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Serra: “I knew that it was a tough challenge but I was definitely prepared”

At just 17 years old, Niall Serra has turned a few heads with some eye-catching performances – we spoke to the Glacis defender about life in the Premier Division, captaining Gibraltar U19’s and much more.  

Since coming onto the scene in late October, Niall Serra has made huge steps in his progression and certainly raised a few eyebrows along the way – we asked him how he has found life in the Premier Division, “After training with the premier squad, and being involved in matches and observing from the bench, I knew that it was a tough challenge but I was definitely prepared. After my debut, against Lions I felt a great amount of confidence and faith in myself to push even harder and earn my place. After 6 games now I’ve felt very comfortable and I’ve adapted quickly, the intensity is on another level compared to the intermediate league, however, I’ve found that I’ve asserted my position in the team.”

After losing Dani Guerrero to St Joseph’s – Glacis have struggled to find a good enough partner for Francisco Cano but over the last few games, Niall has shown great maturity and looks to be a real talent for the future. We asked him how he has found playing with the 27-year old, “I have developed great relationships and learned a lot from the players and coaching staff, they’ve surrounded me with nothing but positivity on the pitch. I’m constantly greeted with support on every action I take on and off the field. My footballing ability has undoubtedly increased due to all the experienced players’ remarks and I have only gratitude and appreciation towards them. Being partnered up with Fran Cano has given me the opportunity to witness and learn even further allowing me to play to the best of my ability.”

At 17 years old, Niall was appointed captain for Gibraltar’s recent U19 campaign – we asked him how it felt, “Being named captain of the Gibraltar U19s is such an incredible honour that I will cherish forever. Playing for my country is a feeling like no other, and captaining it is one that words cannot describe. I was given a huge responsibility and I was prepared to give my all for my team and my country and I’ll make sure I fight to keep my place in the next tournament to come. It was undeniably an experience like no other.”

Lastly, Niall gave us an insight into what he hopes to achieve in the future – “In terms of my footballing career, I aim to progress through the ranks of GFA and eventually break into the senior squad and represent my country at the highest level. I have also set a target of continuing to develop as a player and perhaps making my way to the highest rank of football in Gibraltar or perhaps elsewhere. The opportunity to show ones ability in the Gibraltar Premier Division is not very common for locals and the fact that I have been able to do so at such an early age, fighting for my spot has only triggered my desire to get to the top wherever that may be.”

Photo – Neil Wilson. 

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PREMIER DIVISION PLAYER AND MANAGER OF THE MONTH – NOVEMBER 2018

November saw a big gap due to the UEFA Nations League but congratulations to St Joseph’s duo Juanfri Peña Garcia & Raul Procopio on winning the FG Player & Manager of the month respectively. 

Player of the Month – Juanfri Peña Garcia (St Joseph’s) 

After a difficult October, Saints really upped their game in November and spearheading their success was striker Juanfri who scored three goals in three games and just edged his team-mate Boro who finished closely in second. Finishing off the top three is Phoenix defender Ezequiel Rojas Piner who has been instrumental in defence for his side. 

Manager of the Month – Raul Procopio (St Joseph’s)

Procopio can be very happy with his side, scoring nine goals and conceding none – it was very difficult to pick a winner due to the long break but we felt the Saints manager was the deserved winner. Phoenix’s Juan Maria Sanchez finished second with Lincoln’s Manolo Nunez Sanchez in third. 

Photos – C Correa Photography & Neil Wilson. 

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Premier Division: Team of the Week

Matchday 10 results 

  • FC Boca Juniors 1-1 St Joseph’s (Santos; Boro)
  • Gibraltar Phoenix 2-0 Lynx (Labrador, Trujillo) 
  • Glacis United 1-2 Lincoln Red Imps (Luan; Falu x2) 
  • Lions Gibraltar 1-0 Gibraltar United (Morente)
  • Mons Calpe 1-2 Europa (Carboni; Arana x2) 

GOALKEEPER: Juan Mateo (Lions)

DEFENDER: Carlos Trujillo (Gib Phoenix)

DEFENDER: Niall Serra (Glacis) 

DEFENDER: James Parkinson (Lions)

DEFENDER: Kailan ‘Ping’ Perez (Lions)

DEFENDER: Antonio ‘Nito’ Jimenez Ramos (Gib Phoenix)

MIDFIELDER: Mustapha Yahaya (Europa)

MIDFIELDER: Nathan Santos (Boca)

MIDFIELDER: Manuel Arana (Europa)

STRIKER: Salvador ‘Boro’ Delgado (St Joseph’s) 

STRIKER: Rafael ‘Falu’ Aranda (Lincoln) 

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Gibraltar 2-6 Armenia: Six things Dan learnt

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.



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Gibraltar v Armenia: Preview

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

Betting

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.