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Gibraltar were held to a goal-less draw by San Marino on an heavy and sodden pitch in Serravalle this afternoon.

The hosts new this was their biggest chance of winning a home competitive international, on home soil, after 30 years of trying, against arguably the one European Nation that their supporters would have expected them to get a result against.

For Gibraltar this was the first of two chances, this week, to seal top spot in the UEFA Nations League D Group 2. Two wins from the previous two group games meant Gibraltar sat comfortably top of the table.

This afternoon's match was also a historic occasion in European International Football, it was the first time ever that a UEFA Nations League match was to be officiated by an all-female team of match officials.

Julio Ribas played brought his big guns back in to after the week out in Bulgaria in mid week. Dayle Coleing returned in goal, with a back three of Roy Chipolina, Scott Wiseman and Aymen Mouelhi. Sergeant and Olivero were the wing backs with Torrilla and Annesley in the centre of midfield. Walker and Lee Casciaro playing in behind Tjay De Barr up front.  

 

 

 

With the rain pouring and the pitch in San Marino cutting up straight from the kick off, it became clear that this was going to turn into a physical war of attrition. San Marino set their stall out with two banks of four and were going to do everything they could to frustrate their opponents and make the most of the conditions.

Annesley missed the target in the 8th minute and until Roy Chipolina was booked in the 15th minute, somewhat unfortunately given some of the other tackles that had gone unpunished until then, Gibraltar had the lion's share of the possession. Berardi was San Marino's greatest threat, playing between the lines in the number 10 position and linking up with Nanni who seemed to want to take every opportunity to acquaint himself with the grass every time he came close to a Gibraltar shirt.

It was indeed Nanni’s glancing header that brought the save of the match from Dayle Coleing in the 22nd minute. At full stretch Coleing’s finger tips denied the San Marino Forward.

Gibraltar looked threatening from set pieces and corners in particular, but despite enjoying the majority of the possession, they couldn’t test Benedettini in the San Marino Goal. Gibraltar’s best chance of the half coming in the 34th minute when Roy Chipolina found space at the far post but couldn’t turn Liam Walker’s free kick goalward.  

 

 

No changes were made at the break and as the second half started Gibraltar looked to press further forward, trying to seize the initiative.

The hosts had already resorted to putting in some heavy challenges, looking to intimidate Gibraltar, and in the 49th minute  Simoncini, the San Marino Captain went too far. His high tackle on Torrilla, saw him deservedly shown a straight red card, and the home team were down to 10 men. Thankfully after receiving treatment the match winner from the previous game was able to pick himself up and continue playing.  

 

 

As the second half progressed Tjay De Barr was proving to be a constant thorn in the San Marino defence. The only way they could get near him was to constantly foul him. Styche replaced Mouelhi and the big number nine got stuck into the San Marino defenders. All of a sudden they could not deal with the type of physical contact and aggression they were trying to give out themselves.

And then Gibraltar’s moment came. It was that man De Barr again. A smart turn left the San Marino defence for dead and the youngster burst through, one on one with Benedettini with the goal at his mercy. Agonisingly the young forward placed his low shot wide of the post. A huge let off for San Marino.

 

 

Adam Priestley then replaced Torrilla as Julio Ribas smelt blood. Priestley flicked a long ball into the path of Styche who slotted the ball past Benedettini only for the referee to blow her whistle penalising Priestley for a somewhat innocuous foul when flicking the ball on to Styche. A bemused Styche was then booked for ‘kicking the ball away’ as he finished off the move.

Gibraltar pressed on forcing late corners but by this stage the hosts were falling over at every single opportunity. Styche was adjudged to have fouled the Benedettini from a Walker corner, however the keeper had in fact collided with his own defender and went down as if he had been shot.

 

 

As the referee brought the game to an end after five minutes of added time, the mark of how far Gibraltar have come as a national team since 2013 was there for all to see. The opposition team in full on celebration mode after holding Gibraltar to a 0-0 draw at home.

For Julio Ribas and Gibraltar it was another match in the 2020 UEFA Nations League without  defeat. The third consecutive clean sheet in the competition ultimately a vital away point. It was not the most aesthetically pleasing performance, but Gibraltar took on a team today who tried to impose themselves physically on them and Ribas’ warriors were able to go toe with San Marino and come away with 61% possession, more attempts on goal and yet another away clean sheet.

Gibraltar sit on top of League D Group 2, with 7 points from 3 games. Simply avoiding defeat on Tuesday evening, at the Victoria Stadium against Liechtenstein will see Julio Ribas’ men win the group! What an evening it promises to be!