Football: Jeff's 'diamond' sparkles
There weren't many surprises when Jeff Wood announced his starting XI for Wednesday night's 'Friendly' international against Liechtenstein - but one made an immediate impact.
The inclusion of young Jayce Olivero - Mascarenhas (17) in the squad as he joined the back four alongside skipper Roy Chipolina , Ryan Casciaro and JC Garcia. This 'freed'Joseph Chipolina from defensive duties allowing him to 'bomb' forward in what was soon evident as a midfield 'diamond'.
Aaron Payas brought a great presence at the base with our footballers Liam Walker and Anthony Bardon completing the quartet.
PICS: S. Ignacio
They played some exquisite football - collectively and individually - which thrilled the 'noisy' Stadium crowd (3/4 full). To complete the team, Kyle Casciaro and George Cabrera played 'up front'. - and 4- 4-2 looks the best format for Gib.'s talented pool of players. The arrival of 'Jayce' confirms , to me, that Gibraltar continues to produce outstandingly talented individuals - as I have witnessed during my 50 years. He demonstrated some 'tricks' which had the crowd gasping.
The whole team calmed down the initial threat from the visitors and took control of the game - especially down the left and the powerful Joseph Chipolina had a sight of goal and let fly just wide. (8th. min.) and a cross flashed across an open goalmouth. Liechtenstein broke fast through Kunhe but Roy Chipolina made a great intervention. Aaron Payas then 'did a Walker' when his fantastic long - range shot was tipped over by veteran keeper Jehle at full stretch. Gib. failed
to make the most of a succession of corners. The experienced , taller, Liechtenstein defenders were in charge of the high balls throughout the match. Liam Walker was totally committed in the midfield but did pick up a 'yellow'for his determination.
Then the visitors scored from a brilliant free - kick in front - or did they? As they celebrated, the Welsh referee Stewart said 'no!'- he'd seen an infraction in the 'tussle in the wall'. I can't imagine it happening at Old Trafford.
The visitors got back on the attack as half- time beckoned and our town Timmy Reoch ( 4th. official) signalling 1 minute added time. But then Liechtenstein had their best chance of the match when the Polverino broke through one on one with keeper Jordan Perez, who stunned us all again
by standing up and finger - tipping the ball across the face of goal. He's still number one No 1.
We sat back and discussed what we had witnessed. An all-out team effort by 'our lads' without an exception. Some superb defending and great ball skills on attack. If anything, 'too much football' with too many short passes going astray. Our 'front two' never stopped battling with big defenders.
We all wanted a goal but this was an International match against a team who had played 160 international matches and ranked 20 places higher than Gib. Goals are hard to come by at this level.
Liechtenstein took control from the restart with another great chance from sub. Wolfinger blasting high from 5 yards. Then an even better chance when Martin Buchel failed to ge a touch in front of goal. Anthony Bardon went down injured to be replaced by Jack Sergeant who was in the action sending JC Garcia away for his shot to be grabbed by keeper Jehle. Young Jayce Olivero saw his first 'yellow'. He was replaced by Jamie Bosio with Jeremy Lopez on for Aaron Payas.
Liam Walker was then mostly in the action but several attacking passes were cut out. But Gib. were attacking.
Coach Jeff Wood was as good as his word by using all his bench bringing on Robert Guilling and giving a first cap to Robert Montovio - and it almost worked. With the clock winding down Gib. pressed continuously as the crowd roared them on and there was a long Joseph Chipolina throw met by Guilling at the far post but just blocked. Erin Barnett came on for skipper Roy. Even then Walker tested keeper Jehle before the final whistle.
I had been thrilled by Gib's promising performance - playing the game they are capable of. The Rock produces players.What they need is matches! Over the next few days Jeff will be giving more of them a chance - on Saturday away to CD San Roque and next Tuesday at 'our Home' to Latvia, UEFA ranked 40.
See you there! JES