Gibraltar Show Resilience but fall to a fourth 3-0 group defeat this time against Republic of Ireland
In a highly anticipated match at the Aviva Stadium, following their 3-0 defeat against France, Gibraltar faced the Republic of Ireland in their fourth group stage encounter. Having lost their previous three matches by a 3-0 margin against Greece, Netherlands, and France, Gibraltar aimed to continue their impressive defensive display and cause an upset against an Irish side under pressure. Their previous results having placed some pressure on Gibraltar to try and get a result.
The Gibraltar lineup featured once again new faces in El Hmidi, Pozo, and Hartman, who had made an impact in their debut against France. Julio Ribas maintaining his trust in the three players.
Notably, Jayce Olivero and Jack Sergeant had also reached a significant milestone, earning their 50th international caps. Julio Ribas, Gibraltar’s coach, had emphasized the importance of players gaining international experience and developing a strong squad for the future.
Despite missing key players like Valarino, Torrilla, Walker, and having Annesley, Tjay, and Wiseman not fully fit, Gibraltar welcomed the inclusion of new players who would contribute to the team’s development in the coming years.
The match against Ireland carried an air of excitement, as Gibraltar had shown resilience against tough opponents and entered the game level on points with the Irish. The Republic of Ireland, on the other hand, faced criticism for their recent performances, making this match a potential decider for their head coach’s future.
The Aviva Stadium crowd, numbering 50,000, provided a stark contrast to the 4,000 spectators at the Estadio Algarve. Ireland was eager to prove themselves in front of their home fans, while Gibraltar’s players sang their national anthem with determination, focusing on the task at hand.
The match began with an early chance for Ireland, as Coleing, Gibraltar’s goalkeeper, had to make a crucial block within the first 24 seconds. Gibraltar showcased their attacking intent, pushing forward and defending in numbers when needed.
As the game settled, Gibraltar maintained their defensive formation, frustrating the Irish opponents who dominated possession but struggled to penetrate Gibraltar’s disciplined defense. O’Shea’s attempt from outside the penalty area in the 16th minute was comfortably saved by Coleing.
Gibraltar also had their chances, with a flicked header from Britto in the 17th minute, but it ended up as an easy catch for the Irish goalkeeper. The frustrations started to emerge for Ireland as Gibraltar held their ground and impeded their attempts at goal.
The Irish fans grew quieter as Gibraltar continued their focused defensive display, even as Britto suffered an injury following a challenge. Gibraltar’s shape remained intact, gaining confidence with every minute they denied Ireland a goal.
Approaching the half-hour mark, Ireland increased the pressure, with a floated ball across the goal causing Coleing to come out but miss the catch. However, Gibraltar’s defense held firm, frustrating Ireland’s attacking efforts.
Gibraltar’s long balls forward posed a threat to Ireland’s defense, and Sergeant received a yellow card for a lunge tackle that resulted in a free kick for Ireland. Coleing comfortably collected the ball from the ensuing free kick, frustrating the Irish once again.
As the first half neared its end, Ireland managed to test Gibraltar’s defense, with McGrath’s shot palmed away by Coleing in a great save on the 44th minute. The Irish fans headed to halftime with their team goalless, while Gibraltar achieved one victory in reducing the volume of the Aviva Stadium crowd.
At halftime, Julio Ribas made a change, bringing on Scott Wiseman to bolster Gibraltar’s defensive experience after losing Captain Roy Chipolina to injury. Tjay de Barr also entered the field, replacing El Hmidi, as Ribas adjusted his tactics earlier than usual.
Gibraltar started the second half with a corner in the first minute, ramping up the pressure on Ireland. However, Ireland earned a corner of their own in the third minute, resulting in a wasted set-piece as players collided.
On the 50th minute, Ireland gained a dangerous free kick at the edge of the box due to a foul by Bernardo Lope. Smallbone’s attempt to strike the ball into the net was blocked by Gibraltar’s wall, but Johnstone was quick to collect the deflection and tap it into the empty goal, catching Coleing off-guard.
With the lead, Ireland grew in confidence and immediately pressed Gibraltar’s defense. In the 59th minute, Ferguson found himself unmarked and scored with a free header, capitalizing on Gibraltar’s deep defensive line.
Gibraltar struggled to regain their composure after conceding early in the second half. Fatigue started to show among the players, and three substitutions had already been made. Coleing made commanding saves on the 66th minute, instilling confidence in Gibraltar’s defense.
Ireland and Gibraltar exchanged opportunities, with De Barr earning a corner for Gibraltar and Hartman having an effort saved by the Irish goalkeeper. Gibraltar made further substitutions, introducing fresh legs in Jolley and Ballantine, while remaining resolute in their defensive approach.
Tjay De Barr’s presence provided Gibraltar with brief moments of respite, allowing them to advance when possible and display some control over the ball. However, Gibraltar had to continue defending deep, with Coleing making crucial saves to keep the scoreline respectable.
In the closing minutes, McClean had a clear opportunity, but his shot was blocked by Annesley’s foot, sending the ball over the bar. Gibraltar continued to defend resolutely, but with tired legs, their lone attacker Tjay De Barr found himself isolated and lacked support in the attacking third.
Despite conceding two early goals in the second half, Gibraltar displayed resilience and maintained their objective of limiting the scoreline. The final moments of injury time saw Ireland score their third goal with a free header, securing a 3-0 victory.
While Ireland claimed all three points, they had to work hard against a stubborn Gibraltar side that consistently frustrated teams ranked higher than them. After four group matches, Gibraltar had managed to keep the scoreline at three goals against them in all encounters. This achievement showcased the progress Gibraltar had made since becoming UEFA members a decade ago, having faced heavy defeats initially but now displaying resilience and defensive solidity.