A well earned point for Gibraltar U21 against Bulgaria U21
Gibraltar’s under 21 repeated the senior teams success this week by also drawing against Bulgaria’s Under 21.
A late penalty providing them with their first goal in their group matches and a deserved draw after ensuring they had stopped Bulgaria’ s early dominance and turned the tables on their opponents in the latter part of the second half.
Gibraltar’s under 21 success bringing to the forefront the debate over home grown players with many of those on the field benefitting from the five home grown player rule.
The match was to see Bulgaria start dominating possession.
The first shot on goal came in the sixth minute a distant shot from Stoylanov. The ball going wide although covered by an outstretched Hankins that had returned under the post for this match.
The initial minutes saw Bulgaria trying to exert their dominance but Gibraltar’s U21 kept a tight rein in defence and tried to advance when they could.
Peacock was to earn himself a free kick at the edge of the box on the fourteenth minute. After Borge had fended off being swarmed by defenders his pass to Peaock was met with a late tackle. The free kick was to be blocked by the defensive wall although this was a signal that Gibraltar were intent in trying to change their luck in front of goal.
Packing in defence in front of Hankins goal Gibraltar gave little away for Bulgaria to latch on to in the first twenty minutes.
Both El Hmidi and Borge were pressing on Bulgaria’s defence and making themselves a handful.
Gibraltar was lucky on the twenty-second minute when a ball over the defence fell behind them for Dobrev who did not meet the ball well with his header. Hankin having an easy catch.
The first half hour of the match saw little in way of goal opportunities with Gibraltar doing well to keep Bulgaria in the middle third and stopping their surges into the final third.
Gibraltar for their part were struggling to find any meaningful way to Bulgaria’s penalty area and were stopped with ease as they entered their opponents half. Although Borge and El Hmidi when on the ball were making it difficult for defenders, enough for Bulgaria to keep defenders back.
A late tackle by Stefan Thorne earned him a yellow card and led to a moment of handbags as players confronted each other. Calm was established with Bulgaria with a free kick near to the corner flag. The cross into the goalmouth punched clear by Hankins and removing the danger from his area.
Entering the last fifteen minutes of the first half Bulgaria had more urgency in their game. This did little to impact Gibraltar’s own game as they kept to their structure forcing wild distant shots from their opponents.
Bulgaria showed that little would stop them even playing over and around Bilal by the corner flag at one stage with the player on the ground clutching at his face after receiving a blow. Bulgaria’s forward instead of clearing, instead smashed the ball over his body and into Parkinson’s body with some force as they continued play. Bilal was replaced with Kyle Clinton coming on in his place with seven minutes left of the half.
With five minutes left Antanosov was to receive a yellow after Shay Jones looked to break on goal.
It was Bulgaria who came close to scoring next as the ball went across goal through the defence and luckily with no one to meet it at the far post. Turning the ball back into the penalty area Vasilev was to miss the target.
Galchev was to also have an attempt when he found himself in Hankins goalmouth but a weak attempt ended easily in the keepers hands.
Entering a three minute injury time Hankins showed he commanded his goalmouth collecting with easy a delivery from a corner and calming his defence.
For a second time Thorne gave away an unnecessary free kick by the corner flag which forced Gibraltar to block a shot ringing in from the edge of the box. Gibraltar u21 went into the halftime break with the same score they had achieved against the Netherlands at halftime keeping the scores level.
However, with eleven attempts by Bulgaria in the first half Gibraltar would once again need to find the strength to fend of the expected surge. And seek their own chances something they had not done in the first half.
Gibraltar started energetically with Peacock forcing a foul which saw Parkinson put in a cross into the penalty area within a minute of the start. Bulgaria handling it well.
Bulgaria responded with a shot from Petkov smashed into the woodwork just two minutes later.
Peacock found himself as one of the main motors for Gibraltar as they tried to advance their lines but with only Borge in support in those early minutes of the second half Bulgaria were cutting the quick breaks down with ease.
Bulgaria still dominating possession still struggled to find a clear route to goal. This providing the home side with some confidence as the minutes ticked away.
As they approached the hour mark Gibraltar was getting more fluidity into their game and advancing their lines as Bulgaria seemed to be increasingly more frustrated.
However, on the 56th minute after a couple defensive mistakes in their clearances Gibraltar paid the price for their mistakes with Nikolov slotting the ball into the net after a lacklustre attempt at a clearance from a corner from Gibraltar’s defence.
Gibraltar responded by increasing their pressure on Bulgaria across their front lines. Jones, Peackock, El Hmidi and Borge pressing high. Jones and El Hmidi were to be replaced by Gracia and Caetano as Ochello brought on fresh legs into the game.
Bulgaria although dominating the greater part of possession where not having the run of play they had expected. Gibraltar proving a stubborn opposition.
It was not until the 66th minute that Bulgaria had another attempt at goal, once again forced to shoot from the edge of the box. Hankins not troubled by the shot that flew wide.
Good defending by Thorne stopped in its path a quick break down the left by Bulgaria. Petkov was later booked for a dive after Thorne had once again defended well and tackled the ball away inside the area from the Bulgarian player. Thorne inexplicably was substituted for Azopardi within seconds.
Gracia was to win himself a corner on the 74th minute which saw Gibraltar have a goal disallowed. The referee judging that a defender had been shoved to the ground as the ball flew in.
Play went immediately to the other end where it was Bulgaria who earned a corner with the ball bouncing off at the far post.
Bulgaria had another corner on the 77th this time with Hankins commanding his area and collecting well.
Again play went immediately to the other end where Borge had two quick attempts the first blocked by a defender and the second saved by the keeper as Gibraltar u21 threatened to level the score. A well timed break down the left and the ball delivered low across the area providing Borge with space to shoot.
Gibraltar was within two minutes awarded a penalty when Caetano delivered a lobbed pass to Peacock. The latter bundled to the ground inside the penalty area.
Bulgaria also losing a player to a red card in the action.
Peacock calmly stepped up to take the penalty and scored Gibraltar’s first goal in the competition and levelled the score.
Bulgaria went on the offensive immediately but after clearing their lines it was Caetano who was put on a break for goal. Bulgaria’s keeper coming out well to collect as the match entered its final six minutes of official time.
Clinton was to receive a yellow for a late challenge as the tensions increased with Gibraltar now looking for a second goal.
A surge from De Haro was to see his final pass cut as Gibraltar again stopped Bulgaria and went on the offensive.
Borge moments later also threatening to break into the penalty area and swarmed by defenders.
As the minutes ticked closer to the final 90 minutes it was Gibraltar who was on the offensive and looked the more menacing.
Gibraltar were to face four minutes of injury time.
Caetano was to steal the ball his cross seeing a shot ring in and forcing a save with just a minute of injury time.
Gibraltar u21 grabbed their first point and first goal in the group matches as they secured a 1-1 draw against Bulgaria u21 repeating the senior teams success against Bulgaria
The Under 21s achievements come on the same week that league clubs have been calling for a reduction on home grown player numbers on the field in the domestic league. Something which many feel would reduce the playing time of many of the players on the field against Bulgaria if it were to be accepted. Youth players have recorded more playing time in the domestic league since the five home grown player rule was introduced, this seeing players now enter the under 21 ranks and some progressing straight into the senior national squad. Gibraltar this week recording a historic draw against Bulgaria, ranked at 73, in the nations league also.