Gibraltar 1-6 Switzerland
Gibraltar retuned home, to the Victoria Stadium, for what is scheduled to be the final competitive international in the historic and iconic stadiums current state. A packed house turned out to with the hope of witnessing one more memorable moment and perhaps an unexpected result against the 13th best team in the world (according to FIFA’s rankings).
Switzerland, the visitors, had other ideas. With one eye on the other group D game in Dublin between Denmark and Ireland, they had both Euro 2020 Qualification and winning Group D on their minds and, as Head Coach Vladimir Petkovic had hinted in his pre match press conference, were not taking their opponents lightly at all.
Julio Ribas made two changes to the team that lost 6-0 in Denmark on Friday evening. One enforced – Erin Barnett came in for the suspended Jayce Olivero and the fit again Dayle Coleing replaced Kyle Goldwin in goal. This meant that Gibraltar went to five at the back, with Aymen Moehli slotting in beside Roy & Joseph Chipolina at the centre of defence, Sergeant and Britto as the wing backs and Barnett anchoring the midfield.
For Switzerland, Petkovic named an attacking loineup with Graqnit Xhaka tamking over the captaincy in the absence of Lichsteiner who was named on the bench and Itten leading the line.
It was Itten who struck first for Switzerland in the 10th minute from a Vargas cross. But that was as good as it got from the visitors in the First half. De Barr was looking lively up front with Lee Casciaro and Liam Walker in behind. Looking to catch the Swiss out on the break. Dayle Coleing in goal had command of his area looking comfortable under the high ball and Gibraltar went into the half time interval 1-0 down.
The Gibraltar curse – Individual mistakes – once again came back to haunt the home side in the second half. The lively vargas made it 2-0 in the 50th minute before Fassnacht made it 3-0 in the 57th minute.
Gibraltar were then forced into a double substitution in the 61st minute. Tjay DeBarr was stretchered off with a knee injury and Lee Casciaro also departed. On came Jamie Coombes and Reece Styche who instantly made an impact with his physical presence up front in the number 9 role.
In the 74th minute Gibraltar’s big moment came. Switzerland failed to deal with a Joseph Chipolina long throw. Styche pounced and stuck his first international goal for Gibraltar. 3-1.
Any hopes of a comeback lasted less than a minute. Straight from the kick off Vargas and Fassnacht combined before Itten’s cross set up Loris Benito who made it 5-1. Itten got his second of the night to make it 5-1 in the 84th minute before Granit Xhaka finished off the scoring with Switzerland’s 6th two minutes later.
With Ireland and Denmark drawing 1-1 in Dublin, Switzerland not only sealed their place in Euro 2020, they did so as Group D winners meaning Denmark took second place and Ireland miss out on Euro 2020 Qualification.
For Gibraltar, Head Coach Julio Ribas was keen to stress after the game that despite the scorelines in the group, the team was going through a long term development process in which many youngsters have taken their place and had plenty of minutes on the pitch, and that with the experiences they were gaining, the long term future of Gibraltar’s national team was in good hands. Ribas also acknowledged he was acutely aware of the fact that individual mistakes at key moments in matches were hurting Gibraltar massively and that a lot of hard work was needed to eradicate these errors that are becoming all too familiar.
And so the last competitive international in the current Victoria Stadium ended. A goal to savour for the tremendous home support who stuck by their Gibraltar National Team. Memories to last a lifetime but the hope and expectation of a new era of international football in the horizon in a new home with our Rock of Gibraltar watching over.