Gibraltar defeated by Greece in first of the return to the home away from home matches
Gibraltar’s first home away from home European qualifier group match was to end in defeat at the hands of Greece as the “visitors” walked away with a relatively easy 3-0 victory.
Whilst the livery and banners had tried to bring the home team feel to the Portuguese stadium, a near empty stadium with just as many Greek fans and a Gibraltar fans, in what was a four hour drive away from Gibraltar home match did little to change the fact Gibraltar was playing on an unfamiliar environment.
The home advantage of playing on artificial turf was gone, with Gibraltar players accustomed to play week in week out at the Victoria Stadium having to adjust to playing on grass.
Julio Ribas’ selection process was also to raise much debate with ten Lincoln Red Imps players within the first eleven. Some of whom themselves had not featured as first team selection in their own clubs. Some having less than 300 minutes playing time this season under their belt.
With Gibraltar entering its tenth anniversary since entering UEFA, a return to Faro for its international matches was not something which many had greeted with open arms.
Selectors had also been hampered by selection problems, Scott Wiseman ruling himself out after deciding to travel with the Under 16s as head coach. Whilst TJay De Barr, who has recently returned from injury and has since started to find his way into the first eleven of a Wycombe Wanderers opting to stay away. A move supported by selectors and which saw the young player explain via social media for his reasons and express his regrets and how tough this decision had been for him.
Injury to Louie Annesley also left a gap in front of defence which was filled by Kian Ronan and Graeme Torrilla. although playing regularly for their clubs not recently first team line-ups for Lincoln Red Imps.
Gibraltar’s traditional start of the match which sees players turn to face the Rock during the national anthem was also missing, adding to the away from home-feel of the match.
Gibraltar soon faced Greece’s intentions to try and get an early goal.
With just 54 seconds on the clock Coleing was put to the test having to collect a cross into his goalmouth.
Greece started pressing on Gibraltar who had to keep their heads from early on.
Gibraltar, however, showed that they were not content on just seating back deep and on the third minute put in their own ball into Greece’s goalmouth.
The first ten minutes saw Gibraltar on the alert and holding Greece back. However, on the eleventh minutes Greece struck their first blow.
Moving the ball about with quick passes and dominating possession they were pushing Gibraltar towards one flank. The Gibraltar defence heavily congested in the centre but allowing space behind on the other flank.
This allowing Masouras time to pick his spot and score the first.
Greece maintained their momentum and were unlucky not to find the net again. A luckless Giakoumakis missing a couple good chances. The crossbar also playing its role in keeping the ball out as Gibraltar held on.
The lone figure of Lee Casciaro upfront did little to provide Gibraltar with any real opportunities. Ribas towards the latter part of the first half pushing Casciaro into a more midfield role whilst placing Julian Valarino upfront.
Gibraltar maintained a deep defensive posture, so much so that the midfield merged into defence providing Greece with space to advance.
Greece dealt Gibraltar a blow just before half-time as once again their quick passing infront of defence forced Gibraltar to defend deep and pack the centre. Siopos was to receive at the edge of the box in the middle and struck low through the defence. Coleing was unable to do much as he saw the ball fly past through his defence and to goal.
Gibraltar was to make no changes at half-time with Greece starting just as they had finished the first half pressing on Gibraltar.
Within two minutes Greece had their first attempt of the second half. Lee Casciaro forced to give away a foul on the right side of the penalty box as Greece were building momentum and opening Gibraltar’s defence. The freekick was to see Valarino block the attempt at goal.
With the Gibraltar midfield essentially a second defensive wall the gap between the lone attacker
Julian Valaririo and the rest of the team seeing Gibraltar easily losing the ball.
It was not until 56th minute that Valarino received a long ball which created a chance to attack
as he controlled well, held possession and allowed his teammates to come forward. However, just moments after losing possession a well timed through ball over the defence to a central run by Bakasetas allowed him time to control and find his spot for Greece’s third goal.
Julio Ribas made changes with Jamie Coombes coming in Valarino and Torrilla’s replaced by Mouehli. The changes doing little to change Gibraltar’s formation and being like for like in terms of roles.
It was not until the final ten minutes that Ribas was to make any significant changes to his formation.
Gibraltar already having been lucky to continue holding out, with Coleing making some fine saves and the defence blocking several attempts at goal. the woodwork also playing its part again on several, occasions as Greece found it hard to increase their tally.
Gibraltar had found their way forward with a short period of possession but where the tired legs were clear to see as Gibraltar made slow progress forward whilst in possession.
Walker was to get a chance to test Greece’s keeper but his shot heading to the top corner well saved by Vlachodimos.
With eight minutes to go Ribas brought an Jolley , Joseph Chipolina and Reece Styche.
Lee Casciaro, Britto and Ronan coming off.
The changes added some impact with Jamie Coombes, who had been a lone figure pressing on Greece’s defence given more support with Reece’s presence.
Gibraltar started to go forward earning a free kick on the 89th. Joseph Chipolina with a glancing header wide from a Walker delivery.
However, Greece did not stop looking for their fourth and it was Coleing who was to produce a fingertip save to deny Greece.
Gibraltar held on into injury time and were able to walk away with just a 3-0 defeat, although performance raised many questions which selectors will need to address as they next face Netherlands.