Gibraltar's valiant attempt at getting its first points ends in last minute defeat
Gibraltar’s national team put in the shift of their lives on the pitch to try and secure Gibraltar’s first ever official competitive football.
It was a valiant attempt which brought Gibraltar the closest it has been at getting points, was to end in defeat. With 86 minutes gone, Gibraltar were at 1-1 against Cyprus.
A ball flung into the middle saw E2.5 million valued Sotiriou header in Cyrpus’ second goal in what was only their 8th attempt at goal.
Gibraltar’s head coach Jeff Wood opted to play his more offensive options with Liam Walker, Anthony Hernandez and Lee Casciaro playing in front of Jayce Olivero, Erin Barnett and Bardon.
Once again Wood kept his faith in Dartford keeper Deren Ibrahim keeping on the bench Jamie Robba and Kyle Goldwyn.
Woods choice of selection matched the GFA’s optimism that they could get a result against Cyprus following their previous encounter away from home.
Even with the offensive line-up Gibraltar started the first half playing deep, with their back four soon becoming five as they held back.
Within the first six minutes Gibraltar’s hopes seemed to fade away as a misunderstanding between keeper Deren Ibrahim and Captain Roy Chipolina saw the latter flick the ball over the keeper into his own goal as the keeper came out into no man’s land to try and collect.
Gibraltar did not lose their heads. Even seeing Costas Charalamides’ curled strike hit the crossbar as it curled towards the top corner the Gibraltar lads closed down well at the back. The match saw the continuous use of a Deren long ball from goal upfront somewhat futile as the gap between forwards and midfield widened.
Not surprisingly it was in a ground ball move that Gibraltar broke Cyprus’ defence. A good passing move between Liam Walker and Lee Casciaro opened a gap in Cyprus’ defence which allowed Anthony Hernandez through the middle. Calmly rounding defence and keeper Hernandez slotted the ball in on the 26th minute for the 1-1.
Things could have been much different either way by the end of the first half. Cyprus had two goals disallowed for offside in the first half. Gibraltar for their part saw both Lee Casciaro and Liam Walker forcing Kostas Panayi into saves to keep the score at 1-1.
The second half saw Gibraltar take the match to Cyprus. Solid defending kept Cyprus from having too many attempts at goal. Gibraltar, the minnows as everyone likes to know them, put in a magnificent shift. Although with only 38% of possession to their name Gibraltar’s forwards had their chances.
A tackle on Lee Casciaro at the edge of the box saw officials bring out a yellow card for Laifis who was the last man in defence as Lee Casciaro tumbled heading to goal. A lucky escape for Cyprus. The visiting team was to have two further moments of fortune as they saw Liam Walkers’ free-kick strike the crossbar, the rebound off the defender hit the post and go out away from goal.
Gibraltar’s luck in front of goal continued as Anthony Hernandez after a magnificent turn on defenders in the box, including a nutmeg found the ball bounce away from him without a clear chance to goal.
As the minutes ticked away the differences in the levels of fitness between both sides was evident. Gibraltar’s players, with heavy legs, seemed to be battling on the adrenaline of knowing they were close to getting their first points.
This was, however, not to be. Cyprus, who had said before the game, that nothing less than a win was acceptable to their coach, took advantage of the waning energies in the Gibraltar squad. In a matter of minutes they saw three attempts just go wide off the goal. An 86th minute goal securing their three points and destroying Gibraltar’s hopes of celebrating their first result in a competitive match at the very last minutes of the game.
Gibraltar remain without points in their FIFA World Cup European Qualifier Group H. The 2-1 defeat, however, was among the best performances seen with Gibraltar coming the closest it has yet come to gaining points in the senior international scene