Gibraltar men’s hockey grab third win against Serbia
Gibraltar, following their 7-2 victory against Lithuania next met Serbia. The latter having come from a defeat at the hands of Croatia just immediately after Gibraltar’s victory on Tuesday. Serbia conceding seven on the day. Adding to their misery in the competition after a 23-0 defeat against hosts Poland on Monday.
Gibraltar still having to face Croatia and Poland knew they needed a good result to challenge for the top positions in their group. After two victories things were looking positive for Gibraltar’s men’s team but goal difference had seen them sit in third position with Poland leading the way followed by Croatia.
Gibraltar started by controlling the pace and keeping possession knowing that expectations were high for them to get a result. Although Serbia was an unknown opponent they had never faced before in Eurohockey competitions.
Tentative first minutes saw a slow start for Gibraltar with Serbia able to play into their half in the first five minutes.
It was not long before a long through ball by Stagno put Balban through. Controlling well and rounding the keeper Gibraltar put in their first goal on the scoreboard as they neared halfway through the first quarter. The goal seeing Gibraltar start to gather an offensive momentum as Serbia’s initial confidence dwindled and started to sit back into a defensive posture.
Serbia had their chance with six minutes left of the first quarter, but a soft shot was easily blocked by Gibraltar’s keeper and cleared by the defence.
The chance saw Serbia step forward and advance their lines penning Gibraltar into their half momentarily and showing they could pose a threat.
Regaining possession Gibraltar advanced with a swiped shot going across goal as they entered the last five minutes of the quarter.
Penning Serbia back into their half Gibraltar searched for their second with Hernandez seeing a shot go just wide of the target.
The first quarter was to finish with Gibraltar leading through a solitary goal and yet to up their gears with little evidence of their fast quick paced offensive shown.
The second quarter was to start with Serbia trying to press forward, Gibraltar’s defence keeping themselves solid in their positioning and halting the advance to send Serbia back to defend.
High pressure with numbers upfront saw Gibraltar threatening in front of Serbia’s goalmouth before the defence was able to clear the danger.
Gibraltar kept prodding at Serbia’s defence keeping possession and working their way forward as they tried to find a way through what was a packed defence.
With five players playing in a high advanced role Gibraltar maintained their pressure. Frustrations clearly growing among Serbia’s frontline as the ball was being intercepted between the 25 yard line and halfway line as Gibraltar penned their opponents back.
Gibraltar was to earn themselves a penalty corner with close to five minutes of the quarter played, a second consecutive penalty corner given as Serbia’s defence blocked a potential goal with their feet.
Stagno was to make no mistake with the second attempt with his driven shot slicing through the defence for Gibraltar’s second.
It was not long before Julian Hernandez added Gibraltar’s third. His surging run into the D providing him enough space to send through another well driven power shot which the keeper could do nothing about in stopping.
With Gibraltar leading by three goals halfway through the second quarter the match started to look as one way traffic in Gibraltar’s favour.
Serbia unable to send numbers forward when in possession for fear of leaving the gates open and leaving Gibraltar the pathway to keep prodding at them as they searched for a fourth.
Playing with confidence Gibraltar kept on ringing in the shots, denied by keeper and defensive blocks.
It was Serbia, however, who were to earn themselves a penalty corner with a rare surge forward with three minutes of the quarter left. Their opportunity wasted with a bouncing attempt to stop the ball returning possession to Gibraltar.
Gibraltar responded by taking the game back into Serbia’s goalmouth and earning a penalty corner.
This time a timely block by the keeper with his feet ensuring Serbia didn’t concede their fourth before the half-time break.
Serbia were again lucky not to concede with seconds to go before the half-time whistle clearing the danger just feet from the goal line. Gibraltar going into the half-time break with a 3-0 lead.
This did not prevent the Serbia keeper from dancing his way through the final minutes of the half-time break to the tunes played at halftime whilst live on eurohockey’s livestream.
The second half started with Gibraltar enjoying a few minutes of short passing possession in front of what was now a white and blue defensive wall.
Serbia held fast and had tentative attempts at putting on an offensive break but were soon intercepted with Gibraltar pressing forward and advancing inch by inch past the 25 yard line.
The pressure was to pay off as Gibraltar earned themselves a penalty corner with five minutes of the quarter played. The opportunity looked to have been wasted when the ball was not well controlled. However, a subsequent shot was to come in from inside the D hitting the post with some venom before bouncing away from everyone.
Gibraltar nevertheless kept prodding and within minutes were in front of Serbia’s goalmouth with Ethan Balban scoring his brace with some confidence.
With goal difference much in everyone’s minds, Gibraltar maintained their offensive momentum although keeping a defensive duo to protect their half in the event of a quick break.
Serbia saw another rare attack well saved by Gibraltar’s keeper before Gibraltar made a quick break searching for a fifth goal. The run with Balban and Lopez combining ended with a penalty corner which saw Julian Lopez’s strike blocked by the keeper before officials gave a foul for Serbia.
As the rain continued to pour and a train whistled by Gibraltar maintained their momentum forward giving Serbia little breathing space.
The few occasions Serbia had moments of possession they found themselves quickly blocked by a disciplined defensive formation with players quickly chasing back to put numbers in front of the defence. This stalling any attempts by Serbia to threaten Gibraltar’s goal.
The pace was to slow down in the latter part of the third quarter Gibraltar going into the short break with a 4-0 lead.
Although starting by pressing high Gibraltar found themselves defending deep in the first minutes of the final quarter as Serbia arrived at their goalmouth. A focused defence, with numbers packed in front of the keeper saw Serbia’s chance come to nothing as Gibraltar cleared the danger and immediately set to look for the fifth.
A penalty corner saw Gibraltar denied of a goal after officials considered that the ball had not been inside the D when struck.
Serbia were dealt a blow with one of their players getting a yellow just as they had started to advance again. With Gibraltar regaining possession Serbia were forced to defend deep inside their D giving away the seventh penalty corner with ten minutes still left on the clock.
After a short passing play brought the ball back to Stagno’s stick, he was to round the defenders marking him before letting off a well placed shot which went narrowly wide.
Another penalty corner with seven minutes left on the clock was to see the ball strike the post before Hernandez was to put it back to goal. His attempt denied by officials. Gibraltar came back again and once more earned another penalty corner yet again seeing their chance go to waste with the fifth goal looking an allusive target.
The fifth goal was to finally come with youngster Darren Cerisola scoring a field goal after confidently taking on defender and keeper and rounding them off before tapping the ball into goal. This bringing raised cheers from the small group following Gibraltar as the youngster grabbed a first senior competitive international goal.
Play opened up as the matched arrived into its final minutes, both teams leaving greater space as the gaps between defence and frontlines widened.
With the match now staggered there were no further opportunities seen with Gibraltar having ro content themselves with a 5-0 victory and knowing their results against Poland and Croatia will be crucial deciders for top places. Gibraltar, however though producing a good result still short on goal difference against Croatia and Poland’s results.
Data source - Eurohockey.org