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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.

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Gibraltar v San Marino: Preview

Gibraltar open their 2020 UEFA Nations League campaign with a home match against San Marino this afternoon at the Victoria Stadium.

Just under 10 months after both sides last played at international level, the pair get League D Group 2 underway at 3pm, in what undoubtedly is a big game for both nations.

Speaking ahead of the game yesterday, Gibraltar Head Coach Julio Ribas said that the game will be a “very tough encounter”, but one that he expects the team, as always, to encounter with “all of our hearts, always to win”.

Meanwhile, San Marino Head Coach Franco Varrella spoke very respectfully of Gibraltar, commenting that he felt that Gibraltar were still ahead of his team in terms of professionalism, and that there was a gap between the two. Whether that was mind games, or a genuine comment, remains to be seen, but the comments from both managers highlight the nature of today’s game.

Squad News:

Gibraltar confirmed their 23-man squad yesterday, with a notable omission as Europa’s Ethan Jolley was surprisingly dropped from Ribas final squad. Notably, 12 Lincoln players have made the team after their summer transfer exploits in signing a number of HGP’s, and there could be debuts for Red Imps duo Kian Ronan and Graeme Torrilla – alongside Lynx’s Bradley Banda and Bruno’s Magpies Jaron Vinet, they make up the four uncapped players in the team. There is also a returning face in Scott Wiseman, who last played for the national team back in 2016.

For the visitors, San Marino, their biggest attacking threat, now that former Sammarinese icon Andy Selva has retired, would likely be Filippo Berardi. The winger, who was on the book of Serie A side Torino for four years, scored their most recent goal in a 3-1 home defeat against Kazakhstan in Euro 2020 qualifying.

Betting:

For the first time in a competitive international, Gibraltar go into this game as overwhelming favourites to pick up all 3 points – they are best price 1/2 to win, while the draw is 19/4 and a San Marino win is currently as high as 10/1 in places.

The bookies don’t appear to fancy goals flying in today, with Under 2.5 a short chance at 8/11, however, in the goalscoring stakes, you can get 9/5 on Lee Casciaro to score once again for Gibraltar, or 9/2 for Roy Chipolina to notch on the scoresheet – both scored in the 3-2 defeat to Georgia last year.

FG’s Predicted Lineups:

Gibraltar – Coleing; Sergeant, Wiseman, R. Chipolina, Olivero; Badr, Walker, Hernandez, L. Casciaro; De Barr, Styche

San Marino – E. Benedettini; Rossi, Simoncini, Battistini, Grandoni, Palazzi; E. Golinucci, Giardi, A. Golinucci, Berardi; Ceccaroli

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What next for Europa?

With Europa yet to announce a replacement for Dayle Coleing and only 5 senior HGP’s at Rafael Escobar’s dispense – we take a look at some replacements which the Greens might want to consider.

1 – Matt Cafer (Romford)

A deal which we understand to be almost complete, Cafer will be returning to Europa after leaving the club in 2017. The Gibraltar international goalkeeper will be hoping to put his past behind him and a move to the Greens would be the perfect opportunity to throw his name back into the mix for Julio’s future squads.

Seeing as Jamie Robba signed a new contract with St Joseph’s in the summer and Jaylan Hankins is opting for Cordoba, Cafer would be the ideal choice.

2 – Andrew Hernandez (St Joseph’s)

An unlikely move with Pishu still having a year or two left on his contract at Saints but one which would be useful for Escobar. It’s still unclear what plans Procopio has for Pishu but the midfielder turned defender would be good competition at full-back for Ethan Jolley.

The recent signing of Erin Barnett in defence means that St Joseph’s are covered in case Pishu does depart for Europa, with Saints expected again to use the minimum HGP’s required in domestic matches.

3 – Ethan Britto (Lincoln Red Imps)

A name which will definitely raise some eyebrows and rustle feathers but a move for Ethan would be a major stamp-point, seeing as Lincoln are reportedly close to signing Tjay. He is expected to play regularly but the question is for how long? With Joseph Chipolina coming back from injury (which we don’t expect to be any time soon) and Tjay’s signing – we fail to see how Ethan will play a starting role in William’s team.

With Alain Pons becoming a regular figure in the St Joseph’s eleven, Ethan will need to be playing regularly if he wants to keep his starting place at International level.

4 – Ethan Santos (Mons Calpe)

It was noticeable in the defeat to Red Star that Europa are a little short on numbers defensively (only two recognised defenders started vs the Serbian champions), and Santos, who has played across the backline for Mons, could prove to be a good option in terms of adding depth to the club for the upcoming season.

While the 21-year-old is unlikely to immediately break up the pairing of Olmo and Sergio Sanchez in the middle of the back-line, he would still be a useful signing which could offer a longer-term use to Europa in terms of meeting HGP requirements, with the potential of the defender developing and becoming a part of Julio Ribas national squad down the line.

5 – Reece Styche (Buxton FC)

Since returning to the national fold, Reece Styche has proven himself to be a handy option, offering something different to the national team, and the same would apply to Europa, with the striker a different kind of striker to what Europa have used in previous seasons.

A potential stumbling block for this deal would be that the striker only joined Buxton earlier this summer, but with time running out before the rumoured season start, Europa may be able to offer a package that suits both Styche and his current employers.

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Lincoln draw Rangers while Europa travel to Sweden

Scottish giants Rangers will play in Gibraltar for a second consecutive year, this time against Lincoln Red Imps while Europa faces a tricky away trip to Djurgårdens IF Fotboll of Sweden – we got the reaction of the respective captains Roy Chipolina and Liam Walker on the draw.

Wins over Prishtina and Union Titus Pétange have set up a mouth-watering encounter against Steven Gerrard’s side Rangers. The Victoria Stadium will be familiar territory for the Scottish giants who beat St Joseph’s 4-0 in last season’s campaign.

Lincoln captain Roy Chipolina gave us his reaction to the draw, “It’s fantastic for Lincoln and Gibraltar football. To draw the mighty Rangers is very exciting and the kind of team that you dream to play against. We know how tough of an opposition they are and I guess its another David and Goliath fixture.”

After beating knocked out in the preliminaries of the Champions League by Red Star Belgrade, Europa faces another tricky trip in the second qualifying round of the Europa League when they take on Djurgårdens IF Fotboll of Sweden. A tough draw but a great experience nonetheless and playing in the great Tele2 Arena.

Europa captain Liam Walker had this to say on the draw, “It’s another tough team that we have been drawn against but we will prepare to go there and try to get the win.”

Both games will be one-leg and take place on the 17th September.

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Europa and Lincoln to find out Europa League fate today

Europa and Lincoln will both learn their Europa League opponents for next month’s Second Qualifying Round, in today’s draw at 1pm.

Photo (C) C Correa Photography

Europa, who lost in the Champions League to Red Star Belgrade, drop into the Champions Path of the Europa League draw, and their potential opponents, who all followed them out of the Champions League, are: Djurgarden (Sweden), Flora Tallinn (Estonia), Riga (Latvia), KR (Iceland) and Tre Fiori (San Marino).

Meanwhile, in the Main Path, Lincoln, who qualified after a 2-0 win last week vs Union Titus Petange, are set for a big draw, with their three potential opponents being: Stade de Reims (France), Rio Ave (Portugal) and Rangers (Scotland).

The draw takes place on UEFA.com at 1pm today, and the one-legged matches are set to take place behind closed doors on the 17th September.

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Torrilla: “I think we managed the game perfectly”

After Lincoln’s 2-0 win yesterday against Union Titus Petange, we caught up with midfielder Graeme Torrilla, to talk about his return to playing after serious injury, his thoughts on the match and more.

Photo (C) Lincoln / Neil Wilson

Torrilla suffered a serious injury playing for Mons Calpe back in April 2019, and yesterday was his first game since then – how did it feel for him to play once again, and for 90 minutes? “It felt great to be back on the pitch after being out for so long, especially for such an important game for the club & coming away with a win to top it off.”

Lincoln, especially in the second half, were in control of the game and could have won by more than two, with a bit of luck – does the midfielder agree that the team got their game plan spot on? “I think we managed the game perfectly, we knew they were a team who liked to keep possession so we let them play in the areas of the pitch that wouldn’t cause us much problems & then took full advantage when we had chances to attack.”

Lincoln signed Torrilla while he was recovering from his injury, and gave him the chance to recover before giving him his debut in the match yesterday – how grateful is the 22-year-old to his new employers for giving him that chance? “I mentioned it when I first signed for the club, that I was grateful for the opportunity & was looking to repay them in the future. Even though it was my first game here I think it’s a great start to what hopefully will be a great season for both myself & the club.”

Lincoln could draw some big teams in the main path of the 2nd Qualifying Round, including the likes of Tottenham, AC Milan and Wolfsburg – any preferences for Torrilla in the draw? “I wouldn’t say there’s a big preference as I’d love the chance to play one of the big teams like Milan or Spurs, but coming up against one of the weaker sides at home would give us a great opportunity to progress into the next round.”

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Lincoln vs Union Titus Petange: Preview

William Amaral de Andrade will be hoping to finally get his managerial debut underway as Lincoln Red Imps take on Union Titus Petange in the first qualifying round of the UEFA Europa League.

After last week’s fiasco with Prishtina, Lincoln’s forfeit win saw them progress and set up a tie against the side from Luxembourg at the Victoria Stadium.

FG understands Lincoln are at full strength with the players raring to go. Last week’s lineups saw Scott Wiseman, Jack Sergeant and Graeme Torrilla look set to make their competitive debuts and you would expect William to name the same side.

The 2020-21 campaign is UT Petange’s first-ever in the UEFA Europa League. The Luxembourg side finished 4th last season and qualified after their league was cancelled due to Covid-19, the same decision taken in Gibraltar also.

Petange’s season started last weekend with a 2-0 win over FC UNA Strassen thanks to goals from Mounir Hamzaoui and Robert Maah.


Betting:

Lincoln goes into the game as slight underdogs at 7/4, with Union Titus Petange currently 23/20 to qualify in 90 minutes. The betting seems to favour goals being on the card, with Over 2.5 goals being a 4/6 shot, while if you fancy Lincoln to be leading at half time and win the game, that is currently 7/2.


Predicted lineups:

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

Petange XI – Ottele; Hamzaoui, Kodjia, Hauguel, Lauriente; Kakoko, Kabore, El Hamzaoui; Teixeira, Gashi, Maah

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Prishtina forfeit as Lincoln progress

The UEFA Control, Ethics and Disciplinary Body have awarded Lincoln a 3-0 forfeit win over Prishtina and will now face Union Titus Pétange of Luxembourg.

After last week’s fiasco which saw Lincoln’s UEFA Europa League tie with Prishtina cancelled on two occassions and countless attempts from the away team to turn heads in regard of the outcome – the Imps have finally been awarded the win.

In a statement by Dylan Viagas, the Lincoln president said:

“Although it has been a nerve-wrecking weekend, deep down, we were confident that UEFA was going to rule in our favour. We could not really see how this could not be the case.

We regret having to progress to the next round in this manner as we would have wanted to have done it in the field of play. The team was well prepared and the players were highly motiviated to do the job.

With the current situation of Covid-19, this has been a steep learning curve, not only for the club, but we are sure for UEFA aswell.

As far as the club is concerned, we have put this saga behind us now and it’s all hands-on deck to prepare for Thursday’s game against Union Titus Petange from Luxemburg.

The club wants to publicy thank the Local Authorities (GoG, Public Health, GSLA, Gibraltar FA) and the local media for all their support and advice during this last week.”

Lincoln Red Imps will now welcome Union Titus Pétange to the Victoria Stadium this Thursday.

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Gibraltar Government issue press release after Lincoln game cancelled again

The Gibraltar Government have this evening issued a press release, noting the statement made by FC Prishtina after the cancellation of their game vs Lincoln today.

Photo (C) Rough & Ready

Prishtina, after the game had been called off, stated on their social media profiles that “By the decision of the local authorities of Gibraltar, the match will eventually not take place.” The following, below, is the press release from the Gibraltar Government:

HM Government of Gibraltar notes the statement from FC Prishtina
The internationally accepted rules on isolation for those who have tested positive for COVID-19, and those who have been in close contact with them, are clear. In the circumstances, the Gibraltar authorities informed UEFA that our rules, in keeping with those same internationally-accepted rules, required that the team should be in self-isolation. For that reason, UEFA held that the match could not go ahead in an official decision.
It would not have been responsible, or in keeping with the internationally-accepted rules on isolation for those who have tested positive (or those who have been in close contact with them), for the Gibraltar authorities to have permitted those members of the FC Prishtina team who have not tested positive to be in contact with others today. Safety is paramount.
All matters relating to the match are the responsibility of UEFA.
Arrangements are now being made to allow the FC Prishtina to return home as soon as possible given thattheir welfare is also of concern. Gibraltar authorities have kept communication channels open with all parties throughout the course of the afternoon.
As was the case on Tuesday the Contact Tracing Bureau and Civil Contingences are now collating information to determine the extent of local contact in relation to contact tracing.

The Gibraltar Government statement can also be found on their site.

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Lincoln vs Prishtina cancelled again

Lincoln’s rescheduled tie with Prishtina has been cancelled for a second time after eight players from their reformed team were tested positive for Covid-19.

After Tuesday’s cancellation, Prishtina commented on how confident they were that the match would be rescheduled as they “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.”

Four days on from that cancellation and today’s encounter is met with the same decision. Prishtina was able to get a gather a squad of loanees, much to the disappointment of Lincoln, and made their way back to Gibraltar.

Arland Sadiku, a journalist from Kosovo, broke the news earlier today that eight players from Prishtina’s new squad had tested positive for Covid-19 which the club officially confirmed at around 1600 today.

With just an hour before kick-off, Prishtina was making an “extraordinary effort” to make 11 players available but realised that “the situation is pretty hopeless, but the club will do everything possible”.

The time was 1800, yet only Lincoln and the Scottish refereeing team were on the pitch and no sign of Prishtina which confirmed the cancellation but with no official confirmation from the UEFA Delegate who refused to answer questions, there was still a big cloud of uncertainty hanging above the tie.

Lincoln Red Imps have commented saying “The matter has now been referred to the UEFA Control, Ethics and Disciplinary Body for them to make a final decision on how the situation is resolved. The club waits patiently on their decision.”

Prishtina had their say as well, “By the decision of the local authorities of Gibraltar, the match will eventually not take place.

FC Prishtina has been in touch with UEFA Delegate, local authorities and UEFA headquarters. By local authorities, our team has been asked to be quarantined and not to move from the hotel in any way, while UEFA has not made a decision today, as long as it has only followed the decision of the Local Authorities of Gibraltar.

FC Prishtina also sent to UEFA the possible starting lineup, part of which were 10 players who tested negative and 1 who tested positive today, but which in advance passed COVID-19, before about 1 month, thus making testing in Gibraltar very strange. The club has expressed readiness in UEFA to perform the match without replacements, respectively without the involvement of any of the other 7 players who tested positive today. All 8 players who have tested positive in Gibraltar, with returning to Kosovo, the club will test them in UEFA, SynLab licensed laboratories in Skopje or Tirana.

The team returns to Pristina tonight.”