Alex Mellemgaard’s penalty just before half-time was enough to secure B36 a 2-1 win over St Joseph’s in the UEFA Europa League preliminary round.
St Joseph’s fast start caught out the visitors as Boro got onto Juanfri’s flick-on and fired a shot which Hentze saved. B36 grew in confidence as the game went on and took the lead through Michał Przybylski in the 28th minute.
Two minutes later and St Joseph’s equalised through captain Boro, the attacker got in behind the B36 defence and slotted the ball into the bottom corner.
Saints were dealt a blow with two minutes of the first half remaining, B36 won a penalty which Alex Mellemgaard coolly scored to give the visitors a 2-1 lead at half-time.
As the second half went on, the visitors clearly struggled with the heat but Saints couldn’t capitalise – mainly due to the MoTM display by B36 defender Sonni Nattestad. The attacking substitution of Pedro Lorenzo Fernández Muñoz caused the B36 defence problems but Saints were poor in the final third.
St Joseph’s were given two lifelines in the 88th and 90th minute but Pedro and Juanfri’s headers went just wide of the B36 goal. The visitors held on to their 2-1 win to progress into the next round of the UEFA Europa League.
Saints, who last year progressed from the Preliminary Round for the first time with a 3-1 aggregate win over FC Prishtina, met B36 at this stage two season ago, drawing both legs 1-1 before losing on penalties. This time out though, with only one leg to play and home advantage, Saints will be looking to once again progress past this stage – the winners of this match would have a home tie vs Estonian side FCI Levadia in the First Qualifying Round.
Saints appear to have kept the main core of their team from last season which saw them in second when the league was terminated, having added some experience from abroad, with the likes of former Cadiz, Oviedo & Panathinaikos player Nano, who can play at left-back or in midfield, and former Gib United midfielder Carlos Carrasco – as well as Gib international defender Erin Barnett, who earlier this week spoke to FG about the game.
Saints will have a disadvantage, in that tonight’s opponents are well into their domestic season, having played 16 games and currently sitting in third position – B36 should suffer no issues with match fitness, whereas Saints haven’t played competitively since a fiery 1-0 Rock Cup win vs Bruno’s Magpies back in March.
St Joseph’s go into this match as slight underdogs, despite the home advantage – they are 15/8 to win in 90 minutes and progress to the First Qualifying Round for the second time in as many seasons – B36 are 6/5 to get through without needing extra time, or even penalties as in 2018. The match could be a cagey affair, especially in the heat that is expected in Gib today, and Under 2.5 goals is a potentially value 6/5 shot.
Barnett joined St Joseph’s in the summer after a short spell in England with Marine, so how has the 23-year-old found his time at his new side? “I have thoroughly enjoyed my time at my new club up to now and have settled in very well. I want to thank all of my new teammates and the staff at St Joseph’s for making me feel welcome from the start.”
The defender has yet to play in European club competitions, but has 19 caps for the national side – can that experience help him should he make his debut on Thursday evening? “That’s right, this will be my first time experiencing club European competition and it is one that I am really looking forward to. Obviously playing for Gibraltar on the international stage is the highest level that one can play in football and therefore, it will serve as valuable experience.
Nevertheless, competing in the Europa League is a different challenge and experience which I will have to be focused and ready for.”
Saints take on B36 for the second time in three seasons, after a penalty loss to their Faroese opponents in 2018, but this time with the one-legged format they have home advantage at the Victoria Stadium – does Barnett feel that will give Saints an advantage? “Clearly playing at home in a one leg match does provide us with a slight advantage. Having said that, we know that we still need to be at our absolute best on the day if we are to take advantage of the draw and progress against a very difficult opponent in B36.”
Finally, with the new season set to start later this autumn, we asked the defender what his aims were for the upcoming 2020/21 season: “As soon as I first spoke with St Joseph’s and began training with the team, it became clear to me that the expectations and objectives of this club are to be the very best.
My hopes for the season are therefore very high, initially they would be to progress in the Europa League, and domestically they would be to go one step further than last year and qualify for the Champions League via winning the league.”
We caught up with goalkeeper Jamie Robba to talk about St Joseph’s season, the Calendar Club, and more.
We asked Jamie Robba what he made of St Joseph’s season, “Well, I believe it was a successful season with signs of progression from the year before. “Finishing” second above Lincoln and being in the title race against Europa till the end. We are showing as a club that we are growing each year and who knows what could have happened in the Rock Cup or League if we were allowed to continue competing.”
After 3 years at the club, we asked Jamie what has changed this season compared to the previous ones – “We have grown as a squad and showed that throughout the season. We still have to keep improving if we want to be better than Lincoln and Europa. The competition itself in the league is growing and splitting the league into two groups made the top group very competitive and each game very difficult.”
Two days ago, Jamie Robba ran for the Calendar Club in a wedding dress – we asked him what it is about, “We are running 465km in the month of June. There are four runners and we each have to run the kms in correlation with the day of the month. So on the 1st 1km, on the 3rd 3km, on the 20th 20km, 21st 21km – all the way up to 30km. We are are doing this to raise money for Calpe House, which is a charitable foundation that helps Gibraltarians who need specialised medical procedures in the UK.”
We asked Jamie what he hopes to achieve with the Calendar Club, “We set out a target of 10 grand but after the overwhelming support shown by the community, we might surpass that and look to hit another target of a larger sum! Through the Calendar Club, we are hoping to inspire people to help support and donate. Also to motivate people to run with us and perhaps aspire them to keep a fitter healthier life.”
Finally, Jamie spoke about his goals for next season – “I would love to get back in the National squad as it is any locals’ ambition to be a part of that squad. I will always work my hardest to try and get back in. Regarding my club, I want to keep growing and improving – pushing Lincoln and Europa to break that “Big 2” as we did this season.”
The first main part of the FG Awards 2019/20 sees the awards for goalkeeper, defender, midfielder, and striker of the season dished out, as well as the award for the best manager in the league this season.
Goalkeeper of the Season – Dayle Coleing (Europa FC)
The 23-year-old keeper has really stepped into his own this season, establishing himself as Europa’s clear number 1 despite the talent and vast experience of Javi Munoz, and being part of the backline which only conceded nine goals all season. Coleing’s commanding presence in the box has mirrored the commanding style of his team this season.
As well as breaking through into the national team, where he battles alongside Kyle ‘Chino’ Goldwin for the Number 1 shirt for Julio Ribas side, Coleing has also picked up interest outside of Gib – he recently was picked up by the Capital Sport Management group – and the future looks promising for the Europa keeper.
Other contenders: 2nd – Jamie Robba (St Joseph’s), 3rd – Kyle ‘Chino’ Goldwin (Lincoln), 4th – Bradley Banda (Lynx)
Defender of the Season – Olmo Gonzalez Casado (Europa FC)
One of the more challenging positions to choose from with Olmo & Sergio Sanchez creating such a dominant partnership. Olmo executed his defensive work with ease, giving Sanchez the freedom to venture up the pitch and scoring a total of four goals in thirteen league appearances – not bad for his debut season.
We opted for Olmo’s consistency, playing in fifteen of Europa’s seventeen league games – the Spanish defender also kept seven clean-sheets. His experience is vital in this team and Escobar will be hoping to keep him on for another year.
Other contenders: 2nd – Sergio Sanchez (Europa), 3rd – Ezequiel Rojas (St Joseph’s), 4th – Bernardo Lopes (Lincoln Red Imps)
Midfielder of the Season – Liam Walker (Europa FC)
Walker has led by example this season for his side, captaining the league leaders and scoring 21 goals in the process from an attacking role. His set-piece abilities are well known, but some of Walker’s free kick’s, especially an opening day one in a victory vs Lincoln, especially caught the eye as the 32-year-old pushed eventual top scorer Juanfri all the way in the scoring charts.
Walker’s vast experience both in Gib and abroad no doubt helps Europa massively, especially for some of their younger local talent, while his creative abilities have also set up countless goals for the likes of Manu Dimas, Juampe and more to get their fair share of goals this season.
Other contenders: 2nd – Cristian Pecci (St Joseph’s), 3rd – Alejandro Carrascal Aviles (Europa), 4th – Dan Bent (Bruno’s Magpies)
Striker of the Season – Juan Francisco ‘Juanfri’ Garcia Pena
Goals, goals, and more goals – that pretty much sums up Juanfri’s time at St Joseph’s since joining in 2018. “El Killer” as known by his team-mates are those close to him, Juanfri scored twenty goals in his debut season and followed it up with 24 league goals this season with four games still remaining before the league was made null and void.
Juanfri will best be known for scoring in both legs of St Joseph’s win over Prishtina in the Europa League and pulling off that famous celebration at the Victoria Stadium. His partnership with Boro and Domingo Ferrer Lopez keeps improving and soon will be bringing silverware home to St Joseph’s.
Other contenders: 2nd – Juampe (Europa), 3rd – Kike (Lincoln Red Imps), 4th – Alberto Caravaca (Lions)
Manager of the Season – Rafael Escobar Obrero
A fairly straightforward choice, in reality, Europa manager Rafael Escobar has guided his team to being undefeated at the Victoria Stadium for over 12 months now, and bar a few shaky moments in games vs the likes of Glacis & Lions, Europa’s tendency to drop unnecessary points seems to have been all but eradicated under his management.
Getting the best out of the attacking side of his team, while also ensuring a strong defensive aspect has made Europa very hard to beat, and you have to give credit to the manager for doing that. Escobar came with a good reputation having managed both Balona and Los Barrios in Spain, and he’s so far held that reputation strongly.
Other contenders: 2nd – Raul Procopio (St Joseph’s), 3rd – Albert Ferri (Lions), 4th – Albert Parody (Lynx)
With only four games remaining, the Gibraltar FA called off the league making it null and void. The European spots were handed out but no league winner announced. Here is our early review of the Championship Group.
Europa FC – 1st
While not being crowned champions has clearly left a very bitter taste in the mouths of all at Europa, they should no doubt still be happy at how their season went until the point of the league being terminated. From their opening week, eye-catching 4-1 win against Lincoln, Europa went on to be virtually unstoppable in the league, bar for a dramatic 2-2 draw against St Joseph’s in September which they were lucky not to lose.
They were of course expected to challenge for the title strongly, but few would have perhaps expected them to be unbeaten – past Europa sides have had a habit of very avoidable defeats that have cost them in the league dearly, but this Europa side, even when going behind in games, never looked like losing 99% of the time.
The emergence of Dayle Coleing in goal was a major plus for Rafael Escobar’s side, while the signing of Juampe from Balona was an inspired addition to a team who have never had trouble scoring. The plan for next season will be to try and maintain those levels, with St Joseph’s and Lincoln likely to be champing at the bit hoping to bring Europa down a peg or two.
St Joseph’s – 2nd
After years of coming so close in breaking the top two’s league dominance, Saints finally reached their potential this season. Sitting in second, five points behind Europa and five points in front of Lincoln with four games remaining.
Overall their season exceeded expectations – their Europa League campaign was memorable, came within minutes of beating Europa but would draw 2-2 in the final minute and did the league double of Lincoln.
The most important bit for Procopio and his men is to keep the same momentum and consistency going into whenever football restarts in Gibraltar.
Lincoln Red Imps – 3rd
For a team who have for so many years been the all-conquering, dominant force of local football, a third-place finish for Lincoln is disappointing – in fact, it is the first season they haven’t finished in the top two since the 1999/2000 season, where they finished fourth in a six-team league.
While they continued to beat the teams below them, normally with some ease, Lincoln came unstuck against both Europa and St Joseph’s, losing all four meetings against their title rivals. This saw their title hopes drift away in February, but there were some positive signs for the club, most notably the emergence of Julian Del Rio into the first team.
Next seasons aim for Lincoln has to be to appoint the right manager, after German Crespo’s departure earlier this week, and try to keep them in charge for a longer period than their last few managers – they have the squad, especially in attack, to challenge for titles, but stability is key if Lincoln wants to climb back on top of local football once again.
Lynx FC – 4th
Lynx was another team that started the season great, a 4th place finish is their highest since the 2014-15 season. Their three Croatians Hrvoje Bukvic, Ed Kokorovic, and Marko Marcius would play a big role in round one of the Gibraltar National League. Their departure would leave a big hole in the team and the results would show it with two wins from six games.
It has been a positive season for them though, Jaydan Parody has shown potential this season and Mohamed Badr has made the Gibraltar national team.
Brunos Magpies – 5th
Round one of the National League saw Magpies achieve their top half aims, albeit it was far less comfortable than expected, and saw the departure of David Wilson as manager, a move which proved unpopular among Magpies fanbase and seemed to hurt their attendances and atmosphere for a while after. They weren’t then helped by Alfonso Cortijo joining, only to leave for a job in China two months later, but he at least ensured they finished in the top six before the split.
Magpies issue seemed to be in beating the teams above them, with only a solitary cup win vs Lynx to their name vs the top four, so 5th place is a deserved finished, and perhaps around where the club would have hoped to finish, despite significant investment in both the summer and in January. Tight battles with St Joseph’s just before the league ended showed some hope they can battle with the big boys, presuming they don’t chop and change the squad too much this summer.
Lions Gibraltar – 6th
You can’t judge Lions’ season from their results in the Championship Group, with their financial resources not as strong as the others – the team itself knew what they were getting themselves into with a sixth-placed finish.
Lions did put in cracking performances in the Group and were unlucky not to get points on a couple of occasions. Looking at it from an overall perspective, Albert Ferri and his team showed great promise and that they don’t need to play so defensively to gain results.
Mouelhi joined St Joseph’s in the summer after Gib United went out of business, so how has his time so far at his new club been? “As from the first training session I felt at home. The players and technical staff helped me to integrate very well into the group – the only problem was that I broke my wrist and that made my debut with the team a bit delayed as I recovered. Apart from that everything was good”
The defender has also found himself regularly in a defensive midfield position for both club and country this season, helping to shield the backline – has this versatility helped his career? “I try to give my all and help the team. It doesn’t matter which position I play and I think as a player you need to be used to playing in serval positions, so you can have more chances to get more minutes, so it was a good advantage for me.”
Saints are still in the battle for the league and the Gibtelecom Rock Cup this season, so does the 33-year-old feel his side can end the season with silverware? “St Joseph’s showed this season we are competing for and fighting until the end for both the league and the cup, which didn’t happen in the last few years. We are taking every game as a final so hopefully, we finish this season with a trophy as everything depends on us.”
Finally, what are Mouelhi’s goals for 2020?
“On the personal, I’m aiming to win a trophy with St Joseph’s, and carry on
representing and defending Gibraltar In the upcoming international matches. I
wish peace and health for the whole world and everything goes back better than
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.
FG spoke to St Joseph’s defender Francisco Cano about yesterday’s win against Lincoln, life at his new club and more.
Cano reflected on St Joseph’s 1-0 win over Lincoln Red Imps thanks to a second-half goal from Domingo Ferrer Lopez, “The team is very happy with the result because it was a very important game for us and the team worked very well for yesterday’s victory.”
We asked Fran how yesterday’s win will motivate his side in the second round of the Championship Group, “Yesterday’s victory gives us even more motivation to continue fighting for our goal. Beating our direct rival gives us even more motivation to face the final stretch of the league with enthusiasm and strength to keep fighting.”
The 28-year old joined St Joseph’s last summer from Gibraltar Phoenix – we asked Cano how he’s found it at Saints, “The truth is that since I joined St Joseph, they welcomed me very well and I am very happy here. I am enjoying a good spell at the moment and I want to continue contributing and helping the team in every way possible.”
Cano is largely known for his time at Glacis United before joining Phoenix in January 2018, then Saints in the summer of 2019 – we asked how it feels playing in such a competitive team with experienced players such as Juanfri, Pecci and so on, – “I feel very good and comfortable. I always like to play in a team that competes for everything like St Joseph’s and with players of that level, you always learn from them by having them by the side.”
Ahead of tomorrow’s crunch match with Europa – St Joseph’s manager Raul Procopio & his backroom staff have signed new long-term contracts at the club.
Raul Procopio Baizan joined St Joseph’s in December 2016, from Chiclana CF but will be well remembered from his triumphant time at Lincoln Red Imps from 2014-2016.
The Cadiz-born coach has been in charge of Saints for 97 games and won 58, losing 24 and drawing 15 – fans will be hoping he can make it 59 wins against title rivals Europa tomorrow.
Procopio has been instrumental in St Joseph’s progression over the years alongside hard-working individuals such as Juanjo Bezares, John Paul Hendrick and Stuart Rodriguez.
The club has qualified for Europe for two consecutive seasons, most notably the 2018/19 season where after finishing 3rd, they defeated Prishtina in the first round – going on to play Scottish giants Rangers – managed by none other than Steven Gerrard.
Saints have an excellent chance of putting an end to the continued dominance of Lincoln & Europa – an unfortunate draw in the final few minutes against the latter and a win against the former leaves the team second in the Championship Group.