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Greece prove too good for Gibraltar

Greece 5-0 Gibraltar

Julio Ribas surprised everyone by including both Nicholas Pozo and Niels Hartman in his starting eleven for the Malta match. These two youngsters had also been featured against France and the Netherlands.

With Greece having lost to France and aiming to repeat their victory against Gibraltar, the decision to bench more experienced players and play the two youngsters left many surprised. This was despite both players performing well in recent internationals.

Jack Sergeant was also in the starting eleven, a welcome presence after sustaining an injury during the Malta match. Unfortunately, Bernardo Lope, who was stretchered off due to an injury, was relegated to the bench.

Before kick-off, Ribas urged his players to give it their all with an “a por todo” message. Greece had previously defeated Gibraltar 3-0, and while Greece needed a win for qualification, a half-empty stadium reflected the lack of full support from Greek fans.

On Gibraltar’s National Day, the players singing the national anthem served as a poignant reminder of how they were separated from their families to represent Gibraltar on the international stage. The match began with a minute of silence in honor of the earthquake victims in Morocco.

This marked Ribas’ fiftieth match leading Gibraltar. The game started nervously for the hosts, with Greece expected to come out aggressively. However, the initial minutes saw short passes and Gibraltar organizing their defensive positions, slowing down the pace.

Greece didn’t get their first chance until the sixth minute when Britto deflected the ball for a corner. Liam Walker’s thigh deflected the final header, clearing the danger. Jack Sergeant then efficiently cleared the next corner.

Greece continued to apply pressure and opened Gibraltar’s defense on the eighth minute with a cross behind the back line, leading to Pelkas tapping in after Coleing’s initial save. Gibraltar’s defense failed to close down players running into the goal, exposing vulnerabilities in the center.

Greece, with a goal lead, increased their momentum and had another chance seconds later. Coleing was kept busy as Greece tested Gibraltar’s defense with floated crosses into the goalmouth. Gibraltar finally settled down after the initial quarter-hour.

On the eighteenth minute, Greece saw Pelkas narrowly miss the target, while Gibraltar struggled to get into the opposing half. Tjay De Barr was the lone figure upfront for Gibraltar with limited supply.

Greece found their second goal on the twenty-third minute when Pelkas delivered a corner cross into the goalmouth. Mavropanos rose behind Hartman to power in a header for Greece’s second. A minute later, Coleing made a crucial save from a powerful shot by Bakasetas.

Greece continued to exploit gaps in Gibraltar’s defense with their movements to the flanks. Gibraltar’s formation had become predictable, particularly the 5-4-1 and 5-3-1-1 formations, exposing vulnerabilities, especially through the center.

Gibraltar was fortunate not to concede on the 32nd minute when Fountas’ header went wide. Moments later, Greece threatened again. After blocking an initial long shot, Coleing produced a spectacular one-arm block from close range.

Fountas found the back of the net on the 38th minute with a midair volley, but VAR canceled the goal due to an offside position during the initial flick that saw Greece break past defenders.

Greece dominated the first half, with Gibraltar having less than 25% of possession, completing just under 30 passes out of over 50 attempted. In contrast, Greece completed over 330 passes during the same period.

Entering the second half, Gibraltar knew they needed to change their fortunes. With only two goals conceded, they aimed to keep the score to three or fewer goals, which had been their objective in previous matches.

Tjay De Barr, who had little opportunity to touch the ball in the first half, displayed a spirited performance early in the second half. His pressure on Greek players and robust challenges strengthened Gibraltar’s presence in midfield.

However, Greece hit the woodwork in the forty-ninth minute, leading to a prolonged pause as Coleing went into the net, necessitating repairs.

When the match resumed, Gibraltar continued to defend well. On the 67th minute, Gibraltar had one of its rare offensive moments, ending with an offside but still preventing Greece from adding to their two goals.

Although not a pretty match, Gibraltar momentarily had a small victory as Greek fans jeered and whistled against their team. However, Greece scored their third goal in the 70th minute as they made changes, with Masouras finding the net.

Tjay De Barr contributed positively for Gibraltar, forcing a foul on the 78th minute and earning Bakasetas a yellow card. However, Walker’s free-kick was punched clear by Vlachodimos. Greece responded with two consecutive corners, ultimately scoring their fourth goal after the second corner was not properly cleared.

Mavropanos, a defender, scored his second goal with six minutes left for the 90 minutes. Although Greece made a fourth change, Ribas waited until the final five minutes to make his first change, substituting Hartman for Badr. Ribas made two further changes on the 89th minute, with Santos and Casciaro coming on for Mouelhi and Pozo, with five minutes of injury time to play.

Gibraltar’s defense reshaped, but Greece exploited vulnerabilities through the center to score their fifth goal. This defeat highlighted concerns over the delayed start of the domestic league, with Gibraltar players lacking competitive football before their first internationals of the season.

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