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Could this be St Joseph’s season?

After opening up their season with a 7-0 win over College 1975, we take a look at St Joseph’s, and why we think this could finally be their time to break into the top two of the Gibraltar National League.

We know it’s still early days, and anything can happen in football, but there’s something different going on at St Joseph’s which we feel can see them go one step further this season.

For the last two or three seasons now, St Joseph’s have always been needing “two to three top players” to be able to compete with Europa & Lincoln. Thanks to the extra UEL spot which St Joseph’s have achieved twice now, Saints have finally managed to gain the financial resources needed to catapult themselves into fighting for the league title.

Losses in April to both Lincoln & Europa last season would have given head coach Raul Procopio an idea of where to improve and they have done just that. Juanjo Bezares is no stranger to football in Spain, and has put his expertise to good use over the years. John Paul Hendrick has also worked hard to find the right HGP’s needed that would benefit the team.

Francisco Javier Mateo’s excellent display during Saints’ UEL campaign will Jamie Robba on his toes, while the acquistion of the reliable Aymen Mouelhi, partnered up with Fede Villar in the centre with Mauri on the left and Ivan Lobato on the right – you’re looking at a very solid backline, one which Saints have lacked in recent seasons.

Cristian Pecci is someone who doesn’t get as many plaudits as he should, a hard-working, defensively minded, player who can fill in at CDM or CB – a partnership with Ezequiel Rojas could be what Procopio needs. Creativity shouldn’t be an issue with Sykes Garro, Juanma Perez & Ernesto Cornejo at his proposal.

Boro & Juanfri have picked up from where they left off, grabbing five goals between them on the opening day. Summer signing Kyle Casciaro, when fully fit, will be fighting with Pedrito for a place on the wing.

The only headache we expect Raul Procopio to have is how does he implement the 4 HGP’s into his side without breaking their style of play and their momentum after the recent UEL campaign – it will be an interesting season for Saints and we’ll learn more about this side when it’s time to face the “big boys” of Gib football.

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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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Pecci: “Next time they will think twice about talking negatively”

We caught up with St Joseph’s midfielder Cristian Pecci as he reflects on his side’s historic win over Prishtina, the dream tie against Rangers and much more.

Second half goals from Federico Villar & Juanfri secured St Joseph’s a historic 2-0 win over Prishtina to qualify for the UEFA Europa League second qualifying round, Pecci reflected on the result – “It has been a historic victory for the club and the truthfully as a player I am proud of the team. We have, alongside the coaching staff, worked hard enough all year to have this reward.”

Prishtina went down to 9 men in 48 minutes after two red cards in a matter of seconds were given to Leotrim Bekteshi & Armend Dallku. We asked the Spanish midfielder how much of an impact the sanctions took on the game, “The red cards were important for us but I think that the opposing players lost their heads because they saw that they could not compete with us.”

After the game, quotes made from the Prishtina president surfaced on Twitter which stated that his side will easily beat St Joseph’s and were already preparing for Rangers in the next round – we asked how Pecci reacted to the news, “The truth is that they lacked the respect to speak negatively about us without knowing who we are and nowadays in football the first thing is to respect the whole world. I’m glad that their words are eaten and next time they will think twice about talking negatively about an opponent.”

Next up for St Joseph’s in the UEFA Europa League second qualifying round is Scottish side Rangers next week – Pecci gave his view on the upcoming tie, “We have a very important match against a big club but we are going to go our all like the previous two matches and with the hard-work we are doing, we will surely make it difficult for them.”

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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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Gibtelecom Rock Cup Quarter Final: Predictions

The Gibtelecom Rock Cup quarter-finals kicks off tomorrow and here are our predictions.

Gibraltar United vs FC Olympique (Tuesday 12th March – 18:15)

After losing to St Joseph’s last weekend, Gib Utd’s only possible chance of getting into Europe would be winning this year’s Rock Cup. Olympique were unlucky in the final of the Second Division Cup, losing 2-1 to Magpies but with match fitness playing a major factor in their defeat then you’d expect the same to happen again.

Prediction: Gibraltar United win.

St Joseph’s vs Mons Calpe (Tuesday 12th March – 20:30)

A tasty fixture indeed, Saints flying while Mons’ victory over Boca would be a good confidence booster after a poor run of results. Mons have won three of their last five meeting against Saints but with Boro & Juanfri scoring 36 goals between them, you just feel that they’ll play a big part tomorrow night.

Prediction: St Joseph’s win.

Gibraltar Phoenix vs Lions Gibraltar (Wednesday 13th March – 18:15)

Like Gibraltar United, Phoenix’s defeat to Lincoln last weekend leaves them with winning the Rock Cup as their only chance of qualifying into Europe. You would expect Labra and co to sweep aside Lions and progress.

Prediction: Gibraltar Phoenix win.

Brunos Magpies vs Europa (Wednesday 13th March – 20:30)

In an interview with FG, Matheus Assumpcao spoke about how he wished to test himself against Europa and two days later, Magpies’ star-man got his wish. After going unbeaten in the Second Division and winning the Second Division Cup, Europa will be their biggest task this season. We’d be expecting a professional display from the holders as they can’t afford to switch off against Assumpcao, Wyatt and Cuesta.

Prediction: Europa win.

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Gibtelecom Rock Cup Second Round: Predictions

The Gibtelecom Rock Cup second round kicks off tomorrow evening and here are our predictions.

St Joseph’s vs FC Hound Dogs (Wednesday 6th February – 8:30pm)

Saints come into the game on the back of a 8-0 thrashing of Glacis and would be expected to continue that goalscoring form against the side which sit bottom of the Second Division. Raul Procopio’s squad isn’t the biggest so we could see him putting out a strong squad.

Prediction: St Joseph’s win.

Mons Calpe vs College 1975 (Thursday 7th February – 6:15pm)

Just like the St Joseph’s game, this one will probably end up in a quite heavy scoreline. College got beat 5-1 by Manchester 62 in the Cup last weekend, while Mons Calpe will be looking for a confidence booster after their defeat to Gibraltar United. With a bigger squad, Blanco could use certain players from his Intermediate squad for some valuable minutes.

Prediction: Mons Calpe win.

Lincoln Red Imps vs Europa (Thursday 7th February – 8:30pm)

It was raining goals for Lincoln last weekend as they shipped eleven past Boca – Giovanni Rodriguez and Hector Figueroa have impressed since joining in January while ex-Europa forward Kike got himself a hat-trick on his debut. The holders will be hoping to try and get one over their rivals after losing 3-2 earlier on in the season but could see defeat as a blessing with more focus being put into winning the league.

Prediction: Lincoln win.

Manchester 62 vs Gibraltar United (Friday 8th February – 8:30pm)

It has been a difficult few months for Gibraltar United but last week’s win over Mons Calpe could be the turning point needed and they’d hope to continue it against Manchester. The Red Devils invested well in January and it showed in their Cup win against College with ex-Gib Utd striker Robert Montovio getting on the scoresheet but their number one keeper Christian Lopez saw red which will give them a problem going into the game.

Prediction: Gibraltar United win.

Lynx vs Gibraltar Phoenix (Saturday 9th February – 4pm)

This one could be a very interesting tie; two sides doing well at the moment with Phoenix slightly edging it with more goals scored. Lynx have proved to be a tough test to Lincoln and Europa in the last couple of weeks so their opponents should not take them lightly.

Prediction: Phoenix win on penalties.

Glacis United vs Lions (Saturday 9th February – 6:15pm)

Lions will be looking to exact revenge after their 3-1 loss in January, it was quite an even game until conceding an own goal just before half-time which ultimately changed the game. Glacis will be hoping to welcome Alan Parker and Nacho Fernandez back into the squad while Mariano Pereira and Courtney Lewis miss out through suspension.

Prediction: Lions win on penalties.

Europa Point vs FC Olympique (Saturday 9th February – 8:30pm)

Another interesting encounter -, both teams in good form and in with a good chance of progressing. Europa Point will be happy to welcome back their main man Cristian Nunez Chaves from suspension while their opponents come into the game off the back of a whopping 12-3 win over Leo in the 2nd Division Cup.

Prediction: Olympique win on penalties.

FC Boca Juniors vs Brunos Magpies (Sunday 10th February – 4pm)

Magpies did take a heavy hit to their squad in January but with a front three of Assumpcao, Wyatt & Cuesta – it doesn’t really matter what is behind you, they are that good. Yet to be properly tested in the Second Division, Dave Wilson’s men will be looking at the Rock Cup as a idea of where the club is going ahead of next season. It will be another difficult task for Boca and one which we don’t see them winning.

Prediction: Magpies win.

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Boro: “Our goal is to win the league”

Following St Joseph’s 3-1 win over Lincoln Red Imps last night – we caught up with their striker ‘Boro’ Alegre Delgado as he reflected on the result, his partnership with Juanfri & goals for the season.

Goals from Ferrer, Soler OG and JP Duarte gave Saints a 3-0 lead at half-time and despite Joseph Chipolina pulling one back for Imps on the hour mark, it was not enough. Boro reflected on the team’s performance, “The game was very competitive from the start and I think we were very well organised and tactically brilliant. It was made very clear to us in the beginning what we had to do and we were able to achieve it which was winning the game and of course starting the year unbeaten.” 

Saints have now won four games on the bounce and haven’t lost since the end of October. We asked how important it is to keep up this motivation heading into their new game against Europa, “It is clear that the team is working well. Our goal is to win the league and to do that you have to win the maximum number of matches and points to get it since this is the most competitive league in recent years. That’s why myself and the team are motivated to face not only the next game but all the following matches until we reach the goal. I am sure that the team will give everything in all the remaining matches of the season.”

Boro leads the goalscoring charts with 11 goals and in second is his team-mate Juanfri on 10. We asked how it feels to play alongside someone like him, “Well, it’s true that I marvelous understanding with Juanfri and I believe that we match each other perfectly. For me it is easier and helps me to be more available during the game for the team – all my teammates are great players also and they improve everyone.”

Can St Joseph’s push on now and win the league? Boro replied, “I think we can be champions. St Joseph’s is a family and that helps you win things. We are on the right track and I am sure that we will achieve the goal.”

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PREMIER DIVISION PLAYER AND MANAGER OF THE MONTH – NOVEMBER 2018

November saw a big gap due to the UEFA Nations League but congratulations to St Joseph’s duo Juanfri Peña Garcia & Raul Procopio on winning the FG Player & Manager of the month respectively. 

Player of the Month – Juanfri Peña Garcia (St Joseph’s) 

After a difficult October, Saints really upped their game in November and spearheading their success was striker Juanfri who scored three goals in three games and just edged his team-mate Boro who finished closely in second. Finishing off the top three is Phoenix defender Ezequiel Rojas Piner who has been instrumental in defence for his side. 

Manager of the Month – Raul Procopio (St Joseph’s)

Procopio can be very happy with his side, scoring nine goals and conceding none – it was very difficult to pick a winner due to the long break but we felt the Saints manager was the deserved winner. Phoenix’s Juan Maria Sanchez finished second with Lincoln’s Manolo Nunez Sanchez in third. 

Photos – C Correa Photography & Neil Wilson.