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Lincoln Red Imps crowned champions for 25th time

Lincoln Red Imps (2) 3-0 (0) Lions Gibraltar

Photo courtesy of Gibraltar FA

Lincoln Red Imps claimed their twenty-fifth league title on the final league match of the Gibraltar National League, although, having to find their way around what was a determined Lions defensive display ready to spoil their party again. Lincoln Red Imps now head into Wednesday’s Rock Cup final against Glacis United looking to add to their tally of league and cup doubles.

Lincoln Red Imps had missed their chance to claim the title earlier in the week after St Joseph’s forced a draw after a second half comeback. Entering the match two points behind Europa, Lincoln Red Imps required all three points to claim the league title. Anything else would have handed the title to their arch rivals Europa. After Europa’s defeat of Mons Calpe there would have been no difficult calculations required with Lincoln left with just the one option.
Lincoln Red Imps’ Mick McElwee put his trust on his more experienced players leaving on the bench some players who had been regulars recently like Ronan and Torrilla.
Instead he was to include Lee Casciaro, Cerillo, Carralero and Garrido, leaving Gibraltar internationals Segeant, Torrilla and Ronan on the bench.
There was little question as to how Lions would form out on the pitch in front of Lincoln Red Imps. Wearing a light grey kit Lions set themselves as a defensive wall ready to repel Lincoln’s expected offensives.
It was not long after kick off that the chances came.
After six minutes Lincoln Red Imps were awarded a free kick at the edge of the box. Moreno’s curler around the grey wall of Lions tested Valades who dived to hold onto the ball.
Just four minutes later an overhead kick by Chipolina fell in the hands of Lions keeper.
Although with nothing to really play for Lions admirably stood to their task, the same one they had carried throughout the Championship group matches. This being to make it as difficult as possible for their opponents to have a shot at goal.
Keeping players back, even when they broke forward, Lions closed the route to goal for Lincoln Red Imps.
With backs to the wall Lions found themselves clearing from the line on the eighteenth minute as they defended against a barrage of corner kicks.
On the twenty-third minute Lions were unable to stop the onslaught, after repelling three attempts in front of goal, Tjay De Barr collected and turned it around the defence for the first goal.
Just two minutes later a clever free kick from Wiseman saw Britto put in a cross from the right having surprised the Lions defence which saw the ball cross past the goalmouth.
With Lions keeping to their task of defending deep and with no real attacking options it started to look difficult to see how Lions would try to equalise. Lincoln continued to look for their second goal knocking on Lions door time and again.
At the half hour mark the referee ordered for a water break to give players a break from the intense heat. Lions who had kept to their resolute defending already looked tired as they walked to the sidelines.
Just a minute after returning Lee Casciaro fed the ball to Kike with the Lions defence trying to backpeddle after having advanced their lines slightly. As Valades came out to narrow the angle, Kike powered a low drive past him for Lincoln’s second. Lions failing in their defence by not having reset their defensive formation quick enough after the break.
Not content with a two goal lead Lincoln forced two consecutive good saves from Valades. The first from a close range shot from TJay De Barr and the second a shot by Chipolina who had collected the rebound.
Lions had an opportunity on the thirty-ninety minute when Verjaque was fed an excellent through ball. Lincoln’s defence however, closed down well as Lions were unable to provide their player with further support.
Lions walked into the half time break with a two goal deficit but knowing that they still had to face a barrage from Lincoln who would not be content with the result.
Lincoln Red Imps started the second half placing Lions goal under pressure. Some four corners in the first three minutes somehow kept out by Lions.
With fifty-two minutes gone and still under intense pressure Lions gave away a penalty. Martinez adding the third. Valades getting his hands to the ball but unable to stop it going past him.
George Cabreras stepped in for Kike as Lincoln now had a secure lead which looked impossible to overcome.
Lincoln controlled possession facing a ten-man grey wall, plus keeper, as they looked for a fourth goal.
Tjay De Barr and Roy Chipolina were rested on the hour mark with both Segeant and Gaimiz going on. Lincoln’s head coach was now looking ahead towards Wednesday cup final against Glacis United ensuring his players were rested after six weeks of intense match schedules.
Cabreras came close to adding to the tally, again Valades blocking the way. The Lions keeper highlighting why he is considered as one of the best goalkeepers in the national league this season. Cabreras was then denied a goal after being adjudged to be offside.
Lee Casciaro was also substituted by Ronan with twenty minutes left.
The final twenty minutes was to see little change with Lions defending deep and Lincoln Red Imps continuing to look for that additional goal but without too much of a great urgency. Lincoln showing that the initial hiccups at the start of the season had only been a glitch with a solid display which left no doubt as to why they had claimed the league title.
Lions provided some of their youngest youth players playing time in the final minutes something which was to receive an applause from everyone.
Significantly Lincoln Red Imps, in their eternal battle against their other two main rivals St Joseph and Europa, having also secured their head to head in the event that the season would have finished equal, on points. Leaving without further doubt that they had turned their season around to complete their objectives. Although the gap between the top three has closed up with all three sides bidding for the title up until the final match day of the season.
With young players from Lincoln Red Imps junior ranks among those gathered for the match Lincoln Red Imps lifted their twenty-fifth league title adding to their record haul.

Photo courtesy of Lincoln Red Imps FC

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