Gibraltar frustrate Irish once again, this time on grass
There was no weather to blame or plastic pitches this time as Gibraltar repeated their performance against the Republic of Ireland losing only by two goals. A first half own goal and a very late injury time goal.
Mick McCarthy, the Republic of Ireland manager had warned his players before the match not to take Gibraltar for granted.
The draw against Denmark, he warned meant nothing if they didn't win against Gibraltar. After the first forty-five minutes, McCarthy's warning looked as an astute assessment of what Ireland faced.
Gibraltar's last trip to the Aviva had seen Gibraltar easily beaten 7-0.
Yet this Monday at the Aviva Stadium not only did they show they were there to give the Irish a hard time, they illustrated they had developed substantially since first coming to Ireland. The fact that Ireland’s only goal by half time had come from a ricocheted ball off Joseph Chipolina's chest to a McGoldrick attempt which send the keeper the wrong way clearly illustrated this.
Gibraltar frustrated the Irish from the start. Even though they suffered an early blow with Lee Casciaro leaving the pitch with an injury, Gibraltar still posed the Irish a challenge.
Tjay de Bar from the start demonstrating that he could take advantage of Ireland's vulnerability at the back when on a one on one.
It was quiet apt that Lee's replacement was Anthony Bardon who played his final international.
Ribas had also opted to leave Anthony Hernandez out, instead playing his brother Andrew. Alain Pons also coming in from the start.
In goal Kyle Goldwin was a further prove of Gibraltar's development since they first played at the Aviva. Goldwin was now Gibraltar's first choice keeper. A massive contrast to 2015 when he played in the second division and was at the match against Ireland as a Gibraltar fan.
Gibraltar took to the field with the same game plan as they had done in the home
leg. Frustrating Ireland and forcing them into errors. In the first half Gibraltar played the offside trap well to Ireland's continued annoyance.
Just 1-0 behind after the first half Gibraltar did not change much in their approach at the start of the second half. Absorbing the pressure, and keeping their composure Gibraltar bid their time for a chance to go forward.
On the 55th minute Goldwin's quick throw left Walker, Hernandez and De Barr on a three on three with the Irish defence. Unluckily Walker's finish was not best.
Goldwin within seconds had to hit the ground to save another pinball goal attempt from Ireland.
Gibraltar's prodding to goal saw Ireland trying to step it up as they heeded the warnings that Gibraltar were capable of producing the equaliser.
As Gibraltar reached the hour mark it was the physical condition of the players which posed the greatest concern. The part-timers against professionals had in previous occasions played its part at this point of the match. However, since Ribas’ arrival Gibraltar players had sought that extra determination to keep their composure. The Irish increased further the pressure on Gibraltar's defence who pulled up their sleeves and were more than once to throw their bodies in front of the ball.
Ethan Britto was to come on at this stage for Alain Pons adding to Gibraltar's defensive options on the left.
Goldwin produced a great one arm stop to a Hogan shot just seconds before the Irish player was substituted for McGuire.
Tjay De Barr was then to forced Stevens into a yellow card as he ran free.
Predictions of a 5- 0 win by the Irish media started to look like fantasy.
A seventy-one minute strike to the post was really only their third real attempt on target for the Republic of Ireland.
Those who had believed Gibraltar would be sluggish after the long trip to Georgia and the 3-0 defeat on Friday were being proven wrong by a resolute and disciplined performance by Gibraltar.
Ethan Jolley was to be Gibraltar's third substitution. He was to replace Andrew Hernandez who had taken knock. Ribas opted to further strengthen his defensive options.
Gibraltar were backs to the wall in the final ten minutes but with the score at 1- 0 they were proving the result at the Victoria stadium was not due to the state of the pitch or weather conditions. Keeping their discipline and focus Gibraltar’s "warriors" as Ribas called them were doing as instructed and giving their all up to the final minute.
It was Mick McCarthy with the worried face as his team struggled to find a way through and only five minutes left.
Ireland took the three points but only through an own goal from a shot which looked to be going well wide of the target and a very late injury time goal. Although defeated Gibraltar turned another page in it's football history. Five years on from being beaten 7- 0 at the Aviva Stadium they walked out with just a 2-0 defeat against group leaders the Republic of Ireland.