Gibraltar played out a historic sporting landmark last night.
At 8.45pm the Gibraltar national team filed onto the pitch at the Estadio Algarve (in Faro/Loule, Portugal), their home from home, 400km from Gibraltar.
It was Gibraltar’s first ever competitive international as a full FIFA member, its first ever World Cup Qualifier, the first time an official FIFA logo had been worn on a Gibraltar national shirt.
It was also to be the first time Gibraltar scored in a World Cup European Qualifier match.
Facing former 2004 European Champions Greece it was already fulfilling what had seemed an impossible dream, to play in the European qualifiers for the World Cup. A very small crowd was to watch the match, with the stadium stand mainly empty.
Gibraltar’s lack of focus at key moments of vulnerability once again highlighted the difference between the two sides. Yet the underdogs, Gibraltar, came out with a respectable performance which gave positive signs for the future.
Once again Gibraltar held its own against a former European Champion. At one point Greece had few opportunities to break away from the 1-1.
The return of goal scoring hero Lee Casciaro, whose goal against Celtic had created waves this summer, injected new impetus into Gibraltar’s front lines.
The decision by Jeff Wood, the national coach, to include James Coombes, Anthony Hernandez and James Bosio added new blood and further pace.
A good attacking start by Gibraltar was soon to be countered by its defensive frailties. Mitroglou received, on the 10th minute, a ball from a clearance header to slot the ball to the top far corner past Perez. Greece went led 1-0.
Gibraltar, nevertheless, took the game back to Greece. A challenge from Coombes led to Lee Casciaro breaking and seeing his shot blocked for a corner.
What seemed to be lost opportunity from a badly taken corner saw Liam Walker receive the ball.
A curled strike over the Greek defence saw him score Gibraltar’s first ever goal in a European qualifier for the FIFA World Cup.
Gibraltar’s confidence continued to grow taking every opportunity to break into attack using their front men’s pace.
But their frailties were once again exposed in a short five minute period.
An own goal by Wiseman was quickly followed by goals from Fortounis and Torosidis, giving Greece a 4-1 lead at half time.
Gibraltar started the second half by taking the ball to Greece.
Quick breaks and greater confidence upfront saw Gibraltar trying to take their opportunities to reduce the score.
For very short periods Greece pinned Gibraltar back in their half, yet Gibraltar were not to be deterred from trying to reduce the score line.
The 4-1 score remained until the 90th minute with Gibraltar, with its changed line-up, younger players, and its new found confidence, showing throughout the second half that they were willing to create their own opportunities.
To the last minute Gibraltar sought for that goal which would reduce the deficit. The Gibraltar defence and Perez taking the strain when Greece advanced with danger.
The five minute implosion in the first half had marred what was otherwise a resolute and positive performance from the 211th FIFA member. Gibraltar’s first outing as a FIFA member ended in defeat, but no loss of pride.
Pics by Johnny Bugeja