Gibraltar could have done with having a defensive-minded midfielder or two in the side last night, intent on sitting back and disrupting the Armenian attack, in turn allowing the more creative players to do their thing. The only question is, who is the best player in Gibraltar to fill that role?
Ribas gambles didn’t all pay off
Ribas made two changes from the Liechtenstein win; one enforced and one optional. While his decision to use Tjay De Barr up front instead of the more experienced Reece Styche or Adam Priestley (who had an impressive cameo when he came on) paid dividends with the 18-year old opening the scoring and generally hassling the Armenian defence in the early stages, the decision to replace Andrew Hernandez with his brother Anthony was perhaps not as successful – Anthony has had a tough time with injury and not getting game time at Lincoln, and last night may have been too much to ask of him to step back in from the start. Also, choosing not to stay with the two-striker formation of the second half of last month’s game perhaps didn’t pay off either, as De Barr was eventually isolated for long spells of the game – when Priestley came on and Gib had two strikers up top (with Lee Casciaro supporting), the team regained their attacking impetus and got their consolation through the Ossett United striker.
Different styles of attacking options a positive for Gib squad
Bringing back Priestley and Styche into the international fold in recent months has expanded the variety of options Gib have up front which can only be a good thing. Different games require different approaches and if Gib do have a multitude of different styles of attack they can use, it can only benefit the team going forward. The trick is knowing when to unleash the skill and tenacity of someone like De Barr, or using someone like Styche or Priestley for a more direct approach.
Team is allowing fans to dream
If only for a brief spell, Gibraltar were one point off the top of the table. While Macedonia eventually won 2-0 themselves, there was a time that the last game on Monday offered a realistic chance of promotion for Gib – a pipe dream before September. The team is giving fans a reason to believe in better things coming, and although the result last night may not look great on paper, once the stupid mistakes and the switching off is drilled out of this team, there is potential for it to punch above its weight consistently. It will take a fair bit of time for said dreams to be made realities, but at least this team are allowing Gibraltarian fans to dream.
Gibraltar go into tonight’s game at home to Armenia looking to build on an historic October, with the possibility of Julio Ribas’ side picking up a third consecutive competitive win.
Photo (C) Gibraltar Football Association
Armenia will be looking for both revenge, and to keep their own hopes of promotion alive tonight – had they beaten Gibraltar in Yerevan, they would top the group on head-to-head from Macedonia. As it is though, Armenia will most likely need to win tonight and then hope Gib can win in Skopje if they want to win Group 4.
The reverse match last month of course ended 1-0 to Gibraltar, and tonight’s hosts will no doubt need a performance of that level to get a result again tonight – a win could even keep their chances of promotion mathematically alive.
A point tonight, combined with a Macedonia win vs Liechtenstein would secure both third place for Gibraltar at minimum, but also at Pot 5 seeding after both Latvia and Andorra drew their respective matches last night.
The Gibraltar squad for this month’s internationals is largely the same as last month’s squad, bar a couple of changes – the enforced change of George Cabrera who scored vs Liechtenstein due to injury means Adam Priestley returns to the international fold.
Meanwhile, Brazilian-born naturalised Armenian Marco Pizzelli is a noticeable absence from the Armenian side, but they still possess a number of threats including Arsenal’s Henrikh Mkhitaryan, and Chicago Fire striker Yura Movsisyan. Tigran Barseghyan serves a one-match ban for tonight’s visitors too.
Predicted Lineup: Chino; Sergeant, R. Chipolina, J. Chipolina, Olivero; Bardon, Anthony Hernandez, Pons; Walker, Styche, Casciaro
Armenia are still heavy favourites for tonight’s game, coming in at 2/7 favourites to take all three points. A draw however is priced at 5/1 best price, while another famous Gibraltar win is currently an eye-catching 14/1.
Three of Gibraltar’s four Nations League games, and two of Armenia’s four equivalent matches have seen under 2.5 goals scored, and you can back that at Evens. Meanwhile, in terms of the goalscorer markets, Joseph Chipolina is 17/2 to score for a third game in a row, while Arsenal’s Mkhitaryan is 13/10 to follow up his goal vs Macedonia with a goal tonight.
With the final round of Nations League fixtures starting this week, there is still plenty to be settled for Gibraltar, and we take a look at all the potential outcomes both in terms of the group, and the national team’s potential seeding in the Euro 2020 qualifiers.
Photo (C) Rough & Ready