Gibraltar players put their all to stop Norwegian avalanche
Norway’s hopes of using Gibraltar as their platform to reduce their goal difference deficit with the Netherlands in Group G of the European qualifiers was shattered by a resilient and brave defensive display by Gibraltar’s defenders and goalkeeper.
A much changed Gibraltar first eleven saw a very different back line with Ethan Jolley and Annesley joining Sergeant, Wiseman and Mouehli. Ethan Britto unavailable for the match against Norway and Roy Chipolina rested on the bench until the latter minutes of the second half.
With Dayle Coleing also picking up an injury prior to the match Ribas was forced to make a further change at the back putting in Kyle Goldwin in goal. The changes reduced Gibraltar’s effectiveness with high balls into the penalty area where Coleing’s commanding presence has proven to act as a clean sweeper at times for his defence.
Goldwin was, however, to stamp his mark on the match proving once again why he was recognised as one of Gibraltar’s top keepers. His cat-like reaction saves and his willingness to throw his body into the thick of it bringing about stop after stop during the nighty minutes that kept the score down. His saves praised by many as Gibraltar tried to stop wave after wave from Norway.
With the top of the table at stake Norway did not pull back any of their punches. From kick-off Gibraltar was confronted by a fast paced Norway littered with players playing across top leagues, including a hungry Haaland who had only scored twice in Norway’s previous five qualifier matches.
Haaland was to walk away with the match all after scoring a hat trick in their 5-1 win against Gibraltar but not without having to watch how Gibraltar frustrated the host time after time.
Calls to leave their skins behind on the turf by Gibraltar Head coach Julio Ribas, seemed to have been well heeded as Gibraltar on many occasions were literally throwing their bodies in front of goal to keep Norway from scoring.
It took Gibraltar the first quarter of an hour to settle down in defence before a nervy start, slowing down the pace s they weathered the storm.
With Norway coming at Gibraltar with all guns blazing there was really no doubt that Norway would eventually find the net. Thorstvedt was to crash the first ball past Goldwin from close range on the 23rd minute with Haaland finding the net just four minutes later.
It took Haaland just twelve minutes more to find his second and Norway’s third. Ironically the goal came from one of the best chances for Gibraltar after Annesley’s shot was blocked for corner. The subsequent corner ending with Norway clearing deep from defence and finishing in a counter attack that saw Haaland score.
With Tjay De Barr missing Reece Styche now had the burden to try and lead any offensive play. Gibraltar used to Tjay’s holding play and his willingness to face-off defenders found themselves losing many a long ball forward where Reece’s traditional centre forward play did not afford the same type of holding role. It was not until Gibraltar started playing shorter passes that they were able to find some pathways forward.
It was Valarino and Torrilla taking up a more prominent role of trying to win what sometimes seemed impossible balls that was to lead to celebrations for Gibraltar. Valarino intercepting a pass close to the halfway line saw the ball go for what was a 50/50 for Torrilla. The young midfielder did not hesitate to lunge for the ball and was able to make contact with it as Norways’ defence tried to clear, the ball falling into the path of Reece. With a calm composure the non-league forward, who would have today otherwise been playing an FA Vase Cup tie for Hednesford Town reached the ball before Norway’s keeper to clip it past him and directing it to the top corner for Gibraltar’s goal.
With just a few minutes remaining for half time the goal changed the scenes on the pitch as Gibraltar gained in confidence.
Fortune was to continue for a few more minutes on Gibraltar’s side as a decision to award Norway with a penalty was to be reversed through a review from VAR.
Scott Wiseman had been initially adjudged to have handled the ball as he slid in to block a cross across goal. The Gibraltar defender had, however slid in with his arms by his side and only being pulled back as he hit the ground. The action noted as having been unintentional. Under the new handball rules, if there is no intention in handling the ball and where the act happens because of the natural movement of the arm with no intention of making yourself bigger (in this case Wiseman’s arms clearly seen to have been attempted to keep close to the body) there’s no penalty. The referee was to reverse his decision with Gibraltar taking possession.
This was to boost morale as Gibraltar stepped out for the second half.
It was backs to the wall in the second half. With Norway already knowing how the Netherlands were ahead in the score against Turkey Norway went all out to increase their score.
Wave after wave was met by a resilient defensive display and some magical saves from Goldwin to the frustration of Norway’s attackers. Sorloth was to score Norway’s fourth but not after Annesley had blocked the initial attempt at goal. The number of attempts at goal were piling up as Norway produced a bulldozer type display with quick passing, focused solely in trying to get into the goalmouth to find the goal.
They had to wait until injury time before they grabbed their fifth and final goal, Haaland claiming his hat trick.
Gibraltar had by then shored up their defence further bringing on Roy Chipolina, Bosio and Joseph Chipolina as well as bringing on Pons and Coombes. Gibraltar’s goalscorer substituted in the final ten minutes.
Roy Chipolina’s entrance onto the pitch was to earn him his 53rd International cap equalling Liam Walker’s record.
It was to prove a disappointing one with Gibraltar losing 5-1 against Norway even though they had frustrated Norway enough throughout the match to not allow themselves to be considered the easy whipping boys of the group.
Surprisingly the heaviest defeat of the night in the group was experienced by Turkey who conceded a 6-1 defeat at the hands of the Netherlands. The latter not only gaining on goal difference against Norway who match them on points, but also securing the top spot in the group table.