Gibraltar stay goalless as they fall to Republic of Ireland
Gibraltar 0-4 Republic of Ireland
Republic of Ireland head coach Stephen Kenny and Gibraltar head coach Julio Ribas were both under pressure to get results from their teams. For Ribas, with a contract understood to be until 2026, it was not so much pressure on his future as the national coach, but rather on Gibraltar's on-field performance. With zero points and no goals to their name, Gibraltar saw the Republic of Ireland as their last chance to at least try and score a goal. Gibraltar's next two matches will see them face the Netherlands and France.
Following the Republic of Ireland's loss to Greece, and with France already having qualified, they were playing for pride rather than points for qualification. Approximately 1000 Gibraltar fans turned up at the Algarve stadium, with over 3000 Irish fans in the visitor stands. This figure would have overwhelmed the present Victoria Stadium, at least for the away fans.
It took the Republic of Ireland just seven minutes to score. A cross from the right flank to Ferguson delivered the opening goal. Roy Chipolina was beaten to the run, and the ball bounced into the net as Coleing went the wrong way.
Pozo narrowly escaped a card just a minute later with a late tackle close to the box. The subsequent free-kick was well collected by Coleing as he rose out of his goalmouth to assert his command inside the penalty area.
Gibraltar, who had yet to beat Ireland after five matches and had conceded 17 goals before this encounter, found themselves pushed back into a defensive role. An initial surge forward in the early minutes of the match slowly faded as Gibraltar struggled to come out of their half.
With eight players blocking the way for Ireland, there was little space for the Irish to find a way to the goal. Gibraltar's disciplined defense prevented the early goal from turning into a flood of goals as the Irish maintained their pressure.
Gibraltar had few offensive options, and Tjay, the sole forward, struggled to see much of the ball in the first twenty minutes. A rare chance to shield the ball saw De Barr force a free kick. Liam Walker's delivery to the far post was too close to the keeper, who had little trouble claiming it.
Ireland was immediately at the other end, earning a corner and once again pressing Gibraltar into their own box. After defending two consecutive corners, the third saw Duffy miss from a tight angle at the far post with 25 minutes gone. Moments later, McGrath found space to whip in a shot, heading for the top corner, which Coleing saved well. The subsequent corner provided an opportunity for some breathing space after Ireland lost possession. However, a hurried release of the ball from defense gave it back to the Irish, as Gibraltar struggled to retain possession.
Repeating the same type of pass, which gave De Barr no chance to retain possession without support, provided Ireland with the ball again. Quick passing allowed Doherty to deliver a well-timed pass to Johnson, who hit the post before knocking in the rebound with 30 minutes gone. This was the eighth chance in front of goal for Ireland, and Gibraltar was yet to have an attempt at goal.
With a two-goal lead, Ireland looked comfortable on the ball, while Gibraltar remained deep in their own half. Coleing once again did well as he anticipated a through ball that had sliced through Gibraltar's defense, making a quick reaction to clear the danger.
Gibraltar, playing too deep into their own half, risked losing the ball with ease whenever they tried to go forward. The distance between Gibraltar's sole forward and defense grew as the match progressed, leading to difficulties in retaining possession.
Gibraltar had their first attempt on the 46th minute, with Tjay de Barr making a massive run across two-thirds of the pitch, giving Britto a cross. Walker finally collected and had a shot, which went just wide of the post. This marked Gibraltar's first attempt at goal in two matches.
Gibraltar's lack of confidence in keeping possession and reliance on long kicks forward was evident as they went into halftime with a two-goal deficit. Ribas made no changes to his first eleven at halftime.
It was no surprise that the Republic of Ireland started the second half as they had finished the first. Gibraltar deep in defense, with Ireland getting their first three shots on goal within the first two minutes. Coleing made two good blocks, and Shane Duffy delivered a powerful shot that went just wide of the post.
Britto earned Gibraltar a free kick after allowing Duffy to climb over him. Walker's delivery forced a corner, which he delivered himself. The ball was cleared by the defense, and Ireland attempted to counter. Fortunately, a slip halted the counter. However, within seconds, Coleing was screaming at his defense as Knight was allowed a free header behind the defense.
Chipolina was penalized for an accidental handball, leading to a free kick that Ferguson sent over the top. Louie Annesley received a yellow card after pushing Cullen to the ground in front of the referee, even though he had been held himself.
The match became stop-and-start due to some feisty challenges, with Tjay de Barr having a rare attempt at goal. His shot went wide. Moments later, Gibraltar earned a corner, marking one of their best twelve minutes in close to three matches.
As the match approached the hour mark, Gibraltar was once again tracking back as Ireland refocused and continued their momentum forward. Gibraltar's defense blocked the way to the goal but struggled to get out of their own penalty box. A corner on the sixtieth minute allowed Doherty to header in at the back post. Ireland went three goals ahead and looked poised to score more.
On the 65th minute, Tjay de Barr went down, requiring some treatment, and Ribas prepared to bring on Coombes and Casciaro. Jayce Olivero and Pozo were substituted, while De Barr was replaced by El Hmidi.
Doherty received a yellow card on the 72nd minute after a series of tough challenges from both sides. An energized Gibraltar midfield, with Coombes and Casciaro adding some spice to Gibraltar's pressing. Coleing made another great save with his feet from a shot by McGrath after Ireland made their way to goal.
Robinson, who had just come in moments earlier, headed in Ireland's fourth goal, rising above Gibraltar's defense to meet a McGarth cross on the 80th minute. A VAR check confirmed there was no offside.
Ronan and Roy Chipolina were replaced before the match resumed, with Evan De Haro and Joseph Chipolina coming on. Sergeant received a yellow card for a deliberate body barge.
Gibraltar, despite introducing more offensive-type players, continued to play with a five-four formation at the back, leaving little space between the two lines and making it a solid nine in defense when deep.
Although Gibraltar gained some ground to get out of their final third, they struggled to get beyond the halfway line. Not until the 87th minute did a charging run from Casciaro force McGrath to commit a foul. The ensuing free kick saw Joseph Chipolina attempt a shot from the tightest of angles, hitting the ball into the side netting.
Two minutes later, Gibraltar had another good chance with a three-pass move, but Coombes' pass into the middle didn't quite reach El Hmidi, who had been crowded out. Despite this, Gibraltar showed more positive play in the final ten minutes of the match, although they faced a 4-0 defeat.
The questions on Gibraltar’s lack of opportunities or attempts on goal still leaving many questions as to Gibraltar’s performance. Especially the lack of confidence in possession which led to Gibraltar losing possession with great ease.
Defender Jack Sergeant after the match commenting on GBC that the lack of confidence in possession was not a direct result for Julio Ribas instructions, where the coach had asked to play the ball, but on the players’ confidence on the pitch.