Costly errors let Lincoln Red Imps down against Copenhagen
Copenhagen 3 (2)-(1) 1 Lincoln Red Imps
Copenhagen became the first venue, away from Gibraltar in which Lincoln Red Imps players fulfilled what had been a dream just ten years ago, as birthday boy, forty year old Lee Casciaro was to recognise prior to the match.
Few had believed that a Gibraltar National League club would be enjoying European club competition group stage football within the first decade of its membership into UEFA. With seven years now passed since Gibraltar had finally obtained membership, Lincoln Red Imps presence struck a cord across European football, highlighting how opportunities such as the launch of the Europa Conference League and Nations League had opened new opportunities for ‘minnows’ such as Gibraltar.
Thursday saw a return to the starting eleven of Liam Walker. On the bench another veteran enjoyed the experience as LEE Casciaro celebrated his fortieth birthday watching his club playing at the Parken stadium in Copenhagen, Denmark’s national stadium, in what was their second group stage match.
The match was to be officiated by Ukrainian Kateryna Monzul, along with her two female assistants, a far cry from just a few decades ago when a full women’s officiating team was still a rare sight. For many of the Lincoln Red Imps players her presence was not a surprise after seeing the Ukrainian referee as part of the first female referee team to officiate a senior men’s international. The match being Gibraltar versus San Marino.
After a day touring Copenhagen and some training Thursday was the business end of the ECL for them.
None of these was to play much of a role in the actual preparations and match at what was a wet, heavy pitch against group favorites Copenhagen. The latter had disposed of Slovan Bratislava 3-1 with ease in their first match. Lincoln Red Imps, although playing well, also having fallen at home 0-2 against Greek side Paok.
In front of a half full stadium Lincoln were to go behind very early on as Copenhagen went immediately into the offensive.
With just three minutes gone the ball was floated to the far post by the goal mouth and nodded to goal. Roy Chipolina’s attempt to turn it away from goal close to the post failed, hitting the post instead to give Dik’s his goal.
Copenhagen kept piling on the pressure with Lincoln’s defence very much in action in the first ten minutes. Soler, who had hesitated to go out punch the ball clear in the first goal started to command his area clearing the danger.
Twelve minutes into the match pressing by Arianz outside Copenhagen’s penalty box saw Lincoln put Copenhagen’s goal under pressure for the first time signalling how the early goal had not deterred them.
A lunge challenge by Yahaya gave Copenhagen a dangerous free kick outside the box which was fortunately crashed against the defensive wall.
Rosa had the first effort at goal for Lincoln on the seventeenth minute after a great through ball by Walker to Kiki ended with an opening for Rosa to hit at goal from outside the box.
Lincoln started to find more possession on the ball as they settled down. Copenhagen, although still dominating getting less chances to find their way to goal.
With twenty-five minutes gone Britto earned himself a free kick a few feet ahead of the corner flag. Liam delivered a nicely floated cross in which was cleared with some difficulty and ended with a shot at goal going just over the bar.
With half hour gone Lincoln Red Imps momentarily silenced the Copenhagen crowd.
Gifted a corner, and with Copenhagen struggling to clear their penalty box, the ball fell once again to Rosa who made no mistake this time and smashed it on target to level the score.
Just five minutes later Soler was to save Lincoln Red Imps some blushes after a long ball through the centre of defence provided a great opportunity for the home side to strike at goal. Soler was equal to the shot and blocked it away.
Lincoln Red Imps again denied the home side with Scot Wiseman with an important sliding challenge to block a shot at goal as Copenhagen piled on the pressure.
It was not all one way traffic with Lincoln also having their chances.
Kike was to have a shot go over the bar before Lincoln again were on the backfoot defending to keep the score levels.
Lincoln’s next costly error came soon after. Britto was penalised for a late challenge with just a minute to go for half time conceding a penalty. Wind strolled forward to slot the penalty kick nicely by the post, away from an outstretched Soler’s reach to put the home side ahead 2-1 for half-time.
A more confident Lincoln Red Imps started the second half trying for the equaliser. Yahaya with the first attempt.
The third of the mistakes which were to cost Lincoln a goal came early in the second half. Copenhagen soon got possession back and had a couple attempts sailing wide off the target before they were to score. Soler who had received a back pass he had called for, slipped and allowed Stage to roll the ball to goal on the fifty-second minute. This was not the first or last slip for the goalkeeper who had several close shaves during the second half. This raising concerns on whether players had equipped themselves with the necessarily studs to play on a wet, heavy grass pitch. Lincoln Red Imps were now 3-1 down once again due to an error.
The home side were lifted by the goal taking possession and looking for their fourth as Lincoln defended deep.
With Lincoln very much on the backfoot Britto and Walker were substituted by Torrilla and Carralero as Lincoln looked to introduce new legs in the match.
Carralero earned a free kick after he was brought down by Diks as he broke free. The subsequent freekick ended in a corner. The corner ended with Kike putting the ball in the back of the net but penalised for a clear offside.
Copenhagen responded with Pep Biel smashing the ball into the woodwork.
Lincoln continued trying to find a route back into the match but instead found a confident Copenhagen smash another shot into the woodwork and then denied by Soler’s hand as they piled on the pressure.
After many years of waiting it was the turn of one of Gibraltar’s playing legends to make his group stage debut. Forty year old Lee Casciaro and Anon were to come on for Marco Rosa and Kike. Their presence immediately added pressure on the home sides’ defence as they pressed to reclaim possession.
A well weaved string of passes saw Lope run into the penalty area to try and poke a pass past Copenhagen’s keeper, the ball going just wide off the post with fifteen minutes left of the match.
Lincoln were to make another change with youngster Kian Ronan coming on for new signing Arianz. Mick McElwee adding fresh legs to his offensive lines with his last three substitutions.
The Lincoln Red Imps coach, who had after the previous match indicated that he preferred a good counter attack as his best defence was true to his word as he added further firepower to his team.
McElwee’s side were unable to stop Copenhagen repeating their first group match result for a consecutive time as Lincoln Red Imps tumbled 3-1 in Copenhagen. The goals coming from defensive errors the Gibraltar champions had to pay a heavy price for.
Although scoring their first goal in the UEFA Europa Conference league group stage the defeat underlined the differences where a spirit never-say-die Lincoln Red Imps were punished for their own mistakes by a very European competition football experienced Copenhagen.
The Gibraltar National league champions nevertheless showing that they are still learning and could still mount a surprise in the group. Captain Roy Chipolina after the match saying that he believed the team were learning after every game and “that it was difficult to jump from one step to the next.”
Images by Mark Rodriguez - Lincoln Red Imps training in Copenhagen before the match