Gibraltar U21 frustrate Georgia although defeated 2-0
The Gibraltar U21 team embarked on a journey to Georgia, where they faced the hosts in their third Group C match of the Under 21 Championship group qualifiers. With the addition of Richards and Jessop to the midfield alongside Clinton, Stevens, and De Haro, Gibraltar boasted a mix of energy, all supporting Dylan Borge.
Nonetheless, this encounter promised to be a formidable test, as the hosts immediately displayed their determination by pressuring Gibraltar’s defense down the flanks during their first offensive moves. Avellano was quick to make an early intervention, clearing the ball from his penalty area.
Right from the early minutes of the match, Gibraltar found themselves pinned back in their own half, defending deep. Their long clearances did little more than return possession to their opponents.
The initial ten minutes saw Gibraltar surrendering possession with frequent long clearances while Georgia adeptly weaved passes to advance into attacking positions. Mamageishvili had an opportunity in the eighth minute, but his shot missed the target despite being unmarked with ample space.
Just two minutes later, Avellano made an incredible save to deny Gordeziani’s header, with the defense clearing the danger shortly afterward. However, Gibraltar’s goalkeeper could do nothing a minute later as Mamageishvili received the ball behind the defenders and capitalized on the opportunity to open the scoring.
Avellano was called into action again moments later, coming out effectively to block another attempt. Georgia was unfortunate not to convert from a low cross that crossed the goalmouth, with two players stretching to reach the ball.
Overwhelmed by Georgia’s relentless pressure, Gibraltar struggled to contain their surges, which kept them on the defensive. Frustration showed as Clinton committed a foul at the far left of the penalty area.
Within the first fifteen minutes, Gibraltar’s U21 found themselves trailing 2-0. A break down the right led to a floated cross into the six-yard box, met skillfully by Gordeziani’s header, leaving Avellano with no chance.
With a two-goal lead secured and Gibraltar yet to create any scoring opportunities, Georgia maintained their forward momentum but eased the pace. Avellano remained busy as the first half approached its half-hour mark.
Gibraltar finally had a chance to threaten Georgia’s goal in the 24th minute after a foul on Borge. However, the hosts closed down space effectively to regain possession. This marked the first time Gibraltar had ventured into Georgia’s half.
As Gibraltar settled into their defensive stance and Georgia slowed down the pace, the space was restricted, reducing Georgia’s chances at goal. It wasn’t until the 33rd minute that Georgia had another shot at goal, hitting the side netting after Gibraltar’s defense failed to clear from a short-corner routine.
Georgia’s passing game, combined with Gibraltar’s deep defense, kept the match relatively quiet for extended periods. Gibraltar was content to see the pace slow down as they approached the final five minutes of the first half.
A foul on Jessop in the 41st minute provided Gibraltar with another chance to test Georgia’s defense. A shot from the far left sailed straight at the goal, comfortably ending up in the keeper’s arms, marking another missed opportunity.
Successfully repelling Georgia’s final surges in the first half, Gibraltar entered the break trailing by only two goals.
The second half began with Gibraltar initiating the offense and earning an early corner, although they failed to capitalize on it. Moments later, they regained possession, and Richards delivered a cross into the goalmouth, earning a second corner.
The Georgian keeper had a fortunate break as a fumbled collection led to Gibraltar being penalized for a supposed toe poke when the ball fell at the feet of a Gibraltar player.
However, Gibraltar’s attacking flurry was short-lived, as Georgia regrouped and regained control of the game. Gibraltar was once again forced to defend deep.
Lominadze, who had been threaded a ball behind the defense, narrowly missed the target with his shot. Kvernadze followed suit by sending his shot skyward in the 56th minute, despite having an open goal due to Gibraltar’s defense being beaten.
As the match reached the one-hour mark, Gibraltar’s confidence seemed to grow, allowing them to string together a series of passes and temporarily force Georgia into their half. Frustrated by their inability to extend their lead, Georgia’s momentum began to wane, and this started to boost Gibraltar’s confidence on the pitch.
Substitutions were made, with Jessop and Jones being replaced, and Borge making way for Del Rio. Scanlon remained the sole natural forward. It wasn’t until the 66th minute that Georgia had another chance at goal, with Tskhovrebashvili’s effort being blocked. Avellano made a timely run out of his goal to gather the ball from a breakaway.
With Gibraltar forced to play defensively, the match entered its final twenty minutes, with Georgia seeking to increase their lead. This approach left more space for play as their defenders sat deeper. Their momentum also slowed, with more short passing, allowing Gibraltar to settle into their defensive posture across the field.
Fatigue started to affect Gibraltar’s backline as players stretched whenever the ball went out of play. Despite having fifteen minutes left to play and having successfully held Georgia back, Gibraltar’s recent under-21 defeats, which involved conceding in the final minutes, made them cautious about committing too many players forward. They stuck to their defensive strategy.
What initially appeared to be a match where Gibraltar could concede heavily saw the under-21 team regroup effectively to frustrate the hosts. In the final ten minutes, sections of the crowd began to whistle while their team had possession.
Georgia’s frustrations became evident as their chances were limited, and Gibraltar did well to disrupt Georgia’s offensive momentum when they had the ball. With five minutes remaining, Georgia struck the post in one of their few opportunities to score.
Gibraltar’s resilient defense continued to hold strong, even as cramps affected some players. The Gibraltar under-21 players had not played a competitive match since the beginning of summer, as the Gibraltar domestic leagues had yet to resume. Playing three minutes of injury time, Gibraltar managed to hold on, keeping the score at 2-0 in favor of Georgia and preventing any further goals to the hosts’ frustration.