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Europa draw against Legia Warsaw, while Saints eventually fall to Rangers

Europa earned a very credible 0-0 draw against Legia Warsaw tonight, while earlier in the week, St Joseph’s fought valiantly but eventually fell to defeat against Rangers.

Photo © Europa FC/C Correa Photography

Both teams went into the week with home games against the bigger European sides, with Saints first up on Tuesday against the Scottish giants. A decent crowd, aided by 900+ Rangers fans, saw the Gers run out comfortable 4-0 winners, although it took until the second half for Saints resistance to be broken down.

Two quickfire second half goals from Ryan Jack, and Liverpool loanee Sheyi Ojo put the game to bed essentially, and Steven Gerrard’s side added gloss to their victory with efforts just going over the line from Borna Barisic, and Alfredo Morelos. Saints now know that realistically their European journey will be over next week, after a visit to Ibrox.

Meanwhile, tonight saw Europa go toe-to-toe with an established European side in Legia Warsaw, 13-time champions of Poland and a familiar name to those who watch European football. In an impressive performance, which saw Europa have an almost level share of possession, and more efforts, the two sides ultimately could not be separated, and Europa go to Warsaw knowing they haven’t conceded an away goal, and have every chance of an historic progression to the next round.

Rafael Escobar started with a couple of changes from the team who beat Sant Julia 4-0 last week, including the return of Alex Quillo from suspension, while Ethan Jolley came in as one of four Gibraltarian’s starting the game. And it was Jolley who was arguably man of the match, as he put in a full-blooded performance for 90 minutes, getting stuck in with the more physically imposing Polish side. Now Jayce Olivero has joined, competition at left-back is fierce at Europa, but Jolley put in a performance that deserves him keeping that spot next week.

Both teams had the ball in the net, but the offside flag denied both teams – however both teams also had a big chance go wide in a second half which saw both teams throw caution to the wind at the end. With a good crowd in attendance, and an estimated 40,000 people watching the official stream of the game, many eyes were on Europa, and they impressed with their play, especially in midfield.

The result additionally gives Gibraltar a further coefficient boost, helping to further solidify their position of holding four European spots in future seasons – should Europa qualify next week, they face either KuPS of Finland, or Belarussian side Vitebsk – the Finns coming out 2-0 victors today.

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Liam Walker interview post-Sant Julia

After the 4-0 win vs Sant Julia last week, we caught up with Europa midfielder Liam Walker, who put in a man of the match performance against the Andorrans, scoring one and assisting two other goals in the comfortable victory.

Photo (C) C Correa Photography

What are your thoughts after your man of the match performance for Europa in the 4-0 win against Sant Julia?

Walker – Obviously on a personal note happy to get 2 assist and a goal to help the team but the most importantly very happy with the result and going through to the next round, but most of all with the team’s performance, I think it was a complete performance from the whole team. We kept a clean sheet which shows we were defensively very solid and we scored 4 goals which shows we did the right things going forward and i think the best team on the day won.

It took a bit of time for the first goal to come, and you played a big part in Adrian Gallardo’s opener with a great bit of skill before playing a perfect through ball – was it a case of patience from the team until the goal came which gave Europa the away goal lead?

Walker – “I think until that first goal come, Sant Julia were sitting quite deep and just trying to play on the counter attack so it wasn’t easy to open the scoring, i feel we had a couple of good chances before the goal come but they managed to keep them out and then yeh the goal finally come, i remember it being a long ball in to me from Dayle and i was aware of having a slight bit of time to take the touch and then from there it all just come naturally,the flick over the player and then i took one more touch to get it out of my feet to then put the ball through to Adrian Gallardo who had made a great run and then finished it off even better with a cool finish. I think we knew at some point we would score so it was a case of waiting for that chance and then putting it away as Adri did and then that put us in the driving seat with the 2 away goals.”

We’d seen earlier in the week with Prishtina, and then near the end yesterday with Sant Julia and the late red card, about how a lack of discipline can see teams fall apart and cost them dearly. How important was it that even with some of the fouls coming in from the Andorran side, that Europa kept their calm and discipline throughout?

Walker – “Sending offs and being with a man or 2 down is massive in these games, it is something we keep going on about in the dressing room about being professional and keeping our discipline and having respect out on the pitch. As it showed in both games it was crucial the sending offs especially for Prishtina as at the time it was still 0-0, but St Josephs kept to their game plan and deserved to go through and for Sant Julia I think after their sending off they just gave up and I feel we ended the game a lot fitter than them.”

Next up is Legia Warsaw – what are your thoughts on playing the Polish side?

Walker – “As we know its going to be a tough game, they are a strong team with massive support. We know they are at the end of their pre season so they will be in good shape and i can imagine them being quite a physical side. We play the first leg at home were hopefully we fill the stadium with our fans who have been amazing support. We’ll be looking to take a positive result to the 2nd leg away, we will show them the respect we show to every other team but we will be going out on the pitch to win and to fight for the next round.”

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Saints beat bad-tempered Prishtina to set up dream Rangers match

Goals from Fede Villar and Juanfri saw St Joseph’s beat a remarkably bad-tempered Prishtina 2-0 and set up a dream tie against Scottish side Rangers.

Photo © Rough and Ready

A mad minute just after half time from Prishtina saw both Leotrim Bekteshi and captain Armend Dallku sent off, and St Joseph’s, who had soaked up the pressure in the first half, took full advantage by scoring twice in the second half – although they had Ezequiel Rojas sent off late on for a foul.

From the off, Prishtina looked like a team more interested in harassing the officials than playing football and trying to get a goal – as early as the fourth minute Dallku, who as captain set the negative tone for his teammates, went off in a tirade of abuse at the Sammarinese linesman after he hadn’t given the Albanian a foul. The first half in truth saw little in the way of major chances – Francisco Mateo made a couple of good saves but wasn’t overly troubled.

Early in the second half was the turning point though. Leotrim Bekteshi, earlier booked, hauled down Boro as he was advancing up the pitch, and was shown a second yellow card. This clearly infuriated Prishtina, as their players surrounded the ref, led by their captain Dallku, who, although he had also been booked, was shown a straight red presumably for foul and abusive language. Suddenly, Saints had a two-man advantage and knew that Rangers were in sight.

It took until the 75th minute for Saints to make the advantage count, as a free kick whipped into the box found the head of Fede Villar – the former Mons man making no mistake to give Saints the lead. In the build up to that, Prishtina had picked up two additional bookings for dissent, and then managed a third booking for the same offence – they were lucky to end with nine men on the field.

The gaps on the pitch for Saints to expose became clear for all to see, and five minutes later, Pedrito’s cross was turned in by Juanfri to secure the win and the tie in Glasow. Raul Procopio, who will have angered local fans again by starting zero Gibraltarians, will understandably point to the result as vindication for his team choices – although Ryan Casciaro may have to come into defence after Rojas late red.

The final whistle sounded, and despite the best efforts of the Prishtina players and match officials to argue some of the decisions they felt went against them, St Joseph’s could celebrate a first ever European victory, and now have to prepare for Steven Gerrard’s side next week.

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Feronikeli v Lincoln: Match Preview

Lincoln take on Feronikeli tonight in Prishtina, with the winner progressing to Friday’s Champions League Preliminary Round Final against Santa Coloma.

Graphic © Johnny Napoli

Gibraltar’s league champions were drawn against the toughest of their three potential semi-final opponents, but will look to spoil the party in Kosovo and move one step closer to a 1st Qualifying Round tie against The New Saints.

Their opponents, Feronikeli, are making their maiden appearance in European competition, but will still demand the utmost respect, with Kosovar teams better than their ranking, which is still in its infancy, suggests. The Black Tigers, as they are known, won the league by five points from Prishtina, who local fans will be familiar of, and 32 points clear of Drita, who knocked Lincoln out at this round last season.

Lincoln are believed to have no injury issues ahead of the game, with Lee Casciaro believed to have recovered from the injury he sustained on national duty against Ireland. There will also be a host of potential debutants in the face of their new summer signings, including former Europa defender Jesus Toscano, while returning defender Ethan Britto could also be involved at some point.

Tonight’s hosts have only lose once in the league in 2019, and boast an impressive domestic record in the last two months – they have also bought in a number of players and appear to have a young, dynamic squad at their disposal. The winner’s of tonight’s game would be expected to be favourites vs Santa Coloma, who beat Tre Penne 1-0 earlier this afternoon courtesy of a goal from Javier Lopez Iglesias with 15 minutes to go.

Betting:

Feronikeli go into the game as 1/3 favourites, understandable given their presumed strengths and home advantage, while Lincoln are 7/1 underdogs to take the win in 90 minutes. A draw in 90 minutes, which occurred when Lincoln faced Drita last summer, is currently 15/4, while goals aren’t expected to be flowing – under 2.5 goals is currently odds on at 4/6.             

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Champions League and Europa League draws take place

Lincoln Red Imps, Europa and St Joseph’s all found out their opponents in the Preliminary Round of the Champions League and Europa League, in draws that were held this afternoon in Nyon.

Photo (C) William Gracia

Lincoln, Gibraltar’s sole Champions League representative, have been handed a seemingly tricky tie against Feronikeli of Kosovo on June 25th – who are hosting the Preliminary Round mini-tournament this season. Should Lincoln progress, they would play the winner of Sammarinese side Tre Penne, and Andorran champions Santa Coloma in the final on June 28th, at the  Fadil Vokrri Stadium in Pristina.

Meanwhile, in the Europa League draw, Rock Cup winners and league runners up Europa were drawn against Andorran league runners up Sant Julia, while St Joseph’s face Prishtina from Kosovo, who knocked out Europa at this stage last season.

The Europa League games are set to take place on June 27th and July 4th, but there is always the potential that fixtures are reversed, especially as Europa and St Joseph’s are currently set to play at home at the same day.

The draw for the First Qualifying Round of both tournaments takes place next week, where the three local teams will find out their potential opponents should they progress past the Preliminary Round.

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Ireland v Gibraltar: Preview

Gibraltar take on Republic of Ireland tonight in the second part of their June double-header, looking to build upon their performances so far in Group D.

Photo © William Gracia

After losing 1-0 at home to tonight’s opponents in March, Gib followed it up with a 3-0 loss away in Georgia on Friday night, and will no doubt be aiming to try and improve on the performance in Tbilisi, where they mustered one shot all game – albeit one that came inches from levelling the scores at the time.

Ahead of the game, Gibraltar are believed to have a fully fit squad to choose from – Louie Annesley did limp off near the end last week but the young Blackburn defender is expected to be fit tonight. The match will also be the last time Anthony Bardon will be involved in the matchday squad – the 26-year old is retiring after tonight’s game to focus on coaching in the USA. The former Lincoln midfielder is likely to add a 29th and final cap at the AVIVA Stadium tonight, either by starting in midfield or appearing as a sub.

Tonight’s hosts find themselves top of Group D with seven points in three games, and picked up an impressive 1-1 draw away at Denmark last week. Mick McCarthy’s side will no doubt be looking to improve on their performance when the two sides met in March at the Victoria Stadium, as Ireland look to end the season in a strong position in the five-team group.

The two teams last met in Dublin in 2014, where Ireland ran out 7-0 winners in what was arguably one of Gib’s worst team performances – of the eleven who started that game, only four are expected to also start this evening, and tonight could be a good chance to show how far the national team has come in that five year period.

Betting*:

Unsurprisingly Ireland are as short as 1/100 to win tonight, and there’s no value in the match result market unless you fancy a draw (31/1) or a Gib win (105/1).

If you want to back Ireland but don’t fancy 1/100 odds, then the “win to nil” market for Ireland to win and not concede is potentially more appealing at odds of 3/10. Jeff Hendrick scored in the reverse fixture back in March and is 6/4 to do the same again this evening.

From a Gib perspective, Liam Walker came closest to scoring from a free kick, and his set-piece prowess is known to be a threat for Ireland – the Europa midfielder is 20/1 to score in 90 minutes tonight.

FG’s Predicted XI:

Goldwin; Sergeant, J. Chipolina, R. Chipolina, Olivero; Annesley; Casciaro, Bardon, Hernandez, Walker; De Barr

*Odds correct at the time of writing, and taken from Oddschecker

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Georgia v Gibraltar: Match Preview

Gibraltar go into tonight’s game vs Georgia looking for an improvement on their previous two meetings against their opponents.

Photo © William Gracia

Both sides are without a point in Group D, with Gib ahead of Georgia on goal difference, having played a game less. However, this evening’s match in Tbilisi will prove to be a difficult one, with the hosts only having lost once on home soil since the beginning of 2018.

The match, which kicks off at 6pm Gibraltarian time (8pm in Georgia), is the first part of a double-header, where Gib also travel to Dublin to play Ireland on Monday night. The two away matches sees Julio Ribas side travel across the length and breadth of Europe for two games in just over 72 hours, and will be a test of the players fitness – however it is a challenge the team should thrive off.

For Georgia, their undoubted star player is Giorgi Chakvetadze. The 19-year old, currently at Gent, has five goals in seven appearances for the national side, and has been attracting interest from top sides across Europe. The midfielder is tipped to be the next big thing in Georgian football and possibly a star in Europe as well, so he will be one to watch out for. Tonight’s hosts also have Levan Mchedlidze, who plies his trade in Serie A with Empoli, but Tornike Okriashvili, who scored in both previous encounters against Gib, has not made the squad for this round of fixtures.

Gibraltar have the luxury of a fully fit 23-man squad to pick from at the time of writing, with no injuries believed to be affecting the side. Tjay De Barr was carrying an injury for the latter stages of the season, but the two game ban he received for 10 yellow cards domestically means he has had nearly a month without a match, and should be fit and raring to go at the Georgian defence. Meanwhile, the likes of Joseph Chipolina, Lee Casciaro and Roy Chipolina had been injury concerns, but appeared to be training as normal and would be expected to be part of the eleven this evening.

Betting*:

As usual, Gibraltar go into the game as massive underdogs, with odds as great as 80/1 that they can win today. The hosts Georgia are a best price of 1/14 to win, and as short as 1/33 in places, while a draw is generally around about 14/1 on average.

Chakvetadze, who scored four of his five goals for his country in the Nations League, is 5/4 to score anytime tonight and is likely to be one of their biggest threats, while for Gib, the likes of De Barr (13/1), Joseph Chipolina (14/1) and Liam Walker (13/1) are good odds to get a goal for Ribas side. A good in-play bet may be to wait for Reece Styche (currently 17/2 anytime score) to come off the bench if he doesn’t start, and get bigger odds on him scoring.

If you fancy there to be goals at both ends, BTTS is currently a best price of 5/2, while if you think it’ll be a similar game to Gib’s 1-0 loss to Ireland in March, under 2.5 goals is also a 5/2 shot this evening.

FG’s Predicted XI:

Goldwin; Sergeant, J. Chipolina, R. Chipolina, Olivero; Annesley; Casciaro, Bardon, Hernandez, Walker; De Barr

*Odds correct at the time of writing, and taken from Oddschecker

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Oundjian appointed joint-chairman of Brunos Magpies

Second Division champions Brunos Magpies have announced the appointment of former Watford owner and vice-chairman, Haig Oundjian, as their new joint-chairman.

Oundjian, who also represented Great Britain in figure-skating at two Winter Olympics, takes up the role alongside fellow joint-chairman Louis Perry, who in a club statement commented: “I am delighted to welcome Haig to the club. His vast experience and contacts will help guide us over the next few years as we establish ourselves as a major local football force on and off the field with some interesting initiatives to come.”

The 69-year old, who resides in Gibraltar, has had a long career working in football, including serving on the board of the English Football League, and in the statement, he says: “My initial attraction to the club started with my appreciation of the club’s desires to grow on and off the pitch. The club has a vibrance, a supporter base and a desire. I believe I can assist them further whilst also bringing some value to youth development and education of young sports men and women generally in Gibraltar”.

According to the statement from Magpies, Oundjian’s interest in FC Brunos’s Magpies stems from his desire to help youth development n professional and educational qualifications. He will also take a minority stake in the club.