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Hankins joins Cordoba; loaned out to Extremadura

Gibraltar U21 goalkeeper Jaylan Hankins has today joined Spanish side Cordoba CF, and has been loaned out to the first team of Segunda B side Extremadura UD.

Photo (C) Black & Burst

Hankins, who last season was on the books of Las Palmas, will spend the season at Extremadura, who last season were in the Segunda Division in Spain, and will be competing with the first team to get appearances in Spain’s Segunda B level.

The 19-year-old, who has four caps at U21 level for Gibraltar, made his breakthrough in the 2018/19 season at Lincoln, before making the move to Las Palmas last summer. He made multiple appearances for their C team, as well as appearing on the bench for their B team, but this will be his first taste of senior first team football in Spain.

Hankins will face competition if he wants to get the spot in goal for the first team – Extremadura have the vastly experienced keeper Casto, who played for the likes of Real Betis, Almeria & Murcia on their books, but this move looks to be a good upwards step in the career of the teenager.

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Gibraltar on course to benefit from Europa Conference League next season

The UEFA Europa Conference League starts for the first time next season, and Gibraltar are currently on course to get an extra European spot as a result of the new tournament.

Photo © Black and Burst

The tournament, announced by UEFA in 2018, has had little to no fanfare around it, but as we get closer to its inaugural season, it is becoming clearer how allocation to the tournament works, and how Gibraltar looks set to benefit, for at least one season.

The team allocation for the 21/22 edition uses the 2020 UEFA Country Coefficients, which takes into account performances from the 15/16 to 19/20 seasons. As it stands, teams ranked from 16th to 50th (excluding Liechtenstein who do not run a league) are granted three spots in the tournament, alongside their usual one Champions League spot – Gibraltar ended the 2020 Coefficient rankings in 49th, and as such seem set to benefit for at least one season by having four teams in European competition.

It was originally expected Gib would have four teams for this season’s qualifiers, which ended for the local teams yesterday, but with UEFA taking the 3rd Europa League spot from the 51st place team, which was Gib, and giving it to the 55th place nation, who only used to have two teams in Europe, that advantage was denied – Lynx were the team who would have theoretically taken the 3rd Europa League spot this summer had UEFA not changed the allocations.

This benefit is at the moment only guaranteed for one season, as Gibraltar are not currently guaranteed to finish in the top 50 spots at the end of this seasons rankings. Gib currently find themselves in 48th, but three nations below them currently have teams still in Europe (Faroe Islands, Montenegro and Estonia). Should the teams from those three nations go on good runs, then Gib may drop to 51st and only have one season of four teams in Europe – however the chances are in Gib’s favour as it would require all 3 nations jumping above them, and they currently enjoy a 1.291 point lead over Estonia, and a 0.791 lead over Montenegro.

As a result, with the 1.5 points per win divided by the four teams they enter in Europe, this would require Montenegrin side Buducnost Podgorica and Estonian side Flora to both qualify for the Europa League Group Stages.

While the confirmed start of the league is not officially known, the news that 4th place could get a European spot (depending on the Rock Cup winner), puts another twist into what could be a highly competitive season this time out.

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Europa unfortunate in Djurgarden defeat

Europa were knocked out of Europe tonight after a narrow 2-1 away loss to Djurgarden of Sweden, with a saved penalty, a red card and the woodwork coming back to hurt the visitors.

Photo (C) C Correa Photography

Europa were not well fancied in the betting going into the game, but proved to be a match for the Swedish champions, and Rafael Escobar’s side had a great chance to go ahead from the spot just before half time – however Liam Walker’s penalty was saved well, and Djurgarden went up the other end to score through Curtis Edwards.

The setback did not deter the visitors though, and they got their reward in the 57th minute. A defensive mix up at the back by Djurgarden left Adrian Gallardo with an empty net to finish into and get his side back into it. Europa were to fall down to 10 men soon after though with Alex Quillo picking up two bookings in four minutes.

Europa kept on fighting, but would go behind to a penalty from former Burnley midfielder Fredrik Ulvestad. The woodwork would then go on to deny Europa a second equaliser, and later chances for Walker, Gallardo, and 18-year-old Gibraltarian Mitch Gibson, a surprise inclusion onto the field of play near the end, could not be converted as Europa lost in the narrowest of circumstances.

The final statistics, of 9 shots each team told the story of a tight match, which on another day, Europa may have been able to win – they will likely take confidence from the performance though going into the domestic season.

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Rangers too strong for Lincoln

Rangers progressed safely into the next round of the Europa League by beating Lincoln Red Imps 5-0 at the Victoria Stadium.

Kyle Goldwin was the only change in William’s side with the Gibraltarian replacing Lolo Soler, new signing Tjay De Barr made the bench while Steven Gerrard made seven changes.

Imps were made to worry early on after Scott Wiseman pulled up after making a run down the right but the Gibraltar international was able to continue after receiving medical treatment.

James Tavernier scored a lovely free-kick to open the scoring for Rangers on the 20th minute and doubled their lead just before half-time through Connor Goldson’s header.

Goldwin made a couple of good saves early in the second half to keep the score at 2-0 and were unlucky not to pull a goal back after Roy Chipolina’s close-range shot was saved by Allan McGregor.

Alfredo Morelos and Jermain Defoe would come off the bench to get onto the scoresheet with the former bagging a brace. Rangers saw the game out with ease and will now face Dutch side Willem II.

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Djurgardens v Europa: Match Preview

The second part of today’s Europa League double-header involving local sides sees Europa in Sweden, as they take on Djurgardens at the Tele2 Arena in Stockholm.

Photo © C Correa Photography

Europa, who moved into the Europa League after defeat to Red Star Belgrade, take on the Swedish champions, who lost at the same stage to Hungarian champions Ferencvaros, in what should be another tough encounter for Rafael Escobar’s side, who haven’t had the luck of the draw so to speak with the teams they have drawn out – the winner of this has to play CFR Cluj in the next round.

Europa’s most recent visit to Sweden saw them lose 1-0 to AIK back in 2016, and they will be hoping that this time out may be more joyful – they won’t be aided by the fact the hosts, who have two Head Coaches in Kim Bergstrand and Thomas Lagerlof, are 19 games into the Allsvenskan season, which started in June – they sit fifth in the league though which for last season’s champions is not ideal.

Before the game, Bergstrand spoke about the ball-skill and good organisation of Europa, noting they only went behind to Red Star initially due to an offside goal. He also noted that while his team should be able to hurt Europa, they also have to respect them. Liam Walker, Europa’s captain, spoke to FG yesterday ahead of the game, which you can read here.

Squad News:

Europa’s squad has been bolstered by the return of Ethan Jolley, as well as the arrival of new signing Kwadwo Poku – the pair would be expected to start at the Tele2 Arena this evening. They will be without Ibrahim Ayew and Blas Alvarez though, who have not travelled with the team to Stockholm.

For the hosts, they are confirmed to be without Erik Berg, Jesper Nyholm, Emmanuel Banda, Nicklas Bärkroth and Alexander Abrahamsson, according to their official website. One player that may catch the eye is English midfielder Curtis Edwards, who played both legs for fellow Swedish side Ostersund against Arsenal in their historic Europa League run of 2017/18. The Swedish side also have midfielder Kevin Walker – the Swedish/Irish 31-year-old won the 2013 Swedish Pop Idol, singing alongside Robbie Williams in the final.

Betting:

The hosts understandably go into this game as massive favourites, with 1/20 the best price you can get on them winning in 90 minutes. Europa are 45/1 to cause a big shock, while the draw in 90 minutes is 14/1. The handicap line is set at 3, with Europa 13/10 on +3. Meanwhile, if you do fancy Djurgardens to win but Europa to score, that is currently 11/4.

FG’s Predicted XI’s:

Djurgardens – Bratvelt; Witry, Une Larsson, Kack, Augustinsson; Ulvestad, Karlstrom; Eriksson, Edwards, Ring; Chilufya

Europa – Munoz;Jolley, Olmo, Carrascal, Olivero; Walker, Rosa, Badr, Becerra; Juampe, Gallardo

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Lincoln v Rangers: Match Preview

Lincoln take on Rangers this afternoon in the first of two Europa League Second Qualifying Round matches involving Gibraltarian sides today.

Photo © Neil Wilson/Lincoln

Lincoln, who earned this tie by beating Union Titus Petange 2-0 in the last round, come up against a Rangers side going very well in the Scottish Premiership; Steven Gerrard’s side have won six of their seven games so far, without conceding a single goal, and are currently top of the league.

Lincoln, who famously beat Celtic at the Victoria Stadium in 2016, will be hoping to complete an ‘Old Firm Double’ by beating Rangers, and at the press conference yesterday, Lee Casciaro, who scored the winner that night, spoke about his sides chances and noted that unlike against then Brendan Rodgers side, this is a one-legged tie which adds a different dimension to the match.

Meanwhile, Gerrard, whose Rangers side of course played here last year against St Joseph’s, stated that he didn’t believe the artificial surface would pose any problem to his side – some teams in Scotland such as Hamilton, Kilmarnock and Livingston have used them in the Scottish top flight.

Squad News:

Lincoln are believed to have no new injury concerns ahead of the game, with Joseph Chipolina remaining out from his injury last year. Therefore, it will be expected that they pick a similar team to that which beat Union Titus Petange, and were set to face Prishtina in the round before that. Tjay De Barr has joined the team, but didn’t feature for the national side against San Marino, therefore is still short on match fitness since his injury in November, and may have to settle for a spot on the bench.

For Rangers, the good news is that striker Alfredo Morelos is available, despite suffering a knock on the weekend against Dundee United. Meanwhile, former Liverpool winger Ryan Kent is expected to be involved and will be a key threat, having scored four in seven so far this term. They will be missing a few players though, including Ryan Jack and Joe Aribo – the pair scored across both legs of the tie vs Saints last summer.

Betting:

It will come as no surprise to anyone that Rangers, who reached the Last 16 of this tournament last season, are big favourites to win today – the best you can get on them winning is 1/12, while Lincoln are as big as 60/1 in places to recreate the shock win vs Celtic against the other member of the Old Firm.

Ryan Kent, who is in good goalscoring form, is 6/5 to notch a goal today, while for Lincoln, Lee Casciaro is 10/1. Graeme Torrilla, who scored the winner for Gib vs San Marino, is 40/1 to repeat his goalscoring touch for his club side anytime.

FG’s Predicted Lineups:

Lincoln XI – Soler; Wiseman, Lopes, R. Chipolina, Sergeant, Britto; Hernandez, Torrilla, Yahaya, L. Casciaro; Kike

Rangers XI – McLaughlin; Tavernier, Goldson, Helander, Arfield; Davis, Kamara; Kent, Hagi, Roofe, Morelos

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Walker: “We are all in a positive mindset”

FG caught up with Europa captain Liam Walker ahead of their Europa League tie with Swedish side Djurgårdens IF Fotboll tomorrow.

We asked Liam how preparation has gone for tomorrow’s game, “Preparations have gone as well as we can, as we all know the COVID situation so we have to adapt but it has been good.”

Liam gave us an insight into the mood among the team going into the game, “The mood around the team is good, we have a great group of players and we are all here for the same thing and that it is a success, so we are all in a positive mindset and are ready for tomorrow.”

Europa made four signings in their build-up to the defeat against Red Star last month but also lost some big players like Dayle Coleing and Manu Dimas – we asked Walker how the new signings have settled in, “The new players have settled in great, you would think they have been around for ages, but since day one they have integrated into the group fantastically and as well they are great players so the signings have been positive for us.”

Lastly, we asked Liam what he hopes to achieve for the upcoming season – “As every season I want to win everything, that’s my aim, but we know we are up against other good teams so we will go as we always have and we will take each game as it comes and play every game like its a last.”

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FG interview with Scott Wiseman

With less than a week to go until Lincoln plays Rangers in the Victoria Stadium – FG spoke to Scott Wiseman about their UEL tie, Gibraltar’s win over San Marino and more.

The 34-year old made his debut in Lincoln’s win over Union Titus Petange then followed it up with a victory in the UEFA Nations League against San Marino after a four-year absence from international football.

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Gibraltar 1-0 San Marino: What we learned

Graeme Torrilla scored on his senior debut in Gibraltar’s 1-0 win over San Marino this afternoon – here’s what we learned from the result in the Nations League.


Scott Wiseman is vital in this team

After more than four years since he last represented Gibraltar, Scott Wiseman walked straight into Julio’s team and was solid throughout. His runs, pitch awareness and experience played a big part in today’s win.

Julio’s biggest accomplishment after last year’s back-to-back wins against Armenia and Liechtenstein is being able to secure the services of Scott on a full-time basis. He will play a huge part in the progress of Gibraltar going forward.


Torrilla’s hard work pays dividends

Graeme Torrilla’s injury suffered in April 2019 could have been a career-ender, but the midfielder, who has now been a match-winner at U21 and senior level, showed how strong he is mentally to recover from such a serious setback.

In just his second match in 16 months, the 23-year-old, whose goal came as a late birthday present after his birthday on Thursday, bossed the midfield and added a dimension that Gibraltar has lacked in recent years. All going well, he should be a key part of the team for years to come.


Thankfully Berardi missed

Today’s formation did not have the kind of impact which maybe Julio believed it would go into the game. Playing with Anthony Hernandez in a false 9 role with our only striker Lee Casciaro on the wing, left Gibraltar with few attacking options for Liam Walker to pick out.

Roy Chipolina spoke about how Gibraltar lacked in the final third and fortunately, Berardi’s miss early in the second half went wide. Things will have to change ahead of Liechtenstein on the 10th of October.


Sometimes it matters more that you win, than how you win

Gibraltar dominated the stats today, but did lack a cutting edge and was clearly not used at this level to be the dominant side. However, the three points were the main objective today and they secured that.

At this level, you don’t always have to win pretty, but you need to ensure you take the points if you can – Ribas will no doubt have told his players that, even if they had to grind it out and be patient, the key part was getting the win at the final whistle.


Lack of fans in the ground is noticeable

Comparing today to the win vs Liechtenstein in 2018, the noticeable difference was how the crowd helped carry Gib at times in the second half. UEFA ruled that the games in September have to be behind closed doors, and that took the edge a bit off the game.

While from the stadium you could still hear fans from their homes, cars and nearby bars, nothing is more important than having a crowd in the ground. With no home game until November, fingers crossed that is the case vs Liechtenstein again.

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Torrilla debut goal wins it for Gibraltar

Graeme Torrilla scored on his debut to secure Gibraltar a 1-0 win over San Marino in their UEFA Nations League opener.

Julio Ribas made five changes to the side which lost 6-1 to Switzerland last November with Jack Sergeant, Erin Barnett, Joseph Chipolina, Mohamed Badr and Tjay De Barr being replaced by Scott Wiseman, Louie Annesley, Anthony Hernandez, Jayce Olivero and Graeme Torrilla, who was handed his senior debut.

Gibraltar started the better side, the introduction of Scott Wiseman saw the Lincoln defender make a few good runs which caused the San Marino defence problems.

35 minutes in and Gibraltar created their first chance, a great passage of play saw Wiseman’s cross headed wide by Ethan Britto. Eight minutes later and Gibraltar found their breakthrough, Liam Walker’s free-kick found the head of Graeme Torrilla who guided the ball past Benedettini.

Gibraltar went into the break with a well deserved 1-0 lead.

San Marino nearly equalised seven minutes into the second half, Filippo Berardi found himself on goal and shot just wide of Coleing’s goal. Gibraltar woke up after that miss and regained control of the game.

Ethan Britto had a good chance to make it 2-0 on the 77th minute but his fiercely struck shot was well saved by Benedettini. Shortly after Gibraltar made all three of their changes with Mohamed Badr, Jack Sergeant and Kian Ronan replacing Lee Casciaro, Graeme Torrilla and Louie Annesley.

Gibraltar saw out the rest of the game with ease and walked away with a 1-0 win.