Full sweep as Europa claims fourth trophy this season
A 3-0 win by Europa FC against Lincoln Red Imps in the Gibetelecom Rock Cup final this weekend spelt out the start of a new era in local football.
Europa completed a unique clean sweep of senior trophies after beating Lincoln Red Imps 3-0 in the Gibtelecom Rock Cup Final played on Sunday at the Victoria Stadium.
It was the culmination of a hard-fought season that started with Europa beating Lincoln Red Imps in the Pepe Reyes Cup.
The Green Machine then went on to break Lincoln’s 14-year dominance of the first division, winning the league last week immediately after claiming the Reserve league title.
With a place in the Champions League already guaranteed, the Rock Cup final was a place where both teams played for pride.
Both teams had beaten each other twice during the season. Europa had claimed the first two victories before the start of 2017. Lincoln had underlined why they were still the dominant force with a 3-1 and a 4-1 league victories immediately after.
Although all the tickets for the West Stand had been sold out, the Rock Cup final did not see the same numbers attend as in the previous encounters.
A decision to play the Rock Cup final on a bank holiday weekend was seen as the main reason numbers had dropped.
The crowd were, nevertheless, treated to an evening of drama from the start.
Two hours before the match fans from both clubs had already started to gather outside the stadium. Some with drums, others with their vociferous selfs.
Security had been stepped up around the stadium to the point that even photographers had their “water bottle tops” removed from them.
A police dog unit patrolled the area along with several officers positioned inside the stadium as part of what is now a routine scene during cup finals in Gibraltar.
After a quick opening ceremony in which the Minister for Sports Steven Linares and GFA President Michael Llamas greeted both clubs, and after a solemn one minute silence in honour of those who had died in the Manchester attacks, the battle between the two started in earnest.
With just fifteen minutes gone Lincoln were down to ten men when Kike was brought down by defender Lope.
The latter saw himself trailing behind a quick footed Kike who was heading alone to goal. With no option but to show the Lincoln player his marching orders, referee Jason Barcelo became a major protagonist of the match.
He was to see himself intervene later on in several tense incidents which would see more reds shown.
Four minutes had gone when Europa’s veteran Alex Quillo reached out for a cross swung in after a corner play. Quillo was to get to the ball with his head before Lincoln keeper Navas to put it into the back of the net for the first goal.
The Red and blacks faced a gruelling uphill struggle from then on as a rampant, confident Europa who had just won the league took advantage of the extra man to try and control the pace of the game.
Lincoln had their chances but seemed to be in disarray. A decision by the manager not to fill the gap had left them struggling to restructure at the back against a Europa more than willing at digging into their weaknesses.
As the match wore on Europa’s confidence grew. It was Kike who was to strike next on the 57 minute. As Lincoln tried to push forward. A sweeping move down the right saw a low cross to Kike’s feet inside the box slammed into the back of the net for the second. Navas grasped at air as the ball bounced off the back of the net.
Kike was to follow this up with a 68 minute curler from outside the area which had the crowd standing in ovation.
If there had been any doubt of Europa’s supremacy on the day, Lincoln players were duly ready to underline it.
First with Etchemaite getting his marching orders after a tangle with Moya. Just minutes after he saw his shot hit the post and bounce out. Next with Ryan Casciaro also walking early to the changing rooms after a second yellow.
With just eight men on the field Lincoln Red Imps chances were doomed. For the second weekend running Europa fans were to rejoice as their team lifted another trophy.
The disbelief in some of their own fans was evident as they stood on the terraces silent watching the Green Machine celebrate their fourth success of the season. This time with the Red and Blacks of Lincoln walking head down knowing that they had gone a whole season without a trophy for the first time in well over a decade.
It was Europa’s turn to celebrate in what many were now describing as a “new era” in football. Lincoln’s dominance in the league had been broken. However, their popularity had not diminished.
This was never clearer to see than as Lincoln young man Anthony Bardon walked home after their defeat. In a quiet Casemates square a young boy approached him and shook his hand, followed by two other young boys who soon also recognised him.
The Rock Cup final and the whole of the 2016/17 had seen the emergence of a new football challenger, but not yet the end of the team that had been the dominant force of football for over a decade.
“This is good for football, it had to happen some day” pointed out the father of a young footballer whose son plays for third placed St Joseph as he watched from the wings the Europa celebration.