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Lincoln discover Europa Conference League group stage opponents

Lincoln Red Imps have been draw in Group F of the 2021/22 UEFA Europa Conference League, where they will face FC Copenhagen, PAOK & Slovan Bratislava

Photo ©UEFA

Today’s draw, which took place in Istanbul, saw Mick McElwee’s side enter a Group Stage of a European competition for the first time – making history for Gibraltar in the process. The reward for their 4-2 aggregate win over Riga is trips to Copenhagen, Bratislava (a return to Lincoln’s Europa League opponents) & Thessaloniki, as well as hosting said teams at the Victoria Stadium.

The kick-off times for all six fixtures will be confirmed by Saturday morning, with matches expected to take place on 16th September, 30th September, 21st October, 4th November, 25th November and 9th December. FG will bring you all the fixtures when they are confirmed.

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Thompson: “I’m delighted to be a part of such an already fantastically run football club”

FG caught up with Europa’s new Director of Football, David Thompson, to talk about his new club, what he thinks about a Europa title challenge this season and more.

Photo © C Correa Photography

Europa announced Thompson earlier today as their new Director of Football, so we asked him what his first thoughts were on joining the club: “First and foremost, I’m delighted to be a part of such an already fantastically run football club, and I’m really looking forward to the challenge ahead. We want to take this to the next level, we want to make sure it’s done in the right way as well. Some people can come in and just try to take over and make too many changes. The club is already run very well; it has a fantastic manager, some great players and we just need to add to that a little bit”.

The 43-year-old, from Birkenhead, had an 11-year spell as a footballer in the English game, after originally coming through the books at Liverpool – so we asked Thompson to give a brief description of his career as a player: “Obviously, I started my career at Liverpool when I was 10, I was there for 12 years and I left in the 2000-01 season, but I played with some magical footballers there in my time (Steve McManaman, Robbie Fowler, Jamie Carragher, Michael Owen), and they were just the local talent coming through. I played with World Cup winners and European Championship winners, and under some great managers. It has always been a learning experience, and that’s something I want to take into my new role here.”

Europa finished second last season, one point off title-winners Lincoln, and part of Thompson’s new role will be help ensure the club are best equipped for another title challenge in the upcoming season starting in October – so we asked the new Director of Football how confident he is of this being the case? “I’m very confident, I think obviously with Covid last year, we were making improvements and unfortunately Covid and the pandemic came and put a halt to that. So we just need to add to what was going on the previous seasons. If we keep making improvements year on year, then we’re going to be a force to be reckoned with in this league.”

Finally, we asked Thompson how confident he was that he has all the tools required to build a successful long-term strategy for Europa? “I believe I’ve got the experience and knowledge. I’ve come here to obviously learn; I want to learn from the manager (Rafa Escobar). We’re going to do this together; it’s not going to be one person that’s going to change the direction or fortune of this football club – it’s going to be a team effort and that starts with the players and the manager, and comes right through to me and the board. We’re all going to do it together – teamwork as they say makes the dream work.”

For their part, in a press release today, Europa said: “Europa Football Club, in collaboration with Rocksport International Ltd, are excited to announce the appointment of David Thompson as the Club`s Director of Football. David comes with a highly prestigious track record in the English Premier League, having played for European Giants and 6 times winners of the UEFA Champions League, Liverpool Football Club.”

New club CEO, and Board Member Eddie Yome, said: “This is such an exciting time for everyone at Europa FC with the first team, youth categories and all performing strongly with plenty of development still to come. It’s a privilege to be part of that process, and an honour to work alongside David Thompson, Rafa Escobar and so many other truly outstanding staff all dedicated to delivering success to this club.”

Finally, the club wished to express their thanks to Tommy Keaney and Paul Roberts from Rocksport International for their work in this deal. Thompson’s move is the second ex-English footballer to make a move to Gib, after Bruno’s Magpies announced Dean Holdsworth as Technical Director back in June. Europa open their season against rivals Lincoln on Sunda 17th October.

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Lincoln to play Slovan Bratislava in Europa League

Lincoln will face Slovakian side Slovan Bratislava in the Third Qualifying Round of the Europa League after defeat against Cluj last night in the Champions League.

Lincoln, who travelled to Romania knowing they needed to overturn a 2-1 first leg defeat, were not able to convert their numerous chances, while the hosts were more ruthless as they ended up running out 2-0 winners courtesy of goals from Mike Cestor and Iceland international Runar Mar Sigurjonsson.

The result may have bought to an end Lincoln’s Champions League journey, but their European journey is far from over, as they now transfer to the Europa League where they will face Slovan Bratislava, who lost 3-2 last night away at Swiss side Young Boys.

The winner of that match will progress to the playoff round of the Europa League, while the loser will move into the playoff round of the Europa Conference League, meaning Lincoln are guaranteed to be the first ever Gibraltarian side to take part in the final qualifying round of any European competition. The draw for the playoff rounds of both tournaments takes place on August 2nd.

In other Lincoln news, striker Tjay De Barr appeared as a triallist for English League 1 side Wycombe Wanderers, coming on in the second half of a 1-0 victory against FA Cup Champions Leicester City. The 21-year-old, who scored twice in Lincoln’s 5-0 victory over Fola Esch earlier this month, is looking to make the step abroad once again, after an injury-hit spell at Real Oviedo Vetusta.

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Five-star Lincoln blow away Fola Esch

Lincoln Red Imps will face Romanian champions CFR Cluj in the Second Qualifying Round of the Champions League after a 5-0 demolition of CS Fola Esch yesterday at the Victoria Stadium.

Photo (C) David Roberts

Lincoln, who drew the first leg 2-2 in Luxembourg after being 2-0 up, were ruthless on this occasion against their visitors, putting five goals past two different keepers across the 90 minutes to win 7-2 on aggregate.

Mick McElwee started with seven Gibraltarian’s on the pitch, including the returning Chino in goal, while Fola Esch manager Sebastien Grandjean made five changes from the side that drew the first leg – however it did not have anywhere near the desired impact.

Liam Walker’s corner in the first half was headed at goal by Roy Chipolina, and rebound fell kindly to Tjay De Barr to open the scoring for Lincoln. Chipolina then cleared one off the line for his side, before Lincoln doubled their lead on 38 minutes. De Barr, who had a very impressive game, was fouled by keeper Thomas Hym, who was shown a yellow card, and Walker stepped up to double the Lincoln lead.

10 minutes after the break, Lincoln broke free of the Fola Esch defence, and De Barr squared it to Kian Ronan who fired his effort impressively into the top corner and make it 3-0. The tie was all but over already, but it was rubber-stamped when Hym, who had a poor night in goal, gave away a second Lincoln penalty and picked up a second yellow for his troubles. Walker stepped up and fired a second penalty past sub keeper Emanuel Cabral, while there was still time for a 5th, as Kike unselfishly squared the ball to De Barr for his second of the evening, and Lincoln’s 5th – the 5-0 scoreline is the biggest by a Gibraltarian team in Europe, surpassing Europa’s 4-0 success against Andorran side Sant Julia in 2019.

Lincoln will now face Romanian champions CFR Cluj, who stumbled through in extra time against Bosnian side Borac. Leading 3-1 from the first leg, Cluj lost 2-0 in 90 minutes but benefitted from the scrapping of the away goals rule – they then won the tie in the 118th minute. The first leg will be in Gibraltar on Tuesday 20th July at 6pm, with the second leg in Romania on Wednesday 28th July at 7:30pm.

An added bonus for Lincoln is that they are guaranteed a minimum of six more matches in Europe this season, and at very worst will reach the playoff stage of the Europa Conference League – should they win one more two-legged tie this season, they will make history and be guaranteed to be first ever Gibraltarian team to qualify for the group stage of a European football competition.

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Gibraltar’s European sides get season underway

Gibraltar’s four European representatives played their first leg matches this week, with three of them drawing their opening matches in European competition this season.

Photo © David Roberts

After the introduction of the Europa Conference League, Gibraltar had four teams qualify for Europe for the first time – which meant Mons Calpe were making their European bow in the first match of the week involving a local team.

Cesar Vega’s team hosted Andorran’s Santa Coloma at the Victoria Stadium on Tuesday evening. Despite having the better of the first half, they went in behind at the break to a goal by Xavier Puerto. The second half was a complete role reversal – Santa Coloma had numerous opportunities and were denied by Mons keeper Christian Fraiz, before Mons striker Aritz Hernandez, who signed in the summer from Lynx, scored from close range to secure a draw.

Attention then turned to the Champions League, where Lincoln travelled to Luxembourg to face Fola Esch. Mick McElwee’s side appeared to be heading to a win after goals from Fernando Carralero and Ethan Britto gave Lincoln a two-goal lead, but Fola Esch scored twice in little over a minute through Stefano Bensi and Denis Ahmetxheka to secure a 2-2 draw – Lincoln host Fola Esch on Tuesday at 6pm, and ticket information should be released imminently.

Last night, St Joseph’s travelled to Tallinn, which at 3,373km was the longest journey made by any team in the Conference League this week, to face Levadia, but they had a nightmare start going 2-0 down in 10 minutes courtesy of goals from Zakaria Beglarishvili and Ernest Agyiri. Saints tried to battle back but conceded a third from the spot as Marko Putincanin appeared to put the tie beyond doubt. However, moments later Cristian Pecci grabbed a consolation which in the grand scheme of things gives Saints a chance, albeit low, of qualifying when they play at the Victoria Stadium next week.

The final game of the week saw Europa host Lithuanian side Kauno Zalgiris. Despite their visitors being 19 games into their league season, they came in on the back of four games without a win, and Europa dictated play for almost the entire game. However, they lacked the finishing touch on a number of occasions and in the end had to settle for a goalless draw.

It is also worth noting ahead of next week that the away goal rule was abolished for this season – so while Mons Calpe currently benefit from that rule, Lincoln and St Joseph’s goals away from home will not play a part if the scores end up tied after the second leg.

Next week’s fixtures:

Tuesday 18:00 – Lincoln v Fola Esch (Victoria Stadium)

Thursday 18:00 – Kauno Zalgiris v Europa (Suduva Stadium)

Thursday 18:30 – St Joseph’s v Levadia Tallinn (Victoria Stadium)

Thursday 18:30 – Santa Coloma v Mons Calpe (Estadi Nacional)

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Lopes: “We worked extremely hard and got what we deserved”

FG caught up with Lincoln defender Bernardo Lopes to talk about his sides Rock Cup final victory over Glacis, completing the domestic double and more.

Lopes reflected on Lincoln’s 2-0 win in the final, “Firstly, I would like to congratulate Glacis on a great game. I think the team played well and wanted to win the final. We have fought until the last minute and after a very difficult end of the league, playing so many games and fighting for the league until the last game. We have tried to maintain professionalism and a great attitude to win the double after a “different” year.

We asked Bernardo how it felt to complete the domestic double in the space of four days, “I feel very happy, it was something that we had not achieved in recent years but this year we worked extremely hard and got what we deserved. It was an incredible feeling and a lot of happiness to bring the trophies “home” again.

Lincoln triumphant league campaign means they will be playing in the Champions League next season, we asked Bernardo how it feels to be playing in the UCL again, “It is incredible because it is the best club competition and something that all players want to play in. After a year of hard work and effort, having this opportunity is incredible and spectacular.

The 27-year completed his sixth league campaign with Lincoln and has been one of their most consistent performers over the years – Bernardo reflected on his time in Gibraltar, “It has been six years with many joys but also with less good moments. I think that has made me grow as a person and on the pitch. I have met spectacular people who have taught me a lot. To sum up how my six years has been – it has helped me and taught me a lot and where I have grown a lot.

Lastly, we asked Bernardo about Mick McElwee’s role in the team – “I think that his knowledge, experience and way of passing on his ideas to the players was super important this season. I have listened to him and done what he asked of me, we have talked a lot, and I think he and all of the coaching staff have been great. They have prepared us for what we were going to play and mainly for the team to be strong psychologically and physically to do what we have done this year. They have created a united and very very strong team.

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Mons Calpe qualify for Europa Conference League

After last night’s Rock Cup Final result, Mons Calpe confirmed their place in Europe for the first time, subject to the club having been granted their UEFA License.

Photo (C) Rough & Ready

Mons Calpe watched on with interest as Lincoln beat Glacis 2-0 last night – had Glacis won they would have taken the final European spot, however, with Lincoln eventually winning the cup, the final European spot, as in previous seasons, went back to the league, meaning Mons, who finished in 4th, six points above Lynx, were the beneficiaries of Gibraltar’s first season where they claimed four European spots.

They will therefore join both Europa and St Joseph’s in the first qualifying round of the newly-formed Europa Conference League, subject to receiving their UEFA License. This has so far not been an issue for either Lincoln, Europa or St Joseph’s, but for Mons Calpe this may potentially prove to be a stumbling block.

The club are alleged to have unpaid debts to settle with former players and staff, with the teams then players staging a sit-down protest in 2019 – two players subsequently went to FIFA with their claims; now-Glacis player Miguel Londero, and Nicolas Trecco, who is currently playing in Argentina. Mons were ordered to pay Trecco, but in the case of Londero the case appeared to be recommended to back to the Gibraltar court of law.

If those two issues, and any other alleged issues have in fact been settled, then it would be expected that Mons receive their UEFA License and participate in Europe for the first time. However, should they fail the license, the last European spot is likely to then drop down to the next eligible league team (as is the case in other UEFA countries normally) – in this case that would be Lynx in 5th place who would benefit, presuming they too have a UEFA License.

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Lincoln complete domestic double

Lincoln secured the Rock Cup yesterday after beating Glacis United 2-0 just three days after clinching the league title.

Kike put the Imps ahead after only four minutes and goalkeeper Lolo Soler made a save shortly after to keep Lincoln 1-0. up. Glacis should have equalised in the 18th minute when Chibuike Nwosu found himself running on goal but his shot was saved by Soler.

Lincoln would punish Glacis just seconds later when Kike’s cross found Fernando Carralero to tap the ball into the net to make it 2-0. Nwosu would continue to cause Lincoln problems with his pace and power, resulting in a penalty for Glacis when Jack Sergeant tripped up the Nigerian.

The former Imps midfielder Craig Galliano stepped up and his low shot was saved by the Spanish goalkeeper. Imps would go into the break leading 2-0.

Half-time substiutie Alessandro Borghi had a chance to pull a goal back for Glacis on the hour mark but he dragged his shot wide from inside the box. Both teams made a number of changes but Imps held on to secure their second trophy in the space of three days.


Lineups

Glacis United – Zappacosta; Smith, Ajayi, Castle, Derksen, Bosio (Ramos 77), Witbreuk (Borghi 46), Galliano (Moreno 64), Serra, Nwosu, Londero (Olugbogi 86)

Unused subs: Gallo, Byrne, Fluxa

Lincoln Red Imps – Soler, Ronan (De Barr 65), Wiseman, Lopes, L.Casciaro (Cabrera 80), Toscano (Britto 59), Carralero, Martinez (Wall 80), Sergeant, Kike (Moreno 59), Torrilla

Unused subs: Goldwin, R.Chipolina

Yellow cards: Ajayi, Witbreuk, Nwosu, Londero, Fluxa; Lopes, L.Casciaro, Toscano, Torrilla, Goldwin

Red cards: None

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Lincoln to play Glacis in Rock Cup Final tonight

Lincoln Red Imps and Glacis United are set to contest the 2021 Rock Cup Final this evening at the Victoria Stadium.

Photo (C) William Gracia

The final, which wasn’t even certain to take place until earlier this morning sees Lincoln, who lost in the semi-final to Europa but were put into the final after the Gibraltar FA alleged Europa to have breached competition rules, face a Glacis team who have had to prepare to face one of Gibraltar’s top two since last month, despite not knowing until today exactly who their opposition was.

Europa had applied for an injunction against the GFA, but the Supreme Court chose to turn it down this morning due to the effect it would have had on Glacis, who through no fault of their own would not have been able to contest the final had it not taken place today. Europa have in recent minutes released a statement on today’s Supreme Court Judgement, which you can read here.

As for matters on the pitch, 17-time winners Lincoln will be facing 4-time champions Glacis United at 7pm in what is being billed as a ‘David v Goliath’ battle. Both teams took starkly different routes to the final – Lincoln had to face Championship Group sides Lions, Lynx and Europa to get to the final, while Glacis beat Hound Dogs, Mons Calpe and Manchester 62 on their path to the final. However, Glacis are just 90 minutes away from qualifying for Europe for the first time – should they win, they will enter the Europa Conference League in the summer. If Lincoln win, Mons Calpe in 4th look set to take the final European spot, providing they are granted a UEFA license.

After winning the league title on Sunday, Lincoln may make changes for Wednesday’s final, especially given a number of players will be looking for one final chance at minutes before June’s internationals. Meanwhile, Glacis have had nine days rest since their last league game, and will likely field as strong a team as possible as they bid to upset the sizeable odds put up against them.

The Rock Cup Final is free to enter, with no COVID-19 restrictions in place, and gates open from 6pm ahead of the 7pm kick-off. However, if you are not able to make it to the Victoria Stadium this evening, the game will be streamed for free on the Gibraltar FA’s Youtube channel.

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Europa release a statement after Supreme Court Judgement

After this morning’s Supreme Court Judgement, Europa FC have released a statement to the press this afternoon.

Photo (C) C Correa Photography

Europa had applied for an injunction against the GFA to stop the Rock Cup Final going ahead, after they were removed from the competition for being alleged to have breached competition rules in their semi-final penalty win against Lincoln (who are set to play Glacis in the final tonight). This morning though, the Supreme Court rejected Europa’s application for said injunction. As such, Europa have sent a press release this afternoon, which is as follows:

Today’s Supreme Court ruling points to the fact that Europa FC should be playing in today’s Rock Cup Final. It also vindicates the Club’s arguments that it did not breach competition rules and criticises the Gibraltar Football Association for its failings.

We had to apply for an injunction against the GFA because they had unjustly accused us of breaching Rules and Regulations when we beat Lincoln fairly and squarely on penalties in the semi-final of the Rock Cup and the GFA and its Appeals Committee subsequently awarded the match to Lincoln Red Imps FC so that they could play in today’s Rock Cup Final.

The GFA did not follow their own Rules and Regulations when we appealed against this terrible decision and Europa feels strongly that it did not get a fair hearing. That is why we wanted to go to an independent arbitration that we had a right to go to under the Disciplinary Regulations. The delay by GFA has not allowed us to go to arbitration in time before the match is played tonight. That would have allowed the rightful Club, Europa FC to play Glacis United FC in the final and not Lincoln Red Imps FC, who lost the semi-final.

In court today:

  1. The Judge decided not to grant an injunction only because of its effect on an innocent party – Glacis United FC who had told the Court they would lose key players and could not play after today. He made it clear that if it had not been for this issue, he would have granted the injunction.
     
  2. The Judge also expressed the view that if we went to arbitration, we would be right in our argument that we have not breached the rules.
     
  3. He has also said that the delay was the GFA’s fault and this has frustrated our attempt to be in the final as we have not been able to get to finish the arbitration hearing in time because of the GFA’s deficient processes.
     
  4. Because of this, he has ordered the GFA to pay Europa FC’s legal costs of the Injunction Application.

We now call upon the Gibraltar Football Association to do the right thing and accept their own GFA Appeals Committee got it wrong and allow us to play the Rock Cup Final tonight. The arguments on which the Chief Justice at the Supreme Court of Gibraltar recognised we are likely to succeed in an arbitration have been the Club’s position all along. That would only be fair and we have written to the GFA President to ask him to ensure this given the Court’s ruling.