Bruno Magpies newest winner of Rock Cup
Bruno’s Magpies became the latest Rock Cup winners. They were to become only the third team to have won the Rock Cup during a Gibraltar football league season since Gibraltar entered UEFA, Lincoln Red Imps and Europa being the other two sides, and St Joseph having won it in 2013, the same year Gibraltar entered UEFA but with its season starting before membership.
The Magpies victory crowned what has been an impressive transformation of the club’s fortunes since the arrival of Nathan Rooney as head coach. The self-belief in their gameplay and their industrious approach to the game ensuring that the 2022/23 Rock Cup final had all the excitement expected.
It took a penalty shootout to separate the two sides in the end after the official ninety minutes was to end at 1-1.
League Champions Lincoln Red Imps, although grabbing the early lead with a goal from Yahaya, were unable to capitalise on their lead and had to battle it out to stay in the match with Bruno Magpies not easing off the pace.
A sixtieth minute goal from Bent ensured that the last half hour of play brought about tense moments for both sides as they looked for the winner.
The final, played on Thursday evening, on the eve of a long bank holiday, was to see a low attendance in comparison to other years.
Streamed live and with many Gibraltarians opting to take a long weekend break away from the Rock for the May Day bank holiday the prospects of a low attendance had always been a risk faced by organisers.
The match was to see a total of seven yellow cards as referee Tim Reoch tried to keep the game flowing, although many a controversial moment was seen in which the tensions and hard challenges saw calls for tougher action.
At both ends both Coleing for Lincoln Red Imps and youngster Jaylan Hankins were tested with both producing important saves during the match. Hankins keeping Bruno Magpies hopes of coming back into the match with some important blocks which kept Lincoln Red Imps from snatching a second.
Undaunted by Lincoln Red Imps, Bruno Magpies maintained their momentum and prodded on Lincoln Red Imps goal creating their opportunities. The action was to go from end to end with Bruno’s finally making the breakthrough in the 60th minute which was to set a new pace to the match.
Bent was to start the move with some good pressure in midfield seeing him steal the ball. Bruno’s produced a string of quick passes which saw the ball flung from the flank into the back post where Diaz tapped it into the middle across the goalmouth where an unmarked Bent was at the ready to nudge the ball across the line for the equaliser.
Bruno’s had been threatening to equalise for some time with high pressure not allowing Lincoln Red Imps to move the ball freely.
The constant pressure from both sides with the unrelenting pace in the final half hour was to see the match officials busy as the tensions rose. Opportunities at one end were met with quick breaks at the other making for an entertaining match for neutrals, but a nerve wrecking one for club fans.
With neither side breaking the deadlock the match entered into extra time which saw the tensions rise even further. The physical aspect of the match seeing some individual tensions between players in the middle of the field as both sides tried to gain ground on each other. Frayed tempers seeing some controversial off the ball moments with some playacted dramas which saw calls for red cards, although match officials remained focused and ignored the pressures placed in them by both players and fans from both sides.
The stop and start extra time, with the many fouls and incidents did little to break the deadlock.
The match was to head into a penalty shootout. With both keepers making a save, the penalty shootout was to keep the intensity of the excitement boiling. A miss by Valarino paved the way for Bruno Magpies.
Thirty-seven year old veteran Galan was to become the final hero as he stepped forward to take Bruno’s fifth penalty. A composed well executed attempt saw Coleing diving for the other side as the ball hit the back of the net providing Bruno Magpies with their historic first Rock Cup title. Capping a season in which they had made it into European club competition football for a second time after finishing third in the league and establishing them as one of the top teams in the Gibraltar football league.