Resilient performance by Under 21s against Wales
Wales u21 2-0 Gibraltar u21
After the hammering received in Gibraltar by Wales Under 21 Gibraltar needed to enter their final group match with caution.
However it was a very early lack of marking and allowing Wales to stay in possession unchallenged that allowed Wales to score within the first thirty two seconds. A floated ball over the defence drifted to the feet of King who had been left unmarked at the far post. The Welsh player slotting it in as defenders chased to close him down.
The match played in Llaneli saw Wales dominate possession from early on. Gibraltar’s recent record of not conceding in the first forty-five minutes in their previous two group matches already an objective broken by Wales.
Gibraltar with a small squad were without Dylan Peacock, scorer of the goal against Bulgaria. They were also missing Dylan Borge.
Even conceding early, unlike their first match against Wales Gibraltar’s U21 had the confidence to try and venture forward from early on. This reducing Wales’s chances of going forward themselves in the early preceding minutes after the early goal.
Wales were reduced in the first quarter of an hour to long punts to their front men which were dealt with ease by Gibraltar’s defence as Gibraltar kept a tight rein further advanced than they were accustomed to.
Wales started to up their tempo as they approached the twentieth minutes and as Gibraltar looked at gaining in confidence themselves. Wales finding the match harder than they had bargained for.
Hankin was forced into a good blocking save on the twentieth minute as Wales arrived inside the penalty box with some danger for the first time since they had scored.
Moments later a cross from the wings run across the goalmouth with nobody to meet the cross.
With half an hour gone whilst Wales had been dominating possession they had struggled to find the form which had given them an emphatic victory in Gibraltar. Instead Gibraltar’s under 21 found a footing in the game which saw them venture into Wales’s half forcing defenders back. This effectively reducing their offensive game especially against a packed defence which was maintaining its uniformity.
Wales saw a chance go begging on the 32nd minute as again a low cross run across the goalmouth with nobody there to meet the ball.
Hughes was then to try curling the ball around the defence from the edge of the box. Hankin, although diving to protect his goal seeing the ball go wide off it’s target.
On the 35th minute a very long lobbed pass from the halfway line saw Pearson running behind defenders. His attempt was, however, to go high over the goal as Hankins stepped out to try and block his attempt.
As they entered the latter ten minutes of the first half Wales piled the pressure momentarily and saw several chances go to waste as Gibraltar’s defence struggled to clear. Finding their feet again Gibraltar slowed down the pace.
Caetano was to receive a yellow after a rough challenge in front of the referee as he pulled a player back unnecessarily by the halfway line.
Wales found their way goal-bound from the free kick with the ball delivered to the wings and again crossed low across the goal. This time Hughes’s meeting the cross but sending it over the bar.
Gibraltar once again fortunate not to concede following another failure to clear low crosses across their goalmouth.
Although having conceded early Gibraltar were able to keep the score at just the 1-0 as they entered the halftime break.
The match itself would have no significance on the group positioning for Gibraltar. However, for Wales the three points would see them climb above Bulgaria who had already completed their matches and finished with ten points. Only two
more than Wales.
Gibraltar made two changes at halftime with Jones and Azopardi substituted for Thorne and Ruiz.
Wales had their first chance of the second half after Clinton conceded a free kick at the edge of the box early on. Hughes’ kick going wide past the post with Hankin outstretched.
Gibraltar gaining already in confidence found themselves trying for a goal with a cross into the penalty area from the wings. Wales’s keeper holding well to the ball.
Wales responded with a quick break which saw Hankins produce two superb blocks at the feet of Jephcott.
He was however unable to stop Hammond from slotting it in for the second when moments later Adam’s delivered a cross through the middle. Hammond left unmarked scoring with ease for Wales’ second.
Gibraltar were lucky not to concede a third with Jephcott hitting the woodwork just moments later.
Adam Gracia was replaced Verjaque as Gibraltar arrived at the hour mark and started to sit deeper in their half when Wales were in possession.
Clinton had an attempt at goal but saw his shot miscued wide. Wales response was again to surge forward ending in a couple chances in front of goal. The first put over the crossbar by Llambias. The second seeing Hughes header wide in front of goal.
Gibraltar earned themselves a corner on the 63rd minute but it came to nothing.
With 66 minutes gone it was Pearson who tried his luck but sending the ball wide into the side netting from a tight angle. He was soon replaced by Jones as Wales added a further forward on the field.
A much improved performance by Gibraltar in deep contrast to their November encounter against Wales in Gibraltar had already shown that their resistance and confidence had grown. Wales finding it difficult to find the scoring form that had given them a 7-0 victory at the Victoria Stadium.
Some good defending was seen from players such as Parkinson who on the 73rd minute kept his composure to dispossess Wales as the forward sought for a penalty.
Gibraltar made more changes with Caetano taken off to make way for Martin. The latter getting stuck into the game immediately.
Gibraltar had a spell with some good passing through midfield finding players upfront which momentarily paused Wales possession making them start to build up from deep.
Salah was also to come in for Clinton as the match entered its final ten minutes.
With three minutes of official time left on the clock Hankins produced yet another save from a low power shot from Becks. The Gibraltar keeper parrying well before securing possession.
Wales looked for their third goal as they entered the final minutes and more space was starting to open up as Gibraltar also tried to break forward.
With tired legs on the field for Gibraltar the additional four minutes of injury time proved difficult.
A resilient effort with Wales throwing men forward and winning two corners from their efforts saw Gibraltar weather the final surge.
Gibraltar u21 finishing with a respectable defeat Wales reduced to just scoring two goals on their home soil. A deep contrast from the 7-0 hammering they provided in Gibraltar.
David Ochello’s young team in just seven months transforming themselves and producing three consecutive high resilient performances one of which ended in a 1-1 draw against Bulgaria last week.