Gibraltar hockey get first points by drawing against hosts Portugal
A very strong performance by Gibraltar against host Portugal delivered their first point of the pool matches in the Hockey Open Series being played in Lousada.
Gibraltar walked into Saturday's match knowing that they still were very much in with a chance of not ending bottom of the group. Although playing hosts Portugal Gibraltar's performances in past matches had shown that they were capable of a result. The hosts had won one of their matches before Saturday. They had narrowly lost against Belarus, lost against Scotland 2-0 and beaten Turkey 5-4.
Saturday saw Turkey concede another 7 against Belarus who had only just beaten Gibraltar by a last minute goal. The Turks had also lost 17-1 against Russia. The latter on Saturday also sunk their claws into Scotland winning 4-1. Russia led the pool table with Belarus just behind. Gibraltar and Portugal were among the bottom three with Turkey. Before Saturday's match Portugal were ahead with their three points gained from Turkey.
Gibraltar were lucky not to concede in the very first minute when the ball was blocked by the keepers foot and as it continued to roll to goal and was saved on the line.
Gibraltar immediately took the game to Portugal showing that they were there to give them a strong challenge.
After another chance in which Gareth Henwood collected a long ball but was unable to find his colleague, Portugal spend the next few minutes with the possession.
The first period was turning out to be one where both teams were evenly balanced with play around the middle of the field as each tested each other's defences.
Towards the end of the period Gibraltar was pressing very high and were causing Portugal concerns as the latter tried to get out of their area. Running more at the ball Gibraltar were the ones who were having the more offensively dangerous play. The high pressure was keeping Portugal finding it difficult to get out of their half with ease. The first quarter came to an end with a 0-0 scoreline.
Portugal came out more offensively. Although Gibraltar's defence did not panic it still took a block from the keeper to keep out a shot at goal within the first two minutes of the second period.
Gibraltar played the first minutes with their backs to goal until they had a chance to get possession and turn the pace to their own. A long ball once again saw Henwood collect and putting it to the centre where the Gibraltar forward was unable to reach with only the keeper to beat.
Gibraltar were awarded a short corner just minutes after to the jeers of the Portuguese crowd. A mistake in controlling saw them miss out on a great opportunity to open the score. Thomas Silva however got a shot it which just went past seconds later.
Mistakes up front when not under pressure lost Gibraltar some opportunities. Gibraltar's final touch for goal letting them down at crucial times. Portugal faced being backs to their own goal as Gibraltar had turned the tables on them but not capitalised on the opportunities.
During the final five minutes before half time some nerves crept into Gibraltar's game with Portugal getting more possession of the ball. The Gibraltar bench immediately calling a stop to the negative chit chat that seemed to emerge between players and had seen some mistakes being made.
Gibraltar entered the half time break with a scoreless draw on the scoreboard.
The second half was started positively this time with Gibraltar taking the more offensive role in what was a very tightly balanced match. With the score on equal terms both teams had to keep their focus at a high level with both showing that they could reach the other's area in quick counters.
The pressure was, however, on the hosts who ranked higher than Gibraltar, and who as host would not have wished to lose their mid table position, especially with Gibraltar facing Turkey in the last match. To Portugal's frustrations Gibraltar continued with their high pressure, quick counters and gameplay leaving them little time to find their own rhythm.
With six minutes to go in the third period Gibraltar forced the Portuguese keeper to a save. Just as quickly Portugal stole and had a counter where a one on one with the keeper luckily ended with the ball driven wide off the far post.
Tired legs were seeing the game open up with just five minutes left for the third period to finish. Gibraltar found themselves being pushed back more in the latter stages of this period. However, defenders were well supported as players chased back and pressed in numbers to get possession back keeping Portugal outside the D.
With two minutes to go Portugal won a short corner, their first. They were to make no mistake as the ball was driven into the back of the goal to put them in the lead.
The Gib players did not hang their heads for long as they went out on the offensive from the first ball. Just as Gibraltar seemed to find a clear way to goal time run out with Portugal going into the short break with the lead.
Gibraltar put Portugal under pressure from the first seconds of the final quarter. In no time gaining a short corner as the host struggled under the pressure. Gibraltar this time made no mistake as the ball was driven to goal by Julian Lopez. Portugal 1-1 Gibraltar
Gibraltar had another opportunity to add to their tally but were denied at the goalmouth.
Portugal although pushing forward looked the team most under pressure and rushing giving Gibraltar more chances to take advantage of space and mistakes.
Disciplined solid defending with some quick offensive runs had the match going from end to end.
The gameplan seemed to work for Gibraltar who in four quick long stick passes from defence to attack saw the final ball driven into the D turned into goal by Cerisola with six minutes to go. Portugal 1-2 Gibraltar
Just a minute later Portugal were awarded another short corner, again they made no mistake as they put away the ball after taking the rebound from the keepers save. Portugal 2-2 Gibraltar.
Gibraltar were denied within the minute when a short corner driven ball was excellently saved by the Portuguese keeper as he headed to goal. With just three minute left Gibraltar couldn’t repeat when Henwood put ball into centre D but they were unable to turn to goal. The skies opened up this last three minutes with rain pouring down and the clap of thunder above.
With just over two minutes left the fast moving pace of the match saw Gibraltar defend another short corner. This time Portugal missed their chance to go ahead.
The host put on the pressure in this final two minutes, but Gibraltar were taking every opportunity to try and counter and pressure them high. They held on to take a deserved point from the match leaving with their head held high after securing a draw against the host with a 2-2 scoreline.
Gibraltar next play Turkey.