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St Joseph beats Lincoln Red Imps in first crucial top flight battle

St Joseph 1-0 Lincoln Red Imps

The clash between Lincoln Red Imps and St Joseph marked one of the initial major encounters in the Gibraltar National League. These two top teams, expected to contend for the title, faced off for the first time this season.

With the absence of Europa and St Joseph’s strengthened squad, anticipation surrounded the match, setting the stage for a combative and tense affair.

Approximately 500-600 fans gathered for the 9pm kick-off, witnessing a match that commenced with palpable tension. From the outset, the blues established themselves as formidable opponents, offering the league champions an immediate challenge.

The first ten minutes saw both sides applying high pressure, vying for control of the game. The match’s initial moments were concentrated in the center of the pitch, with both defenses denying their opponents any significant goal-scoring opportunities.

Patrick Canepa was tasked with maintaining composure in the face of this intense contest right from the opening minutes.

St Joseph, a well-organized and disciplined team, failed to qualify for European club competition last season after nearly a decade representing Gibraltar in Europa. However, they emerged as strong contenders against the reigning league champions, thanks to Abraham Paz’s bolstered squad and their early positive results.

Fifteen minutes into the match, neither side had managed a goal-scoring attempt, highlighting their evenly matched play.

As the first half progressed, Lincoln Red Imps gradually pushed deeper into St Joseph’s territory, methodically working down the flanks in an attempt to create scoring opportunities. St Joseph initially struggled to penetrate the final third with any real threat, opting for quick breaks instead.

In the 18th minute, St Joseph granted Lincoln a free corner, inadvertently placing their own goal under pressure as defenders failed to clear the ball, leading to consecutive corners. Although the initial corner swept across the goal, the subsequent one forced St Joseph to scramble the ball away from their own goalmouth.

With Lincoln elevating their performance beyond the initial twenty minutes, St Joseph found themselves temporarily pinned back in their own half.

St Joseph did get an opportunity on the 22nd minute with a free-kick that could have threatened Lincoln’s penalty area. However, the floated ball to the far edge of the penalty area went awry, resulting in a throw-in. Lincoln capitalized on this, moving forward and forcing St Joseph’s goalkeeper to step out to deny the red and blacks any goal-scoring chances.

As the clock reached the 25th minute, both goalkeepers remained untested.

The St Joseph vs. Lincoln Red Imps encounter lived up to its expectations in terms of intensity, yet neither team managed to break the deadlock.

St Joseph gradually found their footing in Lincoln Red Imps’ half as the minutes ticked away.

A moment of naivety in a throw-in by Nano, penalized for lifting his foot unnecessarily, handed possession to St Joseph. This emphasized how closely matched both teams were, where even the smallest mistake could prove crucial. Lincoln regained possession but struggled to advance beyond the central third in a quick-paced exchange. Both defenses maintained their composure, and the midfield remained the focal point, providing the 500-plus crowd with intense and entertaining play.

In the 35th minute, Lincoln Red Imps earned a corner, with Liam Walker floating the ball into the area. However, St Joseph’s disciplined defense once again cleared the danger, although they couldn’t retain possession. Lincoln Red Imps kept the momentum going, controlling the game’s flow as they entered the final ten minutes of the first half.

St Joseph, positioned well on the field, provided limited space for the red and blacks to make meaningful progress.

On the 40th minute, another corner kick threatened St Joseph’s goalmouth, but their defense rose to the occasion once more, heading the ball clear from in front of the goal.

The ball returned to Lincoln’s possession, and a long throw-in from Nano placed it in front of St Joseph’s goal again. Although the clearance only reached the edge of the box, a subsequent challenge resulted in Lincoln Red Imps earning a free-kick just outside the box. Liam Walker attempted a curling shot, but it was flicked to the corner by the defensive wall. Walker’s corner sailed high over the central pack but was flicked out for a throw-in, once again delivered by Nano into a crowded penalty area. St Joseph’s goalkeeper came out confidently to gather the ball.

Despite three minutes of injury time, neither team managed to alter the score, as both fought for possession through the center field, entering halftime without any goals on the board.

The second half began with the same intensity and tension as the first. An early controversial decision not to penalize what appeared to be a foul on a St Joseph player led to Abraham Paz disputing the decision and receiving a yellow card within the first minutes of the second half.

In the 53rd minute, a foul on St Joseph’s captain Boro presented them with an opportunity to test Lincoln’s defense. A floated ball into the penalty area troubled defenders, allowing it to sail over them. Coeling, obstructed by a group of players, was unable to prevent the ball from finding the back of the net, breaking the deadlock in favor of St Joseph.

Lincoln immediately launched an offensive, but their first attempt, a high pass from Mariannos over the penalty area, went out for a throw-in, resulting in a missed opportunity.

St Joseph responded by pushing forward, earning another foul in the 57th minute, just meters away from where the previous foul led to their goal. A similar floated cross, however, saw a St Joseph player’s flicked header miss the target. Lincoln regained possession but struggled to clear cleanly.

Approaching the hour mark, St Joseph made some strategic changes, disrupting the flow of play. They contained Lincoln Red Imps well following their goal, making it challenging for them to break through and threaten Banda’s goal.

The match, coinciding with the leaders’ election debate, drew a crowd of around 600 spectators and had an additional 300 viewers watching the livestream. The intensity on the field persisted as both teams battled primarily through the middle. St Joseph effectively neutralized Lincoln’s attempts to find a path to the goal, with the latter finding their space limited due to St Joseph’s relentless pressure.

Yellow cards continued to be issued, including one to St Joseph’s physio for disputing the referee’s decision to ask a player to leave the field for treatment, even though the player had already gotten up by the time the physio reached him.

St Joseph received another yellow card when Perez was observed pulling Kike’s shirt as the latter tried to break past him. A chipped pass into the penalty area created a moment of uncertainty for St Joseph’s defense, forcing Banda and his defenders into a communication breakdown, resulting in a corner. Lincoln maintained the pressure, seeking the equalizer.

In a match considered a crucial six-pointer, Lincoln Red Imps could ill-afford to drop three points and threw everything they had at St Joseph. In the 73rd minute, a long-range shot tested Banda, forcing him to stretch to make a crucial save at the far post.

Yellow cards continued to be issued, with Juampe receiving one while warming up close to the corner flag. Kevagn Robba received the next yellow card for St Joseph moments later. The Lincoln bench also received a yellow card as Lincoln Red Imps had a free-kick at the far end of the penalty box. The angled shot caused some concerns as Banda was forced to parry, and his defense needed to quickly clear as Lincoln’s forwards attempted to capitalize on the rebound.

As the minutes ticked away rapidly and Lincoln took an advanced position, they left themselves vulnerable to quick counterattacks. In the 78th minute, St Joseph played a low cross across the goalmouth, threatening to extend their lead.

Solid defending from the Saints kept Lincoln at bay as the match entered the eighth minute of injury time. A chance for Marco Rosa, who managed to find space in a packed penalty area, saw his shot miss wide across the goal, with Banda beaten. Marco Rosa expressed disbelief at his missed opportunity. Scoring chances became increasingly rare as the match progressed, with little action in front of either goal.

Lincoln made a change in the 84th minute, with Pena coming on for Juampe, adding some agility to their midfield. A free-kick by Walker was flicked out for a corner by the defense. A short pass between Juampe and Walker was eventually lost by Lincoln at the edge of the box, resulting in a quick counter-attack. Four St Joseph players faced off against one defender, but the final pass was too wide, allowing Lincoln to chase back and defend in numbers.

Moments later, Lincoln’s defense forced Coleing to come out with his feet after intercepting a back pass. The keeper did well to block the ball and prevent what could have easily been St Joseph’s second goal.

Juampe’s presence in Lincoln’s midfield added creativity to their offensive attempts, distributing the ball effectively and being involved in much of the forward play. However, the final ball still eluded Lincoln Red Imps, preventing them from truly testing Banda.

Entering nine minutes of injury time, Lincoln Red Imps believed they still had a chance to level the match. However, St Joseph remained resolute, continuing to apply pressure, defend with confidence, and capitalize on their chances going forward, although they lacked effectiveness in the final third.

Juampe earned Lincoln a corner in the 93rd minute as he attempted to dribble into the area. However, the corner proved ineffective once again, and only Juampe managed to put a shot on target. However, the tightly packed defense blocked the shot, leaving Banda untested.

A harsh tackle in the 94th minute gave Lincoln another opportunity to deliver the ball into the penalty area. The goalkeeper punched out the cross, but it rebounded off his own defender and resulted in another corner. The corner was cleared on the goal line, and St Joseph quickly countered. A three-against-two situation saw Coleing block the first shot and quickly reposition to save the second shot.

In the final minute of injury time, play switched to the other end of the field. Walker’s free-kick floated to the far post but was too fast for anyone to make contact, resulting in a goal kick.

St Joseph held onto their narrow lead, securing three crucial points in the first top-flight battle of the league. St Joseph remained unbeaten in three matches, while Lincoln Red Imps, in only their second match of the season, had collected only three points. This marked their second defeat against top-flight teams in the league, having also lost to Bruno Magpies in the Pepe Reyes Cup.

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