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A warm early September afternoon at the Victoria Stadium saw Gibraltar’s National Team record their fifth ever international win by beating San Marino 1-0 in matchday one of the second edition of the UEFA Nations League.

Ever since the  Nations League draw in Amsterdam earlier this year, when Gibraltar were drawn in a group of three in League D, alongside San Marino and Liechtenstein, there has been an air of expectancy. From the moment  Gibraltar joined UEFA these are the types of internationals that so many have been craving. The European Qualifiers provide great learning opportunities for Head Coach Julio Ribas to develop his players and get them used to international football. The Nations League however is a totally different beast. Competitive international football against opposition who can be beaten.

Pre Match many made Gibraltar favourites, especially playing at home (albeit behind closed doors) and being the seeded team in the group. Head Coach Julio Ribas played this down saying that his team would be treating this as if it was a ‘cup final’ and would not take anything for granted.

From the moment the teams were announced, 90 minutes before kick-off, it was clear that this was going to be anything but an open game. San Marino has signalled their intent by playing five at the back with captain Simoncini at the heart of their defence. Julio Ribas gave Graeme Torrilla his international debut after over a year out with a knee injury, and Scott Wiseman returned to add strength and experience at right back.

 

 

San Marino were true to their word, from kick off their five defenders were intent on keeping as solid a back line as possible looking to play the ball over the top and hit Gibraltar on the break. As a result, set pieces looked like they were going to be crucial to the outcome.

San Marino forward Nicola Nanni was booked in the 12th minute for diving in the Gibraltar penalty area. As the first half progressed Gibraltar dominated possession. Walker and Lee Casciaro had shots blocked as the Gibraltar number 10, playing in a slightly more advanced role began to run the game. A blocked shot by Annesley was the closest the visitors came to getting near Dayle Coleing’s goal.

 

 

As half time approached Lee Casciaro once again drew Palazzini into giving away a free kick on Gibraltar’s right hand side.   Liam Walker stepped up and whipping in a delightful trade mark left foot cross, and up rose the debutant Greame Torrilla to head home. 1-0 to Gibraltar and just reward for all the hard work the Lincoln Red imps youngster has put in to battle his way back from a serious knee injury.

 

 

Just before the half time whistle, again from a free kick, Liam Walker tried his luck from distance with a skimming shot, which Benedettini kept out.1-0 at half time and the home team with 68 per cent of the possession at this stage.

 

 

San Marino made one change at the interval, D’Addario replaced Battistini at the back, Gibraltar remained unchanged. Instantly Britto was played in by yet another Walker free kick, but the youngster was flagged offside.

In the 52nd minute the visitors got their chance as Berardi run on to a through ball but fired wide.

Gibraltar’s best chance of the half came when Britto run ont a long ball firing a fierce shot that Benedettini kept out at the near post. Badr replaced Lee Casciaro and Sergeant came on for the goal scorer Torrilla before yet another youngster was given his international debut as Kian Ronan replaced Louie Annesley.

 

 

As added time approached Gibraltar looked to see out the game and Liam Walker was booked for time wasting.  And in the 93rd minute the referee drew the game to a close.

One nil to Gibraltar, a third competitive international win under Julio Ribas, Gibraltar’s fifth international win overall and a clean sheet for Dayle Coleing in the Gibraltar goal who had a very quiet afternoon.

Sixty six percent possession over the ninety minutes. 11 attempts at goal and 475 completed passes. A truly deserved 1-0 victory and three points in League D Group 2 of the UEFA Nations League.  A great start to what could prove to be a great campaign for Gibraltar!

 

All Photos (c) John Piris.