Gibraltar grab their first point in League C
Gibraltar produced another historic moment as it drew 1-1 against Bulgaria some 130 ranking positions above Gibraltar.
With an interim manager after their defeat against Georgia, Bulgaria were not the force they had been in earlier years, although they arrived at the match as the firm favorites.
From the start Bulgaria tried to impose their supposed superiority. However, Gibraltar were in their now routine rigid formation that has proven so hard to break, although not to the liking of many fans. As they gained confidence during the match Gibraltar also willing to take the match to their opponents.
The match saw an unusual moment when Chief Minister Fabian Picardo, who was one of the invited VIPs was escorted to the stands where Team 54 fans congregated. There he sat with them during the national anthem before returning to the opposite stand with the other VIPs.
A vociferous Team 54 was to become Gibraltar's twelve players as, in contrast to the match against Macedonia, a respectable attendance greeted players.
The fans were rewarded with a more offensive looking Gibraltar than they had seen during the European qualifiers.
After just two minutes Gibraltar had their first flurry into Bulgaria's penalty area. Julian Valarino putting in a cross into the centre of the penalty area as Wiseman also overlapped. His cross send to corner and this subsequently cleared by Bulgaria.
Although pushed back by Bulgaria for a while Gibraltar had more of a bounce in their offensive nature. Looking to go forward more from the start.
Ethan Britto was to get an early yellow card after seven minutes of play but after realising his mistake the Finnish official was to cancel the card and gave it to Liam Walker.
Gibraltar earned a corner after Julian Valarino again forced defenders to hurriedly clear as the youngster unsettled the defence with his runs.
The corner from Walker although met by Lope and blocked by a defender was given as a goal kick to the dismay of Gibraltar fans and players.
It was Torrilla next who surged forward down the line. Soon after Julian again beating his marker his cross not quite reaching Casciaro as he might have wanted, who was well blocked by the defender in front of goal. His attempt forced wide.
Bulgaria nearly scored the first. A ball into the area was sent lobbed over Coleing, who outstretched, managed to send the ball over the bar for a corner. Moments later he was forced again to do the same, with fifteen minutes of the match gone.
Gibraltar responded immediately by earning themselves another corner and threatening inside Bulgaria’s area. The visitors struggled to clear their lines. Gibraltar’s high pressure having its effects on the visitors who were forced to backtrack.
With Gibraltar more open in their offensive game the match was going from one end to the next.
Gibraltar using all its resources to trying and put the ball into Bulgarias area. From long throws by Wiseman to surging runs and constant pressure from the likes of Lee Casciaro upon defenders.
Gibraltar piled the pressure on abukgaria when in possession. On the thirtieth minutes Wiseman put a ball into the edge of the box which was stopped by Lope and laid for Chipolina to put in an attempt at goal.
Gibraltar’s three main defenders playing an offensive role already with half an hour gone, something which had not been seen in past games when they had been more defensive in nature.
Gibraltar’s confidence was growing as they entered the latter part of the first half. Bulgaria struggling to find a pathway to threaten Coleing goal. Whilst Gibraltar were proving a handful when surging forward. Especially Julian Valarino and Lee Casciaro.
A corner delivery by Walker was flicked at the near post by Ethan Britto and met by Roy Chipolina at the far post. Unfortunately, his final header just going wide over the bar as the match entered the final two minutes of the first half.
Fate seemed to be going once again against Gibraltar when Bulgaria were to score in injury time. Officials and VAR rejecting claims for a handball which allowed Bulgaria to run away on the break.
Bulgaria securing a goal on the very last action of the first half and against the flow of play.
Gibraltar started the second half on the backfoot with Bulgaria piling the pressure.
However, a quick break after just three minutes saw Lee Casciaro receive and put in a low cross which was met by Julian Valarino. The youngster's cross blocked by Vutsov’s foot. Bulgaria pouncing on the rebound to clear.
This saw what had been a silent crowd rise behind its team. Gibraltar starting to regain the confidence it had shown in the first half.
An equally level match saw Bulgaria also creating their chances in the early moments. Gibraltar’s defence with Olivero, Lope, Chipolina and Wiseman handling the pressure well.
On the 54th minute Gibraltar forced a clearance from under the crossbar from Bulgaria with the keeper moments later stretching to ensure Valarino’s attempt went over the bar.
Just two minutes later a free kick from Liam Walker was deflected wide by the defensive wall. Officials on checking VAR opted to award Gibraltar a penalty. The defender judge to have blocked with his arm.
Liam Walker finally scored Gibraltar’s first goal in League C with an hour gone of the match and levelling the score.
Bulgaria upped the ante and piled the pressure in response. Some tight defending keeping to their formation and not panicking kept Bulgaria from any immediate attempt at goal. This one of Gibraltar’s most recent problems when they have conceded at crucial moments.
Gibraltar lived through some tense moments as they defended deep
Reece Styche was to come on along with Moeulhi as Gibraltar added fresh legs and looked to launch their own attacks.
Weathering the storm in the final ten minutes Gibraltar brought on Ronan as Valarino ended up injured after a tackle defending deep.
It was a tense five minutes especially for Gibraltar’s Victoria Stadium as Gibraltar protected what was a historic moment.
Holding tight at the back and with their twelfth man on the stands Gibraltar had to live through six more minutes of injury time.
For once after many recent matches both sides of the stands were singing a normal silent west stand cheering every ball Gibraltar gained every challenge they produced.
Even the yellow card for Bulgaria feigning a foul produced roars.
Gibraltar produced another historic moment as it grabbed its first point in League C. Gibraltar 1-1 Bulgaria.
Gibraltar celebrated its first points in League C in contrast Bulgaria's players some of whom held their hands to their head as some laid on the ground in disappointment.
League C with just three matches played by each nation was proving itself to be a roller coaster. Where Gibraltar had expected to gain some points against Georgia they had found themselves defending deep and ultimately losing 4-0. However, against the two sides who had been seen as the toughest of the two in the group Gibraltar had produced a spirited display, with greater offensive options. Whilst with Macedonia fate played against Gibraltar, against Bulgaria Gibraltar produced some of the goods they had hoped for. Even though a three-point result would have been a just reward.
The historic one point, will nevertheless boost Gibraltar's confidence as they now head to Macedonia to play their second match against them in under a week.