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HISTORY MAKERS! Gibraltar 1 – 1 Liechtenstein: Gibraltar promoted to Nations League C as rock-like defence stands fast.

A solid and determined defensive second-half display saw Gibraltar make history once again as they sealed qualification into League C of the UEFA Nations League following a 1-1 draw with Liechtenstein at the Victoria Stadium.

Coming into the game undefeated, Julio Ribas’ men sat atop Group D and required only a point on the night to confirm their historic promotion, however, things were far from smooth sailing for the boys in Red who emulated the Rock they are so well known for in order to keep out a tireless Liechtenstein attack. 

 

 

Gibraltar registered the first chance of the game as Mohamed Badr blasted the ball over the crossbar from the edge of the area after De Barr chested a long ball down into his path.

The long ball forward towards De Barr became a common sight in Gibraltar’s attacks as the tricky frontman repeatedly found joy drifting out wide towards the right flank of the Liechtenstein back four.  

With Liechtenstein requiring victory to usurp their hosts at the summit of the group, the visitors spent the opening 15 minutes of the game pushing high, however, Gibraltar continued to look dangerous on the counter, especially through De Barr who won a corner in the 17th minute through which Gibraltar took the lead.

Swung into the box by Walker, who was making his 50th appearance for Gibraltar, the ball flicked off the head of Louie Annesley before taking a host of wicked deflections, eventually ending up in the back of net with the last touch coming off of Daniel Brandle.

 

 

Elation seemed to fill the air in the Victoria Stadium as the Gibraltar XI on the field celebrated together, with even Dayle Coleing running the length of the field from his goal to join in the huddle. 1-0 after 17 minutes.

The visitors looked to respond straight away, testing Coleing in the Gibraltar net from distance, however the Glentoran keeper was more than a match for the low effort as he parried it to safety.

The goal seemed to settle Gibraltar who after taking the lead were firmly in the driving seat of the group as Liechtenstein now needed to score two goals against a Gibraltar side who were yet to concede this campaign.

With this being said, Liechtenstein began applying pressure on the Gibraltar defence towards the final third of the half, however, the home side always looked comfortable in their shape, limiting the space available to their opposition and always look a threat on the counter, particularly through De Barr who was proving to be a handful in attack with his pace, strength and dribbling ability.

 

 

Unfortunately for the hosts they would not go into the break leading the tie as Liechtenstein clawed back a goal seconds before the break in the 44th minute through Noah Frick.

A free-kick on the edge area was powered into the box by Yanik Frick and met with the head of the goal-scorer who saw his initial attempt saved thanks to quick reactions by Coeling. Fortunately for the victors the save was parried back into the path of Frick who needed to only tap it in from close range to level the score. 1-1 at half-time.

Boosted by the late goal, Liechtenstein started the better of the two sides in the second half, however, the home side stood firm in defence and clawed their way back into the game as they looked to take the lead and regain their insurance goal.

Having played a pivotal role in Gibraltar’s first, Walker came closest to opening the scoring in the second half after his curling free-kick effort rattled the Liechtenstein crossbar before being claimed by a relived Thomas Hobi in goal.

 

 

The close chance seemed to wake the visitors who once again began applying pressure to the Gibraltar backline, with Ribas opting to reinforce his defence through the addition of Ethan Jolley who entered the fray for Badr.

If Gibraltar weren’t feeling the pressure before then they certainly were in the final 15 minutes as the visitors increased the sense of urgency in their play and looked to disrupt the home side’s defensive shape.  

Despite the increasing waves of Liechtenstein pressure, Gibraltar and De Barr continued to show the threat they posed on the counter as the young striker appeared to assist Kian Ronan only for the linesman to flag for offside and rule out what looked to be the winner.

Into the final five and the tension within the Victoria Stadium was palpable as Liechtenstein continued to push with increasing numbers but were unable to breach the rock-like Gibraltar defence for a second time.

Three minutes of added time stood between Gibraltar and modern day history as Liechtenstein continued to load the box, but a last second imperious headed clearance by defensive stalwart Roy Chipolina sealed the promotion to Nation League C as the referee blew for full-time prompting the entire Gibraltar bench and back-room staff to charge the field in celebration with tears of joy in their eyes.  

 

 

And as they gathered thir emotions on one of the proudest and most memorable nights in the their careers, to a man their celebratory instincts turned and focussed on the man who has revolutionised the Gibraltar National Team in the last two years. Julio Ribas is more than just a coach to his 'Gibraltarian Warriors' as he affectionately refers to them as. For all the players he is a father figure, their leader and on the night of their lives they made sure that thir leader was with them all the way.