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Long travels, tough results but a positive finish

Three games, three defeats, fifteen goals conceded – we review the past four days of international football.

After a long trip to Tbilisi, Gibraltar got their second game of the group underway in the beautiful Boris Paichadze Dinamo Arena. Head coach Julio Ribas named the same team which lost to Ireland 1-0 at home in March.

A poor performance saw Gib lose 3-0, one which the players would later take into account and make right in Dublin on Monday night. It was always going to be a big ask, especially when you take into account that game time is few and far between in their domestic clubs for a lot of the players.

Goldwin found himself in the wrong end of Twitter discussions by people after what he would see as a below-par performance (highlighting also how easy it is to forget the good performances when a player has one bad one, and how thankless a task it is to be a keeper in general). Chino would come out on twitter and say, “Not my best day at the office! Onto ireland. Thank you to the traveling fans and everyone at home supporting the team.”

Credit where credit is due – it’s easy to post pictures when things are going your way but when they don’t? While others cower away, Chino stood up and took responsibility, showing that the leadership he shows on the pitch also transfers off it.

Attention swiftly moved towards the Under 21’s who would be travelling to Belarus, looking to build on their impressive display against Cyprus in June. David Ochello made three changes to the side that lost 1-0 in June with Jamie Serra, Liam Crisp & Kevagn Ronco replaced Leon Clinton, Patrick McElwee and James Parkinson.

To the shock of many, Belarus would come out 10-0 winners. A tough result to take for many of the squad, who, like the senior side, found themselves on the wrong side of some harsh criticism. The U21 goalkeeper Bradley Banda, like his national team compatriot Chino, would come out on Twitter and post “Fail, fail again, fail better! Real learning curve today vs one of the best high pressing teams i’ve ever played against. Only up from here, we’ll be ready for Portugal in September.”

It is a tough ask being the U21 manager, probably more than other roles within the Gibraltar national coaching team. While others are able to take their strongest squad, give or take when there’s exams on at school, David Ochello’s pool is very limited.

Tjay De Barr is a regular figure in the senior national team, Louie Annesley has found himself more involved over the last few weeks while players such as Andrew Hernandez and Ethan Britto find themselves on most occasions on the bench – surely they should be on the plane with the U21’s? Especially considering the next game is against Portugal, while two games vs Netherlands still await.

With a good bulk of the squad made up of players in Universities, and a uni football system which in truth is not good enough for players looking to play at the level Gib U21s have to play at, “keeping track” of players and their game time is always an uphill task. Results won’t get any better if Ochello isn’t able to pick his strongest team.

Lastly, a trip to the Aviva Stadium in Dublin would be calling for Julio and his squad. After announcing his retirement prior to matchday, Anthony Bardon would find himself on the bench with Anthony Hernandez while Alain Pons and Andrew Hernandez would be their replacements.

Bardon would be granted his farewell appearance, earlier than many would have expected as he replaced an injured Lee Casciaro in the 9th minute, but one which he rightfully deserved.

Gibraltar frustrated the hosts for large parts of the game and only lead at half-time through an unfortunate own goal by Joseph Chipolina. Julio would opt out of bringing in two strikers and instead Ethan Britto would replace Alain Pons in 64th minute then Ethan Jolley for Andrew Hernandez, the latter being an understandable change given the distance covered.

Robbie Brady would double Ireland’s lead in injury time against a very tired Gibraltar team who had gave their all in 90 minutes. Apart from the performance, positive improvements are being made when you look at previous meetings with Ireland which ended 4-0 & 7-0.

Conclusion: More help needs to be given to the Under 21 squad so results such as 10-0 against Belarus doesn’t happen again, and also lessons from the game are learned by the players and staff.

Regarding the national team, Julio has probably already watched the games against Georgia, Ireland and already looking to improve for future games – given the type of manager he is. Finding a replacement for Anthony Bardon will hopefully spark some competitiveness within the squad and hopefully Julio is looking for tweaking in other positions also. Next up is Denmark at the Victoria Stadium, thankfully – not being thankful for the opposition, but I guess you could say that the local TV commentary could do with major tweaking also.

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Estonia win on a miserable night in Gibraltar

A second half free-kick from Konstantin Vassiljev secured Estonia a deserved 1-0 win over Gibraltar in a cold and miserable night in the Victoria Stadium.

Gibraltar looked to use the very windy conditions to their advantage early on, the Estonian defence misjudged the flight of the ball which led to Tjay De Barr see more of the ball.

The Gib fans made themselves known to the referee early on as Tjay De Barr latched onto a poor back-pass from Gert Kams, beat the goalkeeper to the ball and was wiped out in the process – would have probably been a red card in a competitive game but the referee showed a yellow.

Liam Walker took the resulting free-kick and hit the crossbar. A few minutes later, Estonia had a free-kick of their own which Brent Lepistu got on the end of and directed a shot towards goal which Chino saved.

Just before the 20th minute, Gibraltar had a good chance to take the lead as Liam Walker played Tjay De Barr on goal but the 19-year old’s shot was saved by Aksalu.

A good spell from Estonia saw Rauno Oliver Roosnupp’s shot hit the crossbar after the midfielder found himself with some space at the back post. Three minutes later, Sergei Zenjov cut inside from the right flank and curled a shot which looked to have had Chino beat but the crossbar came to the rescue.

The visitors were forced into a change just before the break as Nikita Baranov replaced the injured Gert Kams – little action after that and the referee blew for half-time with the score goalless.

Louie Annesley replaced Alain Pons at half-time as Gibraltar got the second half underway and three minutes later were forced to make another as Aymen Mouelhi replaced the injured Joseph Chipolina.

The Europa pair worked well again as Liam Walker played a through ball to Tjay De Barr whose low driven cross was nearly hit into his own net by Nikita Baranov.

Estonia broke the deadlock on the 53rd minute as captain Konstantin Vassiljev scored direct from a free-kick. Just after the hour mark Julio made two more change with Reece Styche & Adam Priestly replacing Lee Casciaro and Anthony Hernandez.

Gibraltar’s fifth change saw Jamie Coombes replace Anthony Bardon as the formation moved to a 4-2-4 with 20 minutes remaining and trailing 1-0. Reece Styche had the ball in the back of the net in the 82nd minute but the goal was disallowed for offside, much to the frustration of the Gibraltar fans.

Ethan Jolley made his senior debut near the end as the visitors saw the game out and walk away with a deserved 1-0 win.

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Olivero: “A performance like this is a really important stepping stone for the team”

We caught up with Jayce Olivero as he reflects on Gibraltar’s 1-0 defeat to Ireland, looks ahead to Tuesday’s friendly against Estonia and more.

A second half goal from Jeff Hendrick sealed a 1-0 win for Ireland over Gibraltar, Jayce Olivero reflected on the game – “I think yesterday‘s performance against Ireland was a very positive performance for the team. We were disappointed to not have got something more from the game and considering the good chances that we had it’s a bit disappointing that we weren’t able to get any points from the game. Nevertheless, the team had a great performance and all the things that were given to the team during the training camp, were implemented into the game and it worked well for us, so that’s something that was really positive to see. Obviously as always there are things to improve on but I think we really made a big step and competed against a big nation like Ireland. I think a performance like this is a really important stepping stone for the team and will really help us to just keep on improving game by game and day by day.”

After a 4 month break, International football returned to the Rock. We asked Jayce how it felt to be back playing at the Victoria Stadium, “It was truly great, it was an amazing feeling to see all the fans gathered again. It just brought back all the emotions that we experienced during the nations league, especially in the home win that was a really proud moment for us. It was great to step out onto our home pitch again for the first game of the Euro Qualifiers and see all our fans supporting us and cheering us on. It was a different feeling to perhaps many times before. There’s a strong sense of belief and hope, which really helps the team. Playing at home is something that is truly special to the team and the fans. It’s great!”

Next up for Gibraltar is an international friendly against Estonia on Tuesday at the Victoria Stadium. We asked if he feels they can get a result after a positive display against Ireland, “Well they are quite a familiar opponent for Gibraltar. I think that the team has really put in a good shift every time this fixture has been played. We have taken a lot of things from our previous games against Estonia. We have had positive performances against Estonia in the past, but we must keep on working and our hunger to improve will translate onto the pitch. We have improved a lot since our last encounter, but there are still many things that we can improve on. Performances like yesterday will just give us that motivation to keep on improving and striving for better. We all believe that we could perhaps get something out of this game, which is why we aim to give everything to get something out of it.”

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Hendrick cracks resilient Gibraltar

A positive performance from Gibraltar was undone by a second half goal by Jeff Hendrick as Ireland secured an unconvincing 1-0 win.

After weeks of uncertainty, international football returned to the Victoria Stadium. Ireland got the game underway with their fans singing loudly in the background.

Liam Walker found himself with some time on the edge of the box and his quickfire shot was block, there were shouts for a penalty but the Greek referee waved play on.

Ireland nearly found themselves infront on the 15th minute, a free-kick nearly found the 6ft 4″ of Shane Duffy but there was too much pace on the ball and it went out for a Gibraltar goal-kick.

Joseph Chipolina’s clearance was blocked by his own team-mate Jayce Olivero, the loose ball was crossed in and Roy Chipolina’s header nearly found its way into his own net if it wasn’t for an excellent reflex save by Chino.

Quick play by Ireland saw Seamus Coleman receive the ball in the box, his low cross nearly found David McGoldrick but Roy Chipolina intercepted and cleared the danger.

The Greek referee blew the whistle for half-time with the score at 0-0, a positive performance so far by Gibraltar.

Gibraltar got the second half underway and straight away won a corner thanks to Tjay De Barr. Liam Walker delivered the ball into the box and Roy Chipolina rose above his marker and looked certain to score but an unbelievable save from Darren Randolph kept it out.

Three minutes later and Ireland made it 1-0, McGoldrick got in-behind Roy Chipolina and cut the ball back to Jeff Hendrick who placed his shot into the bottom corner.

With just over an hour gone, Gibraltar made their first substitution with Adam Priestly replacing Louie Annesley – just before that, Lee Casciaro shot wide from inside the box.

Joseph Chipolina went on one of usual runs, dribbled past two players and played the ball out to Liam Walker whose shot from range was excellently blocked by Richard Keogh.

Gibraltar made their second substitution on the 77th minute with Alain Pons replacing Anthony Hernandez – an attacking move as they searched for an equaliser.

Ireland continued to control the game, saw out the three added minutes and walked away with an unconvincing 1-0 win.

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Sergeant: “Preparation has gone according to plan”

We caught up with Jack Sergeant to talk about Gibraltar’s preparation for their opening game against Ireland, the feelings within the training camp and more.

Since last year’s friendly win over Latvia, Jack has cemented a spot in Gibraltar’s defence. Four months after Gib’s last competitive game, we asked Jack how it feels to be back with the squad – “It feels good to be back and training with all the team. To be honest since the Nations League finished, everything has gone by really quick and now it is time to compete in the Euro Qualifiers.”

Jack took time out of his busy schedule with West Didsbury & Chorlton to travel back to Gibraltar and link up with the squad. With the Ireland game just around the corner, we asked how the preparation has gone – “We have been training for over a week together now and preparation has gone according to plan. There’s a good atmosphere around the team and we are prepared for the game on Saturday.”

After a positive Nations League campaign which saw Gibraltar pick up two wins and finish third in their game – we asked how the team is feeling going into the Euro Qualifiers, “Overall I think we performed well in the Nations League, taking away a few moments in games. The team is in a good spell at the moment with a mix of younger and older players blending well. Every match we play, we will try & get the best result possible and hopefully cause some upsets in the coming Euro Qualifiers games.”

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Cyprus beat Gibraltar in U21 opening qualifier

Gibraltar started their European Under-21 Championship Qualifying campaign with a 1-0 defeat to Cyprus thanks to a second half goal from Spurs midfielder Jack Roles.

Gibraltar head coach David Ochello handed debuts to Ethan Santos, Jaydan Parody, James Parkinson and Patrick McElwee while Bradley Banda retained his goalkeeper role and Gibraltar United’s Michael Negrette was appointed captain.

Gibraltar got off to a good start with Kian Ronan and Jaydan Parody causing trouble but just before the 20th minute, Cyprus midfielder Costas Anastasiou hit the crossbar.

Just before the break, Cyprus were awarded a penalty which Bradley Banda save to keep the score 0-0 at half-time.

Eight minutes after coming on as a substitute, Spurs midfielder Jack Roles opened the scoring to give Cyprus a 1-0 lead in the 62nd minute. The hosts continued to control but couldn’t find a way past Banda.

The referee blew the final whistle in Larnaca and Cyprus walked away with a slender 1-0 win.

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Banda: “U21s is a transitional phase from youth football to senior football”

Ahead of Gibraltar’s U21 opening game against Cyprus this Wednesday, we spoke to goalkeeper Bradley Banda about his preparation and more.

With only two days until their opening game against Cyprus U21, we asked how preparation has gone for the European Qualifiers – “We’ve been preparing for this game really for almost 2 months now, training once a week with those players who have been allowed to train by their clubs. This definitely has benefited us in absorbing the information the coaches are trying to get across to us as we’ve had more contact time with the coaches than if we would only meet up at the international break. We’ve got a few players studying at University in the UK who have had to catch up once introduced into the squad but they have picked up the pace quickly.”

The U21 squad has been in Cyprus since last Saturday, we asked how the team are feeling going into Wednesday’s game – “It’s a new group with many new faces, and for some the first time ever involved with international football. Everyone’s up for it, they’re excited and ready to get the new campaign underway. It’s a good group we have been drawn into and the opportunity to play with some of Europe’s best such as Portugal and Netherlands is incredible. Going into the game on Wednesday Vs Cyprus I think there’s a sense of belief and confidence that we can and will get a positive result, we haven’t come here to let them walk all over us.”

Bradley is one of a couple players which are still eligible from last year’s UEFA U21 campaign, the goalkeeper would be seen as one of the more experienced players from this current squad. We asked Bradley what he will be passing down to those younger players who will be making their debuts, “Just to emphasise the reality of the level of football that they will be playing at. U21s is a transitional phase from youth football to senior football, the players we come up against are all playing first team football for professional clubs. Mistakes will happen it’s part of the game and at this level its merciless, its how we react to these mistakes that will matter, that never give up mentality has to kick in. Having confidence in your own ability is important. We all know the level of ability we are at as individuals but as a group working for each other and leaving everything out there on the pitch we’re much stronger. At the end of the day its 11 v 11 and anything can happen in 90 min. We have done it before in our 1-0 win over Macedonia a year and half ago and we can do it again.”

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Mons Calpe move top while Lynx & South win

Mons Calpe ended Gibraltar Phoenix’s 12-game unbeaten run with Lynx & South United picked up wins also.

After coming up just short against Lynx, South United got back to winning ways by beating Newton Store 6-3. Goals from Kailan Perez, Liam Clarke, Alan Parker, Zhane Consigliero and a Estiven Morente brace puts their side on 25 points, 11 off the leaders.

Last years leaders Lynx easily beat Europa 9-2, Robert Montovio got amongst the goals which now sees them stay third – three points adrift of Phoenix & Mons Calpe.

Gibraltar Phoenix Viajes Lineasol versus Mons Calpe definitely lived up to the hype with the latter recording a 4-1 win, Gibraltar Internationals Andrew Lopez, Guy Olivero & Jaydan Parody all got on the scoresheet to end Phoenix’s 12-match unbeaten run.

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Thorne: “These events are mainly organised to help charities”

Last weekend, the Gibraltar Veterans crossed over the border to play a charity tournament – Leigh Thorne gave us an insight into what it was all about, “The tournament was arranged by La Balona Vets in order to help by raising funds for the Berlin Circus which collapsed during the high winds about a month ago. We all managed to collect as a team approximately 900 euros.”

The tournament saw Gibraltar come across Real Balompedica Linense, Algeciras & Malaga – Thorne reflected on how it went, “The tournament itself was well organised and we felt very hospitable. We [Gibraltar] lost our opening game to La Balona then drew 2-2 against Algeciras in the 3/4 place – Balona would go on to win the tournament, beating Malaga 4-1.”

Leigh Thorne is currently the Coordinator for the Gibraltar Veterans, we asked how he has found his time in charge – “I took this role nearly 6 years ago in and found it very challenging as there was not much in place other than the support from the Grassroots manager Mr Leslie Asquez who used to take an active role in all areas of Football and requested my assistance to take this forward. I initially introduced 3 annual events of 5 aside – the Poppy Day Match, the John Shephard Memorial Trophy and Cavalcade tournament which are events that had been lost for several years and have continued to do so since then. These events and most are mainly organised to help charities. The remainder of the calendar year is used to organise games with requests from Uk and Spain teams or even travel as on this occasion. The Grassroots and GFA have been very supportive in all events that I have coordinated during the past years but getting players is one of my most challenging. It’s not always easy to select players especially at Vets category as i want everyone to participate and enjoy but there is always some competitiveness, especially at tournaments. The local clubs such as St.Josephs, Lions Gibraltar, Lynx FC , Glacis Utd and Gibraltar Fire Rescue Service have been extremely supportive also when the 5-aside tournaments are organised.”

He also added, “At a personal level, it’s continues to be a very rewarding experience. We connect with the community by helping out as we can , keeping moderately fit and healthy in order to participate and socialising with old friends is always very welcoming by all.”

When asked what’s next for the Gibraltar Veterans, Thorne replied “We are looking at sub categorising the vets as we have different levels of fitness and capabilities to participate. We mainly target the 35 up to 50 age group but are looking at targeting the 45-55 age group and organise some events for them. Our next event will most likely be the annual Grassroots Day and hopefully we can have both age categories participating.”

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Parker: “In that moment it felt amazing”

After returning from the Futsal World Cup qualifiers, we spoke to Alan Parker about his goal against England, preparation for the tournament and achievements with South United.

Firstly. Alan described how the trip to Latvia was “Well for starters, I would like to say that it has been an amazing trip. I feel that I have gained valuable experience which will benefit myself and my team-mates in future competitions.”

Gibraltar flew out to Latvia on Saturday 26th January, four days before their opening game against England. We asked how those extra days of preparation helped the team, “I think travelling earlier gave us more time to prepare the games but also helped us to focus more, instead of being in Gibraltar and flying to Latvia two days before the game.”

Alan scored in Gibraltar’s opening 4-1 defeat to England followed by 9-0 & 11-0 defeats to hosts Latvia and Cyprus respectively. Alan reflected on his individual performances, “Scoring a goal for Gibraltar is always important and in that moment, it felt amazing. However, the result against England wasn’t what we wanted but our performance was excellent. We all tried our best and gave our all for Gibraltar, the results weren’t great but i’m proud enough with that. Hopefully the experience we’ve gained from this tournament will help us get better results next time around.”

Alan’s focus now turns to the domestic league, with South United sitting fourth in the First Division – we asked how his team will do for the rest of the season, “We have two games left and then the league splits into two for the playoffs. We just take things one match at a time and try our best to finish in the top four and qualify for a spot in Europe next season which is our aim.”