St Joseph’s grab first three points against a revitalised Lions
Two of Gibraltar’s historical football clubs started their 2022/23 season looking towards a new era as the clubs brought about important changes this summer.
St Joseph’s who are now under new ownership saw head coach Abraham Paz, with a changed squad following the departure of some of last seasons top players after the club stumbled momentarily financially before the takeover.
For Lions, who have maintained their stance to continue as a team providing a development platform for players and not wishing to enter the money-battle for the title the changes were on the field with Adrian Parral secured as head coach and bringing a new style of football to the club. Parral, a long-time Lions member bringing back a Lions style of play and mentality and moving away from the brick wall style defensive formation which Lions played under Ferrer.
Adrian Parral brought with him a new style of play which was hoped would bring a more competitive game on the field and better football.
The match was also to see some new opportunities for some of Gibraltar’s home grown talents who had fallen into the fringes of their former clubs during the last years.
St Joseph had new signing Michael Yome donning the blue and white in a competitive league match for the first time after years playing for their closest rivals Europa.
At the other end it was Sykes Garro who had swapped shirts, having departed St Joseph’s to return to his original club Lions from where he had first made an impact.
The Saints tried to stamp their mark from early on but found Lions well disciplined across the field and playing with confidence.
It was Lions with the early shot although far from the target.
The match, from early on had a feel of past encounters between the two sides before the arrival,of UEFA money. Lions looking more as a team looking to play rather than defend and wait for counters, whilst St Joseph’s had a new feel across their play which differed from the Spanish styled tactics which had dominated their play. The match a welcome sight for some yearning for a difference of style in Gibraltar football.
Although St Joseph were to demonstrate their superiority in the end the match was a closer encounter than the resulted reflected during the better part of the 90 minutes.
St Joseph started on the front foot.
Valades produced a brilliant block coming out from his line to the edge of the box to stop Boro from running through to goal.
Valades then produced another great reflex save with his left foot from a goalmouth shot moments later.
St Joseph finding their way through Lions middle through some quick passing and running instead of playing the slow passing game they had been accustomed to in the past.
On the sixteenth minute St Joseph saw the ball hit the post in yet another surging run through the middle as they looked for the opener. The early stages of the match producing already some exciting moments from what was a quick paced match.
Lions did not shy away from taking the game to St Joseph’s earning themselves a corner as they attacked in response to St Joseph’s attempts. Their final attempt, however, going well wide from the target.
Garro was to start taking on a prominent role through Lions midfield as Parral’s team looked to distribute the ball through their midfield men. The new role Garro was taking a welcome sight for a player who after his early promise had lingered in the fringes of Europa, then Lincoln Red Imps and finally St Joseph’s. Lions once again seemed to be offering the player a lifeline to revitalise his career. One he started to take from early on.
St Joseph was to once again to be denied by Valades on the 27th minute as Boro send a header towards the top corner. The keeper getting his fingers to the ball but ended colliding with the post himself as he did. Luckily not ending in injury as he saw the ball go to corner.
Although St Joseph had the clearest chances, unlike previous seasons, Lions was not placing a brick wall type defence to stop them advancing. Instead a well disciplined formation across the field with midfield aiding defence but promptly moving forward and keeping their lines high meant that the game maintained an open ended appearance where Lions presented just as much a threat going forward as they were an obstacle defending.
Lions were to set out to surprise when a long ball from Valades set Lions on a quick counterattack and saw unlikely goal scorer Evan Green, another former St Joseph player, beat Robba on a one-to-one on the 37th minute.
St Joseph set out to try and respond immediately upping the pressure on Lions as the match neared the half-time break. Lions absorbing the pressure whilst not tempted to change their formation. This leaving St Joseph’s with few options than to keep players back in defence.
St Joseph’s persistence was to pay off. Although advancing with limited numbers Boro, who had threatened to score on numerous occasions finally found himself in front of goal with Valades beaten by a low cross and with just the defender to beat just feet from goal. Boro making no mistake as he slotted past for the equaliser. The half-time whistle blowing next.
St Joseph started the second half on the offensive. Villar missing in front of goal within the first ten minutes of the half. Lions were also to find themselves down to ten men because of a sending off which disrupted their game.
St Joseph were to bring on another of their new signings with El Hmidi coming on inside the first sixty minutes. Right on the hour mark they were to earn themselves a free kick at the very edge of the box which was crashed against the wall with Villar sending the rebound back to goal only to see it deflected to corner as St Joseph’s maintained the pressure on Lions goal.
St Joseph finally found a way through Lions defence with Aznar getting a great pass through the middle to Boro who run through the middle into space to hit the ball first time past Valades on the 63rd minute.
St Joseph were to earn themselves a penalty after the ball was adjudged to have hit the arm of a defender on the 65th minute. Caballero sending Valades the wrong way as St Joseph added their third on the scoresheet.
The Saints added their fourth on a counter attack just as Lions were settling back into the match and started to move forward. A quick break seeing them added a fourth with Lions defence slow in coming back with a 4v3 as St Joseph attacked.
The match saw St Joseph mark the differences in superiority between the two, along with the differences in fitness levels and quality. St Joseph’s now owned by former Burnley Chairman Mike Garlick, and having successfully qualified for European competition football during the past five years still showing they were among the top four teams who are expected to compete for a place in Europe next summer. Lion’s, however, although now benefitting from a new style game, which brings more excitement on the field and an added confidence for the oranges is still working within limited budget constraints limiting its resources. Lions far from a team that will compete for the title, but who is expected to be a strong contender for the battle for the top six. It’s performance against St Joseph’s, although ending in defeat, likely to see some heads rise in concern among its closest rivals. The days of an orange brick wall defensive style now a distant memory which Lions fans will welcome.
St Joseph also showing that the woes of last season which led to concerns the clubs future seemed to be at risk of crumbling, now put behind them as they build a new future under their new owners.
Corrected - the St Joseph head coach is Abraham Paz and not Andrew Lowe. Our apologies for mistaken name.