Gibraltar face defeat at hands of Malta
Malta 1-0 Gibraltar
Gibraltar had a valuable testing opportunity before this Sunday’s group qualifier match against Greece with an international friendly against Malta. The first half ended scoreless, featuring a changed starting eleven and limited chances from the hosts, providing Gibraltar with a significant confidence boost for the upcoming Sunday. However, many lessons were learned from a fatigued-looking second half performance, where Malta displayed superior performance on the field.
In the second half, Gibraltar conceded a goal, resulting in a 1-0 defeat. Few opportunities were created in the second half, leaving Gibraltar without a goal for the fifth consecutive match.
Gibraltar initiated their international friendly against Malta with confidence, as evidenced by several surges forward within the first three minutes, while also preventing Malta from advancing beyond the halfway line.
Both Gibraltar and Malta entered the match with similar recent experiences of frustrating their opponents and keeping scores low. Gibraltar achieved this against France and the Netherlands, while Malta had a notable performance against England. Given Gibraltar’s prior victories over Malta, this was seen as an opportunity for a positive outcome.
Despite this, the host team, Malta, demonstrated their intent with a testing shot by Coleing after just six minutes, forcing a corner kick.
As the match progressed, Malta began to settle and gained greater possession, although Gibraltar showed that the two teams were evenly matched. Tjay De Barr returned to the lineup, with head coach Julio Ribas also starting with Pozo and Hartman in the first eleven. Pozo, from Cadiz youth, and Hartman, playing in the US College football league, represented a different style compared to some of Malta’s professionals in the English league. Nevertheless, Ribas had previously featured both Gibraltar players against the Netherlands and France.
Jayce Olivero, who had captained Gibraltar in their last match against Malta, remained on the bench, with Mouelhi included in the starting eleven alongside Chipolina and Lope. A focused Coleing prevented Gibraltar from early embarrassment with a save from a surprising long-range attempt on the 11th minute.
Gibraltar earned their first corner after fifteen minutes, but the near-post delivery forced Malta to scramble the ball clear as Gibraltar began to assert their dominance and temporarily control possession.
However, Gibraltar soon lost possession, reverting to their familiar defensive posture, allowing Malta more time with the ball. Tjay De Barr expressed frustration after sending his shot skyward in the 21st minute, despite having an opportunity created by Britto’s long ball forward.
Despite Gibraltar being ranked 198th in the FIFA rankings compared to Malta’s 171st, the match remained evenly balanced in the first half-hour, with both teams canceling each other out and limited opportunities at either end.
Tjay De Barr forced the first yellow card after a foul by Enrico Pepe, though Gibraltar failed to capitalize on the subsequent free kick. A lack of precision in Gibraltar’s play allowed Malta an attempt at goal, which was comfortably held by Coleing.
Gibraltar briefly went on the offensive but lost possession after a referee’s oversight on a clear shirt grab on Walker by defenders near the penalty box. This provided Malta with an opportunity to push forward, though Gibraltar regained possession, bolstering their confidence on the field.
Malta had a chance to exploit an offside trap but encountered a solid block by Gibraltar’s defense, thwarting the goal-scoring opportunity. Gibraltar immediately countered, with Kian Ronan receiving an arm to the face without punishment. Tjay De Barr received a yellow card following a confrontation with Malta’s defenders and goalkeeper.
Yellow cards continued to accumulate for Gibraltar, with Hartman also receiving a booking after a late challenge.
As the match opened up further, Malta attempted a goal through Guillaumier, but Coleing made a crucial save in the 38th minute. The first half offered few opportunities for both teams, resulting in an evenly contested yet unexciting encounter.
The match lacked substantial support from the stands, with over two-thirds of the stadium unoccupied. In the final moments of the first half, Tjay De Barr seized on a loose ball in the 45th minute, delivering a low-driven shot on target. Goalkeeper Bonello made a decisive block as both teams entered halftime without scoring but accumulating yellow cards.
Ribas opted not to make any changes at the start of the second half, attempting to maintain momentum. However, Malta intensified their game, and Gibraltar was forced to defend against several early chances by the hosts.
Gibraltar faced a critical moment as they were compelled to clear a dangerous corner, despite Hartman signaling to leave it due to no imminent danger. The defensive efforts, including saves by Coleing and a defender, prevented Gibraltar from conceding.
Shortly thereafter, Gibraltar faced adversity when Lope was stretchered off due to an awkward fall while clearing the ball. Ethan Jolley was substituted in, but Lope’s injury posed a challenge as Gibraltar prepared to face Greece on Sunday.
Jolley took up the flank position, while Sergeant assumed a more central defensive role. Malta capitalized on these changes, with Mjbong controlling the ball at the edge of the box and striking a powerful volley into the top corner, beyond Coleing’s reach, putting Malta in the lead as the match reached its hour mark.
As players with limited recent competitive football experience since the summer began to show signs of fatigue, Gibraltar adopted a more defensive posture on the field. Malta nearly scored again from a corner, with a back-heel flick aimed at the unguarded goal.
Gibraltar found renewed energy in the final twenty minutes, advancing their lines while still maintaining a solid defensive posture that restricted Malta’s opportunities to score.
It wasn’t until the seventieth minute that Ribas made two further changes, introducing Casciaro and Santos in place of Ronan and Hartman. Casciaro assumed a role just behind De Barr and immediately made his presence felt through effective collaboration with De Barr.
Gibraltar’s defensive challenges persisted when Jack Sergeant left the field due to injury. Malta continued to dominate possession as Gibraltar prepared for another substitution. El Hmidi entered the field, and Casciaro shifted into a more defensive role. El Mouelhi, despite receiving a knock, remained on the field.
Malta tested Coleing again as Gibraltar adjusted their formation, tipping a long shot over the bar.
In the final ten minutes, Gibraltar settled into their adjusted roles but struggled to break forward. Despite maintaining possession for longer periods, Malta had the better chances. Coleing produced an exceptional save as Mbong attempted to curl the ball into the far post.
Five minutes of injury time failed to change Gibraltar’s fortunes as they succumbed to a narrow 1-0 defeat against Malta. In the closing minutes, Gibraltar adopted a deep defensive stance, facing three consecutive corners.
A final attempt by Lee Casciaro at the other end missed the target widely. Gibraltar now looks ahead to their upcoming match against Greece on Sunday.”