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Gibraltar football history was made tonight at the Victoria Stadium as Lincoln Red Imps FC qualified into the group stages of the UEFA Europa Conference League following a 4-2 aggregate win over Latvian champions Riga FC.

Lincoln battled hard to earn a 1-1 draw last week in Latvia before bringing the tie back to Gibraltar and sealing their historic European qualification in extra time thanks to a Roy Chipolina header and Kian Ronan breakaway goal.

A packed Victoria Stadium saw a tight start to the game as both sides were looking not to give anything away early on.

Just like in the reverse fixture however, it was the Latvian outfit that went ahead first in the 19th minute through Yurii Vakulko who latched onto a low cross fizzed along the box tapped the ball into the Lincoln net.

Despite going behind, the home crowd got behind Lincoln, who responded in the best possible way to going behind and ramped up the pressure on the visitors.

It wasn’t long until Riga FC eventually cracked under the pressure, and on the half hour mark Bernardo Lopes was pulled down in the box and a penalty was awarded to Lincoln.

Up stepped Liam Walker, who coolly slammed the ball into the top left corner, sending the keeper the wrong way and pulling Lincoln level 1-1 on the night.

 

 

The equaliser invigorated Lincoln who remained on top for the rest of the half as they went in search of the go-ahead goal, but Riga held strong until half-time.

The half-time break probably came at the wrong time for Lincoln, as the Gibraltarian champions started slowly in the second half which allowed the visitors to gain control.

Despite Riga’s early dominance, Lincoln held strong and much like in the first half, grew into the game and looked the more likely of grabbing another goal.

In fact, Lincoln were literal millimetres away from taking the lead in the 65th minute, as Liam Walker saw his curling free-kick canon off the post before Kike Gómez headed his rebound onto the crossbar - Agonisingly close for Lincoln.

The missed chances again only seemed to serve as fuel to the Lincoln fire who continued to push and towards the end of the match had Riga FC pinned back deep into their half, but the visitors held on and extra-time awaited.

As was the case in both the first and second halves, Riga started the stronger of the sides, but the Latvian side, whose energy had clearly been sapped in the hot Gibraltar sun, quickly lost control of the game as Lincoln looked to kill the tie.

Again, Lincoln pinned back their opponents, with substitute and Lincoln club captain Roy Chipolina grabbing the go-ahead goal just before half time, as he ran away from his marker and climbed highest to head a Liam Walker corner kick into the back of the net.

 

 

The goal sent the Victoria Stadium into raptures as the veteran defender wheeled away in celebration before being swarmed by his team-mates as history beckoned for the Gibraltarian champions.

Nerves crept into the Victoria Stadium for the second half, however, Lincoln looked solid in defence and gave the home crowd something else to cheer in the final seconds of the game.

A long clearance set Emmanuel Ocran through on goal and with the chance to end the tie. Unfortunately, the Ghanaian could not convert his chance, however, the cavalry was in support and Araiza Alcazar picked up the loose ball before slipping it through to Kian Ronan who tapped the ball into the net, sealing Lincoln’s place in the UEFA Europa Conference League group stages.

Following the goal, Lincoln only had to wait mere seconds until the referee blew the full-time whistle which saw the packed Victoria Stadium crowd roar in jubilation while the Lincoln players dropped to their knees in celebration - Gibraltar football history was made.