Lions sneak through into top six
The First round of the Gibraltar National league came to its conclusion with some surprises. At the top of the division it was Europa who take with them the early advantage. A win against Lynx set them off on the right track as they prepared for their final match in the First round against Mons Calpe.
This was to prove to be a decider on many accounts. Their opponents Monscalpe paid the price for the discontent among their squad.
A match which spelt survival among the top six if Mons Calpe could finish with at least one point saw them forced to change line-ups when at least two of their players did not turn up to play. The club have since remained silent about their future with an announcement expected.
Europa were to put seven goals past them to secure their top placed finish at the end of the first round . This leaves them two points clear from second placed St. Joseph's.
For Mons Calpe it meant that their fate was firmly in the hands of Lions who played on the same day.
Lions were to make no mistake about it. Although they were to find themselves in a tightly fought battle against Boca Juniors , Lions came out 6-4 winners to claim the final spot in the top six of the division. A solid first half gave them the early lead which saw them through to the end.
Lions will now join Europa, St. Joseph's, Lincoln Red imps, Lynx and Bruno's Magpies for the 'championship' division.
This will guarantee them playing the top teams in the division week-in-week-out.
With the first round of the league now complete. Gibraltar's football enters a new stage this season.
The split of the division into the top six and bottom six ensures that fans will be guaranteed some top class competition on a weekly basis.
Already the battle for the top has been red hot with five of the top six having at some point held top place this season.
With just four points separating first and third teams have been making their
own changes at club level. Europa secured the services of their head coach Rafa Escobar, renewing his contract after taking them to the top. In contrast Lincoln Red Imps saw their head coach Victor Afonso depart after defeat against St. Joseph. The
club president Dylan Viagas in a statement describing it as a decision made "under
The rumblings from within Lincoln Red imps, however, had grown after their second league defeat of the season. Afonso had led his team to defeats at the hands of both Europa and now St. Joseph's. His relation with local players also understood to have been strained since the start of the season.
Lincoln completed the first round with caretaker manager Malcolm Martin leading them to a 2-0 win over much improved Manchester 62. The latter, now led by Dave Wilson, having just missed on finishing in the top six.
Lincoln are expected make a further announcement soon with up to four prospective coaches being looked at by the club.
The second round is likely to see further changes with the league holding to its seat as they monitor whether further clubs might drop out of contention.
With the bottom six clubs now facing a lesser challenging prospect with no top teams to play against the future of some clubs has become uncertain.
Clubs already facing financial problems with players going unpaid for several months in at least two clubs has led to concerns over a mass migration of top players to the top clubs.
With the transfer window now due to open lower tier clubs will be under pressure to
reduce their costs with lesser prospects of attracting players.
Whilst teams such as Manchester 62 already see this as a chance to consolidate their squad and prepare for the future, teams such as Mons Calpe have already seen players looking at moving on.
The Gibraltar Football Association is also monitoring closely reports of allegations where players claim not to have been paid in recent months, with warnings that
"they will take action" against clubs if found not to be fulfilling their obligation
to players. This has already led the Gibraltar FA to take action at the start of the season when the league was reduced from sixteen to twelve clubs during the first weeks.
The start of 2020 will, however, be a good testing ground for the Gibraltar FA and the league. The top six will now be competing against each other in a smaller division where the top two places guarantee a place in Europa and third place could also provide European competition football. This is hoped will see football attract back the numbers to the terraces that were once seen. The first round of competitions has proven to be a disappointment in relation to crowd attendances with top matches not seeing figures any where near that seen in previous seasons. Some matches have attracted as little as ten people to watch. Even top matches have seen figures never going beyond the 400-500 in attendance when crowds up to 1800 have been seen in the past.