Gibraltar defeated by Macedonia after disastrous first half
North Macedonia 4-0 Gibraltar
Gibraltar entered the match against Macedonia with many questions still being asked as to their capacity to perform well in League C.
Their first half performance against Macedonia raising those concerns immediately as Gibraltar were struck with one blow after another within the first quarter of an hour.
Gibraltar’s defence rattled after an early goal.
Gibraltar’s confidence was once again put to the test.
As Colin Ramirez former Gibraltar international suggested during his participation as a pundit prior to the match against Macedonia Gibraltar still lacked the confidence required. But this was something he believed would come in time as players developed and grew internationally.
Gibraltar’s start against Macedonia however, saw how Gibraltar struggled to find their confidence and regain composure after they have been struck a blow.
For Gibraltar the one change in their line-up from their historic draw against Bulgaria saw Coleing missing from the squad after not travelling to Macedonia. Christian Lopez getting a call up whilst Bradley Banda took over the role as Gibraltar’s keeper.
Macedonia started the match under increased pressure after their recent defeat.
Players had complained about the surface in Gibraltar and did not believe that UEFA matches should be played on such a surface. Losing against Georgia added to their woes.
However, with a small squad Gibraltar faced a difficult task playing their fourth match in twelve days. Heavy rain and their physical fitness was expected to tilt the balance against Gibraltar.
Confidence and slow in regaining their composure was however to prove the biggest problem after taking an early blow.
The match did not attract a large crowd with the 33,000 capacity hardly impacted with row after row empty across the stadium.
It was a tentative start for both with both teams settling down their lines in the early couple of minutes.
The first blow for Gibraltar came within the first five minutes as Lope was to pick up a yellow card for a handball as Macedonia tried to put a throughball down the middle.
The free kick, at the edge of the penalty box through the centre was to beat Banda, rebound off the post and curl back in for Macedonia’s first goal within the first five minutes. Bardi scoring. This saw Gibraltar’s defence rattled.
Macedonia immediately put Gibraltar under intense pressure with Gibraltar’s defence reforming to a 5-4-1 as players dropped back and defended deep. The unity which had seen them perform positively in their two previous matches however not present in those early minutes.
With six minutes gone Nikolov struck the cross bar as Gibraltar tried to weather the storm.
Gibraltar settled down momentarily and saw Walker delivering a couple good balls. The first just inches over Britto’s head as he run into Macedonia’s goalmouth. The second cut as it searched for Torrilla who was running down the flank into a danger position.
Macedonia, although slowed down by Gibraltar, kept their offensive momentum forward. Prodding at Gibraltar and exposing their vulnerabilities in defence.
Bardi was to produce a brilliant delivery from a free kick from the left which saw Miovski flick to the far post to beat Banda on the thirteenth minute Macedonia going 2-0 up.
Within two minutes a mistake clearing their lines in front of goal saw Miovski add his second. After an initial attempt had been blocked, although five defenders were in front of Miovski, it was the latter who confidently turned the ball through the defence to goal.
With just a quarter of an hour gone Macedonia we’re already 3-0 up and looking as if they wanted more.
Banda produced a good block after Bardi was gifted the ball from a stray pass back from Walker which left the defence backtracking just a couple minutes after the third goal. Gibraltar struggling to find their feet after going down so early on in the game.
Banda was to make another good stop, blocking with his foot as Miovski had another attempt.
Gibraltar responded with Lee Casciaro holding the ball well upfront and setting Valarino up for a shot which had Siskovski stretching to save.
Macedonia seemed to be queuing up for goal with a last ditch lunge from lope clearing off the lines as again Bardi had a shot from within the six yard box after Macedonia sliced through the defence with just twenty- five minutes gone.
Gibraltar did not give up from trying to go forward. Jayce Olivero and Casciaro linking up well which saw Torilla with a shot blocked for a corner.
Gibraltar were outdone once again on the half hour. Bardi sending a well timed chipped pass to Todoroski running behind the defence towards the by line. The latter’s one touch pass to Churlinov producing Macedonia’s fourth goal.
The latter quarter of an hour of the first half saw Macedonia slowed down but playing comfortably on the ball. Gibraltar lacking in their final pass in the last third of the pitch and struggling to place any real danger on Macedonia’s goal when their went forward.
The first half was to finish with Macedonia leading 4-0 and removing the pressure they had seen build around them after their previous two performances.
There was some sighs of relief as Bardi was substituted at half time removing one of Macedonia’s key playmakers and menace to Gibraltar’s defence.
Gibraltar also saw a substitution with Torrilla replaced by Ronan in what was a like for like change.
Macedonia started the second half commanding possession once again as Gibraltar sat back and maintained a tight formation at the back.
It was backs to the wall for Gibraltar in the first few minutes with even Lee Casciaro sitting back with the midfield leaving no target man for any long balls cleared from defence. Macedonia coming back at them time and again.
It was not until the tenth minute that Gibraltar were able to get the ball past the halfway line under their possession. Although they were not to go far as Macedonia regained possession again.
Gibraltar were to make three more changes after just a quarter of an hour.
Reece Styche and Sergeant joined by Joseph Chipolina, the latter a controversial choice who had this season been sanctioned by UEFA after failing an anti-doping test during a Europa Conference League match but remaining in the national squad. Although his selection had raised many eyebrows officials indicated before the Nations League started that whilst having served his sanction the player was eligible for selection by the national team selectors as there were no policies in place on this issue and he had served his sanction.
Britto, Roy Chipolina and Lee Casciaro were the players replaced as Ribas added fresh legs on the field.
Gibraltar were able to stop Macedonia’s flow as they reformed and regained the unity in formation which had produced results defensively for them in the past.
On the 72nd minute the match came to a minor pause after a pitch invasion from a Macedonia fan trying to get a selfie. This allowing Ribas to replace Valarino for Jolley. The fan was quickly escorted off the field and play resumed immediately.
Gibraltar maintained a tight defensive formation which gained inches forward slowly and kept the host team at bay throughout most of the second half. The home fans having little to cheer on as their team was kept from producing any real threat on Gibraltar’s goal during the second half.
Macedonia first real chance did not come until the 83rd minute from a free kick at the edge of the box. The ball shot well wide over the crossbar.
Macedonia then had two long distant attempts which were easily dealt with.
Chipolina was to receive a yellow card with three minutes to go adding to Gibraltar’s yellow card tally during the four matches. Sergeant also getting a card moments earlier.
He was then to send a good delivery to Styche who earned a free kick at the edge of the box. Walkers free kick forcing a block from the keeper as it curled towards the post. This was Gibraltar best and only chance during the match.
Macedonia were denied a fifth goal by the post after Ethemi curled over the defence to the far post. The ball cleared for a corner.
This was the last action of the match as the referee blew for the end as they took the corner. Gibraltar succeeding in stopping what had looked as a goal rush after conceding four in the first half.
Following their two positive performances at home, and their two 4-0 defeats away from home Gibraltar’s head coach would now have the summer to find how to overcome the problems faced. Gibraltar’s final two Nations League matches will be played in September.