Bautista: “Last year had its ups and downs”

We spoke to 18-year old Luke Bautista about life at his new club Europa FC, his goals for 2020 and more.

Luke Bautista joined Europa from Mons Calpe last summer – we asked how he has found life at his new club, “Life at the new club has been difficult compared to what I was previously used to. Due to the logistics of training in another country together with my studies, it is very difficult to keep up the commitment. Also, competing for positions with top seasoned pros becomes nearly an impossible task to get into the first 11. On the plus side, professional set up with top quality players has taught me a lot in both on and off the pitch.”

Luke has made 3 appearances for Europa so far in the Gibraltar National League scoring 2 goals and has used this experience wisely as he currently leads the goalscoring charts in the Intermediate League with 14 goals – we asked if he feels his game has improved since joining the league leaders, “Yes of course, when you start training with a top team for a certain amount of time, you can only get better at what you do. Fitness, game understanding, awareness, and positioning. Also combining with better players makes life a bit easier on the pitch.”

The 18-year old had a busy end to 2019 with International football his main focus with the friendly tournament to Taiwan in late September and UEFA Euro U19 Championship Qualifiers in November – Luke reflected on the experience, “Due to the fact that I joined a top club, doors have been open to me for the National Team. Last year had its ups and downs as we competed in two International tournaments. In November, we were placed in a very difficult group with the likes of Ireland, Switzerland, and Austria. On the other hand, winning my first international game with the U19’s against Hong Kong was unforgettable.”

Lastly, we asked Luke about his goals for 2020 – “For 2020, I am looking to keep myself as sharp as possible and meet the goals set for myself and the team this season. I would also like to keep on representing my country when the time comes.”


Gibtelecom Rock Cup quarter-final review

The Gibtelecom Rock Cup quarter-finals brought no surprises as Mons Calpe, St Joseph’s, Europa and Lincoln Red Imps progress into the next round.

Mons Calpe 3-1 Europa Point

Mons rushed into an early two-goal lead against Europa Point, with Diego Diaz and Andre Dos Santos scoring in the first ten minutes before things settled down a bit more.

Europa Point was out of the traps early in the second half and got a goal back thanks to Diego Vera’s header, but their chances of a comeback were ended after Samuel Vermeeren’s own goal, and captain Antony Moulds late red card.

Mons is the only Challenge Group team left in the cup, and while they are now rank outsiders, they will look to make the cup final for the second time in three years.

St Joseph’s 1-0 Brunos Magpies

If last weekend’s encounter was anything to go by, we expected a fiery contest and certainly got it. With the level of football being played below par, both teams didn’t hide away from any strong challenges.

Juanfri scored from the penalty spot to send 10-man Saints, who had Angel Guirado sent off, into the semi-final since 2017 but it was the altercation after the final whistle which was the main focal point.

An altercation between Kelvin Morgan and Juanma Gonzalez spurred on a brawl between both teams which took quite some time to calm down – a situation which you’d believe the Gibraltar FA will investigate further.

Europa 2-0 Lions

The Rock Cup holders went safely through to the semi-finals thanks to goals from Fernando Velasco and Manuel Dimas. The Green found it tough to break the well-organised Lions defence, an improvement from their 7-0 defeat last weekend.

Europa will need to be much better for Saturday when they come up against St Joseph’s – a doubt for that match could be Olmo who came off early with a suspected groin injury.

Lincoln 6-0 Boca

As expected, Lincoln beat Boca, by a score of 6-0 on Sunday afternoon. Boca made them work for it, but Pibe’s brace and Jamie Coombes first-half goal meant at the break the game was all but done.

Boca gave Lincoln a slight scare in winning a penalty, but they missed from 12 yards, and that led to Lincoln making sure there was to be no hint of a comeback – Oli, Gato, and Blas Alvarez all scored in the second half to put an end to a spirited Boca side, who before the game may have been fearing a bigger scoreline.


Coleing and Escobar take FG Monthly awards in February

In a month which saw Europa move to within six points of winning the title, goalkeeper Dayle Coleing and manager Rafael Escobar are FG’s Player of the Month and Manager of the Month for February.

Photo © Vanessa Correa

FG Player of the Month – Dayle Coleing (Europa FC)

Goalkeepers tend to have to do a lot to be noticed in awards, especially compared to more attacking players, but this month, Coleing stepped up to the plate and kept four clean sheets in four league games. In fact, the goalkeeper has only conceded one goal in the whole of 2020 so far, which is made more impressive now the league is split and the opposition becomes harder.

His contributions haven’t just been in keeping goals out though – his distribution helped set up Europa’s game-clincher against Lincoln at the start of the month, while he generally has the ability to kick-start Europa attacks. Therefore, he edges out both his teammate Liam Walker, who scored five and assisted three in the month, and St Joseph’s striker Juanfri, who also scored five last month, including match-winning goals against Lynx and Magpies as Saints hold on to second.

  1. Dayle Coleing (Europa FC)
  2. Juanfri (St Joseph’s)
  3. Liam Walker (Europa FC)

FG Manager of the Month – Rafael Escobar (Europa FC)

February was a straight-up battle between Escobar and Saints manager Raul Procopio, with both winning all four of their matches in the month. However, with Europa scoring 19 and conceding zero, including 5-0 wins vs Lynx and Magpies (two sides Saints only beat by one goal), we’ve plumped with the Europa manager. Escobar has guided his side now to 14 consecutive victories, and Europa have not been beaten in all competitions (including the Europa League) since Lincoln beat them to win the title last season.

Elsewhere, both Mons Calpe and Europa Point lead the way in the Challenge Group, but this time we’ve opted for the Mons manager Luis Manuel Blanco, who has managed to maintain his sides six-point lead at the top with four games left, putting them in a commanding position to take the Challenge Group honours.

  1. Rafael Escobar (Europa FC)
  2. Raul Procopio (St Joseph’s)
  3. Luis Manuel Blanco (Mons Calpe SC)

Liam Walker is FG Player of the Week

Europa captain Liam Walker is awarded FG Player of the Week as the attacking midfielder scored a second-half hat-trick in Europa’s 7-0 win over Lions.

Photo © V Correa Photography

Liam Walker – Europa FC (1st)

After finishing second in last week’s award, Walker ensured he took top spot this week scoring a hat-trick, and setting up two more as Europa found their form in the second half against a youthful Lions side.

Walker broke the 20-goal mark this season in getting his hat-trick, and is looking to catch up with St Joseph’s striker Juanfri in the top scorer charts – which would make him the first Gibraltarian since Lee Casciaro in 2015 to top the league’s scoring charts.

Juanfri – St Joseph’s (2nd)

Juanfri has constantly proven to be a match-winner for St Joseph’s, and when they found themselves 1-0 down to Magpies, and facing a threat to their second spot in the league, the Spanish striker stepped up once again, scoring twice to turn the game around and keep Saints five point gap from third.

The 30-year-old has proven to be one of the clubs smartest signings in recent years, and his goals will continue to win Saints games both domestically, and in European competition potentially.

Kike Gomez – Lincoln Red Imps (3rd)

Much like Juanfri, anyone who follows local football knows that Kike wins you games – he has done so for both Europa and Lincoln in the last few years. On Friday, his brace was instrumental as Lincoln broke down a stubborn Lynx side 3-1.

With the competition for attacking place at Lincoln being strong, Kike has firmly established himself as the main striker for the Red Imps, and at 25, the striker can only improve in the coming years.

Ethan Britto – Lincoln Red Imps (4th)

Britto has established himself into Lincoln’s first eleven this season, and his performances have also earned him a trial at Las Palmas this week. The teenager, who can operate at either left back or left wing, capped off a great Friday by opening the scoring, and generally being a threat on that wing.

Britto is showing good promise at this time, and having started Gibraltar’s last three internationals, he will also be looking to make a spot in Julio Ribas team his own for the upcoming friendlies this month, and going forward the Nations League in the autumn.

Ayoub El Hmidi – Mons Calpe (5th)

Ayoub scored two in Mons Calpe’s easy win over College last week to keep their six-point lead over Europa Point.

Despite his performances looking lethargic at times, the 19-year old has played a big part in his side’s unbeaten run in 2020.


Gibtelecom Rock Cup First Round Review

Brunos Magpies edged out Lynx in a fiery encounter while FG correctly predicted Europa Point, Europa, Lincoln Red Imps and Mons Calpe all qualifying for the quarter-final.

FC Hound Dogs 0-10 Europa Point

Maybe not the scoreline which many expected but Europa Point cruised through to the next round. Lukas Lindholm & Dean Dillion both got hat-tricks, Joshua Moody with a brace and a goal each from Cian Collins and Omar El Yettefti sealed the win for Ian Hendon’s side.

Europa Point will hope that the bizarre straight red card shown to Omar El Yettefti is received with the minimal suspension.

Europa FC 12-0 Glacis United

The holders made light work of their opponents with an easy win to progress into the quarter-finals. Team selection by Europa raised a few questions on whether such a strong team was needed, but the big guns came out all guns blazing with Labra scoring four goals.

Lincoln Red Imps 15-0 College 1975

Just like Europa – team selection was at full strength and against the opposition which they thrashed 9-1 in mid-September. With their Intermediate team undefeated, this could have been a chance to show off some of their excellent talents.

Emmanuel Sunday was on red hot form with the Nigerian scoring seven goals.

Manchester 62 1-2 Mons Calpe

Mons Calpe came from behind to secure a spot in the quarter-final thanks to a brace from Argentine striker Diego Diaz. Man62 captain Scott Ballantine put his side ahead but after Diaz’s first goal was adjudged to have crossed the line, he made no mistake when firing a shot past Tomizawa in the second half.

A disappointing result for Man62 who gave it a good fight but with Kian Ronan playing striker for the injured Robert Montovio – it never felt as they would get back into the game after the equaliser.

Lynx FC 0-1 Brunos Magpies

The main game of the round didn’t disappoint as Magpies got revenge for their league defeat to Lynx in January and eliminated them from the Gibtelecom Rock Cup.

An excellent through ball from Brian Perez found the feet of Jaron Vinet and his second-half goal secured a 1-0 win.

After some pushing and shoving at the end of the first half, you knew frustrations would boil over eventually and with 10 minutes remaining, it certainly did. An altercation between Mohamed Badr & Dan Bent ensued with a flurry of yellow cards being shown by the referee. Once everything calmed down, Lynx head coach Albert Parody was sent off which was quickly followed by the Magpies captain Brian Perez.

Europa Point, Europa, Lincoln, Mons Calpe, Magpies will join Boca, Lions & St Joseph’s in the pot for the Gibtelecom Rock Cup quarter-final draw.


Gibtelecom Rock Cup First Round Preview

The 2020 Gibtelecom Rock Cup gets underway tomorrow, with Hound Dogs v Europa Point the first of five matches taking place over the next few days – read on for our predictions of all five games.

Photo © Rough and Ready

Hound Dogs v Europa Point:

Europa Point have been resurgent under the managerial guidance of Ian Hendon and come into this one on the back of five games unbeaten – they should in truth have too much for a Hound Dogs side who get their first taste of non-Intermediate League football this year.

Prediction: Hound Dogs 1-5 Europa Point

Europa v Glacis:

It will be interesting to see how Europa approach the cup this year – you’d imagine with the league in their hands they would want to also secure the cup and take the domestic treble, having already won the Pepe Reyes Cup. Their league meeting was a 6-2 victory which in truth flattered Europa, who scored three times in the last 10 minutes vs a tiring Glacis side, but we think, much like vs Lions earlier this year, Europa will show they have learned their lessons of taking teams too lightly.

Prediction: Europa 4-0 Glacis

Lincoln Red Imps v College 1975:

Realistically Lincoln’s final chance of silverware this season, Lincoln may take out their anger of losing back-to-back games on a College side who have yet to pick up a result this season. The league meeting between the two ended 9-1, and we could see a similar scoreline in what may be a lopsided Saturday of football.

Prediction: Lincoln 8-0 College 1975

Manchester 62 v Mons Calpe:

One of the two games which on paper are harder to call, as two Challenge Group teams face off for the second time in a month. In the last meeting, Manchester had more of the ball but were wasteful and lost 3-0 – this time out we see it being a bit tighter with Manchester surely learning some lessons – however we think Mons will have just too much for them.

Prediction: Manchester 62 1-2 Mons Calpe

Lynx v Bruno’s Magpies:

The tie of the round on paper, Lynx take on Magpies having beaten them 3-1 just a couple of weeks ago. Lynx punished Magpies errors in that game, but this one should be a lot tighter with both teams eyeing the cup as their only realistic chance of Europa League qualification this season – this is a game which could easily go to penalties, where we’ve plumped for Lynx to come out on top, just.

Prediction: Lynx 2-2 Bruno’s Magpies (Lynx win on penalties)

St Joseph’s, Lions and Boca all got a bye to the Quarter Finals, but who will join them?


Juanlu Becerra is FG Player of the Week

Europa winger Juan Luis ‘Juanlu’ Becerra Gallego is awarded FG Player of the Week for his performance in their 5-0 win over Lynx.

Juan Luis ‘Juanlu’ Becerra Gallego – Europa FC (1st)

Juanlu has started all of Europa’s games so far in the Championship Group while his start was slow, Juanlu or ‘Willy’ as known to his team-mates, really came to life in the Lynx game and scored his first two goals in that game.

While his first one has a slight of fortune to it, there was no topic of debate for his second as he sweetly struck a volley past Bradley Banda from an Ethan Jolley cross.

Francisco Cano – St Joseph’s (2nd)

It was hard to pick a standout from what was a tough, tense game between Lincoln and St Joseph’s, but we’ve plumped for a defender who has had to patiently wait for his opportunity in blue and white, but is now taking it with both hands. Cano has played the full 90 in each of Saints 4 Championship Group games, and was a key part of the Saints defence that managed to keep a clean sheet against a strong Lincoln strikeforce for only the second time in the last 10 matches between the two (the other being Saints 3-0 win vs a severely injury-hit Lincoln side at the end of the 17/18 season).

Most impressive from Cano is his performances have meant the absence of the equally impressive Fede Villar has not affected Saints as much as it could have done – Raul Procopio now has more options in defence which can only be a good thing.

Martin Tsvetanov – Europa Point FC (3rd)

Tsvetanov has looked promising since joining Europa Point and was really made to work against a strong Mons Calpe side. The Bulgarian made a number of important saves including Ayoub El Hmidi’s penalty to ensure his side left with at least a point last Saturday night.

Hendon will be hoping that Tsvetanov can continue this good form as his side hopes to reduce the six-point gap between themselves and Mons.

Juanse Pegalagar – Bruno’s Magpies (4th)

We’ve long known the talents Juanse has, from his time at Lincoln, Europa and Mons Calpe, and while he has shown flashes of his talent at Magpies this season, his performance vs Lions was a standout. His first was a tap-in after a keeping error, but his second, a lovely curling effort, proved to be the crucial goal in the 3-2 win.

The Spanish playmaker was controlling the game and when he was subbed off, you could see Magpies start to lose their stranglehold on the match – further highlighting his importance.

Alberto Caravaca – Lions (5th)

Caravaca best sums up Lions tenacious, fighting spirit in his displays as captain, and Saturday was no exception. His goal was his 11th of the season, and third in four Championship Group games – showing he can get goals in the top half too.

While Lions ultimately may not finish any higher than sixth, they are proving to be a worthy member of the top half, with the likes of Caravaca posing tests for the other top half sides.


Del Rio and Escobar grab January FG Monthly awards

In a month which saw the National League start its split into two separate divisions, Lincoln’s Julian Del Rio and Europa’s Rafael Escobar are FG’s Player of the Month and Manager of the Month respectively for January.

Photo © Neil Wilson/Lincoln Red Imps

FG Player of the Month – Julian Del Rio (Lincoln Red Imps)

January was a breakout month for Del Rio, who grabbed his opportunity to start vs Lynx and Magpies in style, scoring four across both games including a hat-trick against Lynx across the space of 41 in-game minutes (as well as an assist in that game). The 17-year-old has started to position himself as a potential longer-term option for a Lincoln side who know they’ll need to re-build the local core of their side in the coming years.

Other impressive players last month were Juampe; the Europa winger who has been key to a lot of his side’s success and scored a hat-trick vs Lions, while in the Challenge Group, in a battle between Lee Muscat and Aaron Fleming for third spot, we’ve opted for the new Europa Point signing, with three goals and an assist, with his contributions among those that have seen the side become the nearest challenges to Mons Calpe for the title of “best of the rest”.

  1. Julian Del Rio (Lincoln Red Imps)
  2. Juan Pedro ‘Juampe’ Rico Dominguez (Europa FC)
  3. Aaron Fleming (Europa Point FC)

FG Manager of the Month – Rafael Escobar (Europa FC)

While both Lincoln and Europa both won their two games in the top half, Europa’s 3-1 win over St Joseph’s was enough to propel Escobar to the top of the pile this month in the managerial awards. The win was key in keeping the title challenge on track (as we saw with subsequent matches in February), while they learned the lessons from taking Lions too lightly before Christmas, by dispatching of them 5-0 this time.

German Crespo’s start was impressive, putting 5 past each of Lynx and Magpies, and Lincoln should have no fears of being caught from any of the teams below them, leaving them solely focused now on trying to claw back 2nd place if possible. Meanwhile, in the Challenge Group, it was again between Mons and Europa Point, but with Mons managerial situation being unclear at times in January (Leo Vela was on the touchline while reappointed manager Luis Blanco was in the stands), we’ve gone with Ian Hendon – the former Barnet manager has overseen an improvement in his squad while also winning all 3 matches they played in January, scoring 12 in the process.

  1. Rafael Escobar Obrero (Europa FC)
  2. German Crespo Sanchez (Lincoln Red Imps)
  3. Ian Hendon (Europa Point FC)

Sergeant: “Team performance was a good one all round”

We caught up with Gibraltar International defender Jack Sergeant to get his reaction on Europa’s 2-0 win over Lincoln and more.

Second-half goals from Juampe and an own goal secured Europa a 2-0 win – Jack reflected on his team’s performance, “I thought the team performance was a good one all round. We knew it would be a tight game because Lincoln are a strong team and were on a positive run of games. Both teams had chances throughout the game and thankfully we took them in the 2nd half.”

This win leaves them five points clear of St Joseph’s and 7 from Lincoln, both who face off against each other this Saturday – we asked if his side have one hand on the title? “Going 5 points clear of St Joseph’s and 7 of Lincoln is a big step towards winning the league; yes it gives us confidence but we are not thinking about that yet. We will continue taking each game as it comes and see where we are coming to the end of the season.”

It’s been nearly four years since Jack played regular football in Gibraltar since his departure from Manchester 62 – we asked Jack how it feels to be back, “After playing in the UK the last few seasons I am happy to be back playing domestically in Gibraltar. I think the league is in a positive transition period at the moment and personally I feel that I am improving as a player.”

With his contract at Europa expiring at the end of the season – we asked Jack what the future holds for him, “At the moment I am solely concentrating on playing and winning for Europa – we have a good chance to win trophies this season so we will carry on working towards that. National team games are coming up soon which is always an exciting time.”


Coleing: “We must respect every team we come across”

We caught up with Europa goalkeeper Dayle Coleing to get his thoughts on this Saturday’s crunch match against Lincoln.

Coleing spoke about how his side’s preparation for the Lincoln game has gone, “The boys are raring to go and we feel we are more than prepared to take on yet another crucial match. We are going into the game full of confidence especially after beating St Joseph’s last weekend. It is going to be an interesting game with both teams having a lot to play for.”

Europa currently sit four points clear over their opponents, in second, so we asked Coleing how he felt his team’s season has gone – “This season so far I feel we have been very dominant. There is a great energy about our team and it shows when we play. We do, however, have high standards for ourselves and feel we could improve in many ways such as keeping our concentration for the full 90 minutes. We have been caught out with a few early goals but the depth and talent of our squad eventually takes over.”

Lincoln defeated Europa 2-0 last season to clinch the title – we asked how that result will motivate his team on Saturday, “Seeing Lincoln win the league last season after beating us was a feeling we would never forget and I am sure I speak for the whole team that we do not want to feel that again. It does give us extra motivation to win the game and make sure we do not make the same mistake twice.”

There’s already talk of Europa possibly having one hand on the trophy if they are able to beat Lincoln on Saturday – we asked if that could add as pressure to win, “I do not think there is any pressure at all nor do I think the league will be wrapped up if we win the game. There is another round of fixtures to go and we must respect every team we come across.”