A workmanlike performance did not provide Gibraltar the results on the day but left some positives as they faced a 3-0 defeat against Georgia.
Gibraltar played their second Group D match of the Euro qualifiers in Tiblisi against Georgia. Gibraltar as they kicked off positioned just above Georgia having only played the one and lost one against Georgia’s two and lost two needed a good result to stay in that position. It was not to be in Tbilisi.
Keeping to his guns Uruguayan head coach Julio Ribas, who has transformed the side since his arrival, kept to his main starting eleven. Louie Annesley the only real main change, although having already started with him in the previous match. The young player already making his mark with Blackburn Rovers appearing in the cup final in the development league.
Gibraltar, already surprising with their two wins in the UEFA Nations League group matches and their narrow defeat by 1-0 against the Republic of Ireland already had left many wondering what next. Gibraltar no longer considered just the minnows anyone could add to their goal difference. Ribas had instilled a new outlook, just looking at keeping the score down no longer something acceptable in his book. He had one focus and that was that his players leave their all on the field and to better themselves in every match. After a year at the helm he had already instilled a desire for Gibraltar to look for the win and keep on ‘dreaming for things’. The match against Georgia was to be another stern test. Especially with a second match within a space of 72hrs against the Republic of Ireland.
Prior to the match Ribas expressed wish to see the local league to become more equally balanced in the future. Believing that the influx of foreign players must now be of a better quality as the rise of the quality of local players meant they no longer were guaranteed making a difference on the field compared to local players ability.
Gibraltar entered the match knowing they had been beaten previously by them 3-0 and 4-0. Concerns over some of the injuries to experienced players were put behind as the line-up appeared. Lee Casciaro, Joseph Chipolina and Roy Chipolina all available to play. Both Tjay De Barr, who will be heading to Real Oviedo and Anthony Hernandez both also available. On the bench the presence of Adam Preistley, Jamie Coombes and Reece Styche adding to Gibraltar’s frontline option which had already proven themselves.
Also in the starting line-up was Jayce Olivero who will next season start for Europa FC having completed his studies.
The presence if youngsters also marked the changes in Gibraltar from the last time they played Georgia. Behind the scenes, Kyle Casciaro who had been one of the key players during the early days in UEFA bidding his farewell to Lincoln Red Imps as he announced ‘changes’ in his career.
Gibraltar took to the field with some pride, the national anthem met with a ‘vamos’ from Ribas highlighting the impetus put into national pride for wearing the Gibraltar shirt.
A composed start allowed Georgia a minute with the ball before Gibraltar showed they were also there to attack them. Casciaro with a first surging run at Georgia’s defence.
As expected the home team Georgia had the main possession at first, but Gibraltar in the early stages showed they were going to try run at them, Tjay De Barr also putting pressure upfront.
Gibraltar defended deep in the first ten minutes. Frustrating Georgia as they absorbed the pressure leaving few opportunities to goal. A tight defence forcing long shots even on a break in the first twenty minutes.
Gibraltar did not hold back when they went forward taking numbers up with them.
Gibraltar started to settle in after the first twenty minutes starting to advance more often as the half progressed.
Gibraltar were lucky when a ball through the centre caught the Gibraltar defence napping, luckily the final contact on the ball not there.
A well worked ball at the edge of the box on the half hour saw Georgia smash the ball just under the bar to break the deadlock. Goldwin misjudging the trajectory. Gibraltar’s defence punished for a momentary lack of concentration during the minutes prior, something Ribas was not happy with.
Gibraltar didn’t change their tactics much and continued ploughing away as Georgia gained in confidence but Gibraltar did not panic from going behind. They were however losing the ball easily with inaccurate passes to the frontline.
Goldwin was to produce a good touch to keep Georgia out in the latter minutes of the half.
As the final minute of the half arrived Tjay De Barr run at the defence and forced a foul at the edge of the box. Walkers free kick forcing the best save of the half as it went towards the top corner. Gibraltar unlucky not to have leveled the score.
This was not the prettiest first half displays from Gibraltar but except for the goal they had kept to their tasks well as they went into the break just a goal behind. Also knowing that Georgia had kept defenders back due to the threat posed by Tjay De Barr. As shown in the last seconds of the first half.
Georgia had a forced substitution within the first minute of the second half. Gibraltar starting positively.
Sergeant received a yellow early into the second half rushing in unnecessarily. The free kick going just over the bar.
A well struck shot from outside the area seemed to catch Goldwin out on the bounce but a quick arm out saw it to corner. Georgia stepped up the pace as they pushed Gibraltar back.
A pitch invader stopped play on the 53rd minute. The pause giving Gibraltar a small breather as they settled back into their game which was somewhat defensive in nature.
Gibraltar maintained their Workmanlike rate but were lucky to see Georgia hit the side netting to an open goal as Goldwin was rounded on the break in the 55th minute.
Georgia struck their second on the 58th just after going forward in numbers a shot from edge of the box beating Goldwin.
Gibraltar now needed to look to go forward more if they were going to get a result. They also now had to battle the physical fitness barrier which has blighted them in the past as it creeps in within the first hour. This one positive from the match as Gibraltar crossed the physical barrier and didn’t lose focus as they had down early in their international adventures after joining UEFA.
The first change for Gibraltar came on the 65th minute as Alain Pons came in for Lee Casciaro. A sign of the times where Ribas was willing to bring in youth for experienced players when necessary.
Moving forward Gibraltar were lucky to see a final shot go wide when the defence had been spread wide open on the break. Tired legs coming back showing now.
Goalkeeper Goldwin minutes later lucky to see Georgia fluff a chance as he gave it away to a forward just outside the area on a throw. The mistake luckily ending behind goal as the ball was lifted over the bar.
Gibraltar were dealt a further blow when Roy Chipolina, blocking a shot, was penalized with a penalty as it struck his arm as he turned away from the ball on the 75th minute, Georgia scoring their third.
Ribas made a change with Jamie Coombes coming on for on for Anthony Bardon.
Gibraltar sought to go forward but found themselves with Goldwin having to tip the ball over the bar for a corner in a flying save as Georgia hit for goal again from distance.
The final minutes saw Gibraltar defending instead.
Young Louie Annesley was substituted in the final minutes with Barnett going in, raising some concerns after an off the ball injury.
Although facing defeat Gibraltar’s performance had been workmanlike enough to provide some positives as they now head to play against the Republic of Ireland. Even to the last minutes against Georgia, Gibraltar still sought for a goal. At the same time maintaining their composure at the back and closing down well.
Ribas will now have to find that extra spark from his players who will travel to Dublin for their next match knowing they have dropped to the foot of their group table.
Full Time – Georgia 3-0 Gibraltar