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Gibraltar National League: The Christmas run-in

With nearly two-thirds of the first round of fixtures already taking place, and only 24 matches left before the National League splits in two at Christmas, we look at where each of the 12 teams are, and their chances of reaching the top 6 by Christmas and the end of the first round.

Photo © C Correa Photography

1st Place – Lincoln Red Imps – 18 points – 4 games left

100% they will be in the Championship Group. Lincoln’s opening-day loss to Europa has been forgotten about by the side, who have won their next six in a row. The only major challenge left before Christmas will be against St Joseph’s – three points would be important as well as set a market to the rest of the league.

2nd Place – St Joseph’s FC – 17 points – 4 games left

Like Lincoln, Saints will be in the top six. The late draw vs Lynx wasn’t ideal, but St Joseph’s have been good this season and are threatening to make the title-race a three-team affair. As long as they keep the front two of Juanfri and Boro fit and firing, Saints are a match for anyone – a result vs Lincoln before the New Year would be a massive statement of intention.

3rd Place – Europa FC – 16 points – 5 games left

Again, Europa are one of the teams definitely going to the Championship Group. Bar a dramatic draw vs St Joseph’s, Europa have rarely looked troubled all season and if they see through the game vs Lynx with no hiccups, they are likely to be top come the split. January will be interesting for Europa – do they stick with the squad that has served them so well so far, or add one or two players in the window who may potentially be the difference between a title and no title?

4th Place – Bruno’s Magpies – 15 points – 3 games left

Magpies should really be safe now. A little wobble with three defeats in a row raised some doubts over the side, but the back-to-back wins vs Europa Point and Boca means they should get over the line at Christmas. They have hard fixtures vs Lincoln and St Joseph’s to come, but by the time they face Manchester in their last game, we’d be surprised if their top six spot wasn’t mathematically secured. The challenge will be whether they invest even further on new players in January, especially with new manager Alfonso Cortijo undoubtedly wanting some of his own players in.

5th Place – Lynx FC – 14 points – 4 games left

Lynx have a fairly nice run-in in which to accumulate points before the Championship Group, which they seem certain to get into. If they can ensure 7 to 9 points against Manchester, College and Glacis, then Albert Parody’s side will be in a healthy position post-Christmas – the draw vs St Joseph’s showed they can make life difficult for the top three as well and teams won’t necessarily want to play them.

6th Place – Mons Calpe SC – 11 points – 3 games left

Having points on the board is traditionally better than games in hand, as the cliché goes, but it looks like going to the wire for Mons Calpe. Two of their last three games are against St Joseph’s and Europa, making the match vs Manchester 62 a must-win. Even then, 14 points isn’t guaranteed to be enough. They were stubborn vs Lincoln though, and there is every chance of nicking a result against one of the current top 3, but if they don’t, it will be a nervy end to the year for Leo Vela’s side.

7th Place – Manchester 62 – 7 points – 5 games left

Looking purely at the table, you’d say Manchester have the best chance of jumping into the top six from the bottom six sides. However, only one of their last five games is versus a team below them, which make new manager David Wilson’s task that bit tougher. The big two games will be against Mons Calpe and Europa Point – especially the game against Mons – if they can beat the team above them on the 30th November, and follow it with a win vs Europa Point, then they may have a chance of top six, depending on other results.

8th Place – FC Boca Gibraltar – 6 points – 4 games left

Boca aren’t in a bad position table wise, but the fixtures are not too kind to them, given they face Europa and Lincoln in their next two matches. After that though, they’ll need to beat Glacis in order to set up a tantalising final round game vs Lions. Talk of off-the-field issues at the club will need to be shaken off as soon as possible if the club wants to take that sixth spot and work from there in 2020.

9th Place – Lions Gibraltar – 6 points – 4 games left

Whisper it quietly, but Lions could have a chance of sneaking into the top six while no one is watching them. The win against Manchester was vital, not just because it was their first of the season, but because it kept their Championship Group hopes alive. Three of their remaining four games are against fellow bottom six sides, including matches vs Glacis and College, while their final game against Boca could be a winner-takes-all fixture depending on how Mons finish. Albert Ferri has made his team more resolute defensively; if they can improve on their poor scoring form so far, then we may see last season’s 9th place team end in 6th.

10th Place – Europa Point FC – 5 points – 3 games left

Despite only being a point behind Lions and Boca, and only two off Manchester, the lack of games left for Europa Point means that a top six finish in truth seems unlikely. To achieve this, the side would have to beat Manchester and College, while most likely also getting a surprise result against St Joseph’s too. Even then, they would still be relying on other team’s results going in their favour – it isn’t looking promising for Allen Bula’s side.

11th Place – Glacis United FC – 3 points – 5 games left

Glacis have slowly built themselves back up after a heavily disrupted start to the season, and while qualifying for the Championship Group does seem beyond them, they could still have an influence on who does make the top 6. Games against Boca and especially Lions will be tight affairs and if Glacis can take points off those teams, the likes of Manchester and Mons Calpe would be the most likely beneficiaries.

12th Place – College 1975 FC – 0 points – 4 games left

Although mathematically still possible, it is safe to say College are not qualifying for the top 6. Without so much as a point yet this season, they have been up against it from the first gameweek, and realistically these last four games should be used to try and improve where possible ahead of going into the Challenge Group, where hopefully they won’t be on the end of results such as the 12-0 and 9-1 they have suffered in recent weeks.

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Jolley: “Tonight will be a tough match”

We caught up with Europa defender Ethan Jolley to get his thoughts on last week’s victory over Magpies, their upcoming game against St Joseph’s tonight and more.

Jolley reflected on Europa’s 6-0 win over Brunos Magpies last Friday, “I feel the team played well and we executed the game plan set by the manager excellently. The team performed at the expected level and we knew we had to step up our game considering the 1-0 win over Europa Point.”

Europa face a tricky game tonight against St Joseph’s, we asked him what to expect against their opponents – “Tonight will be a tough match. We do take every game seriously and play with 100% intensity but we know St Joseph are a good side and there will be times where we shall be in tough situations. Saying this I still expect us to win the game, i am confident we will get the result if we play our own football and manage the game.”

We asked how preparation has gone this week, “This weeks preparation has been the same as every other week. Like I said we take every game seriously and take all training sessions seriously and work on our next game. The team though are training better than ever and I must say the team is as strong as it could be.”

The 22-year old is into his third year at Europa and has become a regular figure within the starting eleven – we asked how he feels his football is going on a personal level, “Over the last season I have been playing more often. I try and improve and so far the feedback am getting is great from the manager, team mates and supporters. I feel happy with myself personally and game time is what I have always wanted. I hope to continue my progress and achieve greater things. With hard work and dedication anything is possible and things can only get better.”

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Is now the time for Dayle Coleing?

With the internationals just around the corner and Julio Ribas’ squad announced today, we take a look at Europa FC goalkeeper Dayle Coleing and if now is the correct time to cement his position as Gibraltar’s number one.

Dayle made 11 appearances last season in all competitions, conceding 5 goals in 990 minutes and keeping 6 clean-sheets. Taking into account the newly implemented 4 HGP rule in the Gibraltar National League, Europa awarded the 22-year old the number one shirt and has now become a regular figure.

If Dayle was to be given Gibraltar’s number one jersey, you expect Julio’s decision to be made a little easy with not only Dayle’s current form but Chino’s unexpected move to current champions of the domestic league Lincoln Red Imps.

Chino will definitely go down as one of the greats in Gibraltar football, making his debut in a friendly win over Latvia followed by playing a huge role in Gibraltar’s historic back-to-back wins in the UEFA Nations League against Armenia and Liechtenstein.

His move to Lincoln caught many by surprise, going from being number one at Gibraltar United to competing against Lolo Soler, arguably the best goalkeeper in Gibraltar, at Imps will be difficult but one which Chino will surely fight til the end for.

If Dayle does start against Denmark, the pressure on Matt Cafer will be extremely big. Starting against Macedonia in the away fixture in the Nations League would have been a taster of what’s to come for the 24-year old but inconsistent performances for Gib Phoenix and rumoured off-field issues has seen the Bruno Magpies keeper to possibly drop down to third choice for the Gibraltar National team.

After joining Magpies this summer, Cafer really needs to step up to the plate and not only help his side compete at the top but show Julio Ribas that he is worth keeping in the squad.

With Jamie Robba become a regular figure and keeping 9 clean-sheets last season, more than any other Gibraltarian goalkeeper, there’s only so much Julio can do before he looks at other possibilities. The current Gibraltar U21 goalkeeper Bradley Banda can’t be far off from knocking on Julio’s door and will definitely need a good U21 campaign and season with Lynx if he is to be considered.

Last but not least, Jaylan Hankins is someone who is highly regarded as a future Gibraltar international goalkeeper and if he can step up at his new club Las Palmas – he will be another option for Julio in the future.

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Gibraltar National League 2019 preview

The newly reconstructed Gibraltar National League season is upon us, kicking off today when Lynx take on Mons Calpe at 20:30, so read below our preview, where we attempt to predict the outcome of the league.

Who will win the title? Lincoln Red Imps are looking to retain their crown again, but will face stiff competition from Europa once more, while St Joseph’s, Mons Calpe and newboys Brunos Magpies have all spent heavily to reinforce their squads and try to close the gap.

Who will finish in the top eight? The new inclusion of the “Championship Group” sees the league split and the top seven seperated and battle it out between themselves for the league. The winner particpates in the UEFA Champions League, while the two runners-up move to the UEFA Europa League (depending the outcome of the Gibtelecom Rock Cup).

Your easy choices would be Lincoln Red Imps, Europa, St Joseph’s and Mons Calpe. Gibraltar Phoenix & Gibraltar United’s withdrawal leaves more empty spots to join the aforementioned four teams. We would expect Brunos Magpies to take advantage of this, while joining them would be Lynx and Lions.

The Challenge Group? Manchester 62 should be favourites and will provide tough competition with Lynx & Lions in the Championship Group. Leo announced a host of good signings earlier on in the season and led by Dani Amaya, could be favourites to win the group. College 1975 have been very quiet throughout the summer and if the signing of ex-St Joseph’s & Lions striker Jose Luis Romero is anything to go by, they could be real underdogs to even sneak into the Championship Group.

Europa Point have had a strong finish to their preseason, their only problem would be finding enough HGP’s – they will be hoping they can pick up some from Phoenix & Gib Utd. Boca have been relatively quiet this summer, apart from the announcement of their new head coach Christian Ressa, it’s been a ‘hush hush’ transfer window so it’ll be interesting to see the team they put out on Tuesday night.

Glacis will be hoping their financial troubles behind them and try to reach the heights they did back in 2016, but with players still reportedly stating they are missing wages from the second half of last season looks like it’ll be another long season for them.

Last but not least FC Olympique, a team which looks to be struggling to get a full squad together. However, with their game against Gibraltar United expected to be cancelled, it could actually be a blessing in disguise to give the club more time to bring in much needed players and compete at this level.

Gibraltar National League prediction:

  1. Europa FC
  2. Lincoln Red Imps
  3. St Joseph’s
  4. Brunos Magpies
  5. Mons Calpe
  6. Lynx
  7. Lions
  8. Manchester 62
  9. College 1975
  10. Leo FC
  11. Europa Point
  12. Glacis United
  13. FC Boca Juniors
  14. FC Olympique
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Liam Walker wins it for Europa

An early goal by Liam Walker secured Europa a 1-0 win over their rivals Lincoln and sealed his side the Pepe Reyes Memorial Cup for a second consecutive season.

Lincoln with Kike, Lee Casciaro and George Cabrera all injured which left Victor Afonso starting their newly signed striker Idelino Gomes while Chino was given a surprise debut ahead of first choice keeper Lolo Soler.

Europa started life without Tjay De Barr with Dayle Coleing, Ethan Jolley, Jayce Olivero and Captain Liam Walker starting while Rafa Escobar handed debuts to Juampe, Adrian Gallardo, Sergio Sanchez, Marco Rosa and Fernando Velasco.

We only had to wait four minutes for the first goal as Juampe dribbled past Joseph Chipolina and played a low ball towards Liam Walker, whose shot from 25-yards left Chino rooted to the spot, giving the holders Europa a 1-0 lead.

Lincoln came battling back and debutant Blas Alvarez’s deflected shot nearly found its way into the bottom corner but went out for a corner which Dayle Coleing caught superbly. Juampe was having fun on the right hand side, continuously finding himself in a good attacking position but his final ball was swept up by the Lincoln defence.

Anthony Hernandez played a good through ball to Gato whose shot from a tight angle went wide. Shortly after Gato found himself behind Jayce Olivero again and fired a low shot towards goal which Coleing got a strong hand to it to keep it out.

The game evened out and the first half ended with Europa leading 1-0 courtesy of Liam Walker.

The second half got underway with Lincoln on the front-foot and a mix-up at the back nearly led to an equaliser but Gomes was unable to capitalise and Jayce Olivero cleared the danger at the backpost.

Juampe’s continued to be cause the Lincoln defence problems, his pace proved too much for Roy Chipolina and his pass found Adrian Gallardo whose first time shot went just over the crossbar. Europa nearly doubled their lead in the 53rd minute as Velasco’s shot took a deflection off Roy Chipolina and rolled inches wide of the post.

Dayle Coleing was slow to react to Sergio Molina’s shot from range which hit the post, Lincoln appealed to what looked like to be a certain corner but the referee awarded a goal-kick. Around 15 minutes to go and trailing 1-0, Lincoln brought on Jamie Coombes to replace Sergio Molina while Europa swapped out their strikers with Manu Dimas coming on for Adrian Gallardo.

A few minutes later, Ethan Britto replaced Roy Chipolina with Joseph Chipolina receiving the captain’s armband and moving into the centre of defence.

Europa kept their nerve for the remainder of the game and walked away with the first piece of silverware of the season, beating Lincoln 1-0.

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Europa ease past Sant Julia

Liam Walker scored one and assisted two as Europa comfortably beat UE Sant Julia 4-0 this evening, 6-3 on aggregate, to progress into the UEFA Europa League first qualifying round.

The Greens made two changes to the side which lost the first leg 3-2 with Dayle Coleing & Tjay De Barr replacing Javi Munoz & Fernando Velasco – the hosts were also still without the suspended Alex Quillo.

Time-wasting from the Sant Julia goalkeeper in the opening five minutes set off a tone for the first half and after Europa’s wingers Juampe & De Barr were causing trouble, the visitors shifted to a five at the back formation.

Five minutes before half-time and Europa got their breakthrough as Liam Walker played in Adrian Gallardo who slotted the ball past the Sant Julia goalkeeper – two goals in two games for the Spanish striker.

Two minutes into the second half and Europa doubled their lead, Liam Walker once again the provider as his through ball found Tjay De Barr and he fired a low shot into the bottom corner.

Tjay should have got his brace shortly after but his close range shot went past the post after being set-up nicely by Juampe. Walker put the game to bed in the 78th minute after controlling the ball excellently in the box and smashed a shot past Kasparian.

Five minutes later and Sant Julia went down to 10 men as Jonny was sent off for a second bookable offence. Making his Europa League debut, Dayle Coleing made his first save in the 88th minute from a Sant Julia free-kick.

Europa made it 4-0 in added time as Juampe rounded the goalkeeper, dribbled past a defender and scored from close. An easy win in the end for the hosts, which proved to have broken a record in Gibraltar for the most combined goals scored by local clubs in one season in UEFA club competitions – combing Saints’ three goals with Europa’s six.

Next up for Europa is a first qualifying round tie against Legia Warsaw.

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Saints draw in Kosovo while Lincoln & Europa lose

A goal from Juanfri secured a 1-1 draw for St Joseph’s away in Kosovo while Lincoln & Europa suffered defeats but the use of 3 Gibraltarians across 33 players left a sour taste in Gibraltar.

Two minutes into their opening UEFA Champions League preliminary and the hosts Feronikeli made it 1-0 through Mendurim Hoti. The rest of the game was quite even, very few chances were created and the Kosovan Champions held on to progress – they will play TNS in 1QR after beating Santa Coloma on Friday.

The Imps started with Roy Chipolina & Joseph Chipolina with Anthony Hernandez coming on in the 74th minute. Lee Casciaro missed out after recovering from injury while new signing Ethan Britto didn’t make the squad.

Talk before the game had this game as a Europa win all over it and it should have been but a poor defensively display could cost them dearly. Adrian Gallardo fired Europa into a 1-0 lead in the 4th minute but the hosts would equalise on the stroke of half-time.

One minute into the second half and Europa made it 2-1, Juampe’s cross found Fernando Velasco and his effort was turned into his own net by Senah Mango.

On the 64th minute, the hosts equalised against through Joel Mendez getting his second of the evening. Europa couldn’t make use of the extra-man advantage and Pedro Munoz would make it 3-2 to Sant Julia in the 93rd minute.

Liam Walker was the only Gibraltarian starting for Europa last Thursday. Dayle Coleing & Tjay De Barr picked up apparent knocks while Ethan Jolley, Mikey Yome, Jason Pusey & Jayce Olivero were all named on the bench.

After beating Europa last season, next up for Prishtina would be St Joseph’s. The hosts pretty much dominated from start to finish, having a total of 17 goal attempts with 5 on target.

Francisco Mateo Vera started in goal for Saints and pulled off an incredible piece of goalkeeping to prevent Shillova scoring a tap-in after Kreshnik Uka’s shot hit the crossbar and bounced on the line. Shortly after Prishtina made it 1-0 as captain Armend Daliku scored from the penalty spot after Shillova was brought down by Ezequiel Rojas.

Doing what Lincoln & Europa were not able to do, St Joseph’s scored in Kosovo. Just three minutes after conceding, a cross by Cristian Pecci was met by the head of Juanfri and he guided the ball into the bottom left corner.

Saints were able to hold on and take a 1-1 draw into next Tuesday’s return leg. The impressive result would not be the talking point, with many people voicing their frustrations over the use of 0 Gibraltarian’s in their starting lineup – a repeat of last season’s second leg tie against B36 Torsavn.

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Europa retain Gibtelecom Rock Cup for a third year

Second half goals from Manuel Arana, Urko Arroyo and a Liam Walker penalty helped Europa beat Gibraltar United 3-0 and retain the Gibtelecom Rock Cup for a third consecutive year.

In the pre-Rock Cup press conference, Europa head coach Rafa Escobar didn’t give any hints as to his who his three HGP’s following the suspension of Tjay De Barr. As expected, it would be Dayle Coleing named alongside Liam Walker & Ethan Jolley.

Alberto Zapata had a glorious chance to score in the first fifteen minutes but volleyed his close range shot over the bar. Ten minutes later, Europa would reply as Manuel Arana shot just wide from inside the box.

There wasn’t much between the teams for the rest of the half apart from Liam Walker’s free-kick which was well saved by Kyle Goldwin. Herbert Warwick blew for half-time with the score locked at 0-0.

Goldwin was called into action, making an excellent save to keep out a shot from Manuel Dimas. After starting the half strong, Europa got their goal through Manuel Arana as he beat Erin Barnett to the ball, run on goal and fired past Goldwin.

Less than ten minutes later and Europa doubled their lead, Arana went from scorer to provider as he set up Urko Arroyo to slot the ball in from close.

Things went from bad to worse for Gibraltar United as Europa made it 3-0 minutes later as Liam Walker scored from the penalty spot. The holder nearly got a fourth but Goldwin did well to save a shot from Dimas.

Gibraltar United bench were furious with the decision not to send off Manuel Arana after his altercation with Carlos Carrasco. Francis Huart walked back to the bench then out of nowhere whipped out a Lincoln shirt and start shouting towards the Europa fans. This foolish act would see the Gibraltar United delegate sent to stands.

Europa held on to their lead and retained the Gibtelecom Rock Cup.

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Yome: “We are looking forward to defending the title again”

We caught up with Europa winger Mikey Yome to get his thoughts on the upcoming Gibtelecom Rock Cup final and more.

After last week’s 13-1 thrashing of FC Boca Juniors, we asked how how Europa are feeling going into this Sunday’s Gibtelecom Rock Cup final – “Team’s in good spirits, the rock cup final is probably the best game of the season in Gibraltar with regards to the way in which it’s organised and we are looking forward to defending the title again. We have a really good group of guys and personally this is probably the best group I’ve been with in terms of friendship as well as on the pitch chemistry.”

After missing out on winning the league to rivals Lincoln, we asked if there’s any added pressure on Europa to retain the Rock Cup – “We always take every game one by one, and the cup final was not a thought up until after the boca game. Missing out on the league was quite a big blow but we have moved on from it, we have a cup final as well as the Europa League to look forward to, and we need to feel privileged about our situation. Everyone feels pressure in every game but we are a team that knows how to play under pressure. We have very experienced players who have played to the highest levels and this further reinforces the teams spirit.”

It was Europa’s draw to Gibraltar United in late April which would pave the way for Lincoln to retain the league, we asked Yome if Europa will be looking for revenge on Sunday – “As I said before we have moved on from the past. Our only focus is lifting the cup. Revenge is nothing compared to lifting a title.”

Lastly, Yome reflected on his season – “I thought I started the season off considerably well, but I know I have much more to offer. All I know is that at the moment what’s important is the team and how we perform as a whole on Sunday.”