Month: September 2015

FC Britannia XI vs Gibraltar United Football Club

Match corresponding to the 1st Round of the Gibraltarian Premier Division and played at the Victoria Stadium on Sunday 27th September 2015 at 16:30.

Gibraltar United Football Club 1 – 1 FC Britannia XI

Montovio

Gibraltar United Football Club

1    Kyle ‘Chino’ Golwin
11  Jared Buhagiar
3   Lee Buhagiar
2   Aaron Collado
88 Carl Thomas
25  Mark Casciaro
99  Jamie Bosio
10  Andrew Lopez (C)
20 Abderrahman Bakkari
7   Justin Collado
8   Robert Montovio

SUBSTITUTES

Byron Espinosa on for Justin Collado
Steven Gilbert on for Jamie Bosio
Liam Neale on for Abderrahman Bakkari

Football is back. Gibraltar United took to the field for the first time since that evening on the 2nd June when we were crowned Division 2 champions. It all seems a life time away and much has changed in the club. Manager, Manolo Nuñez put out his first XI as United manager and he kept faith with last year’s solid back 5. Mark Casciaro remained the play maker at the hub of the midfield with débutante Jamie Bosio alongside him. Abdul Bakkari and Robert Montovio, both no strangers to football at this level also made their debuts. Club stalwarts Andrew Lopez and Justin Collado finalised the first United XI to play Premier League football for the first time in years. Supporters in the stand were expectant as the match pitted the last two winners of the Second Division against each other.

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The match, to be honest, started in a very turgid and pedestrian manner both sides not wanting to make a slip up that would mean an early goal. Britannia clearly had the best of the opening exchanges with our defense looking uncharacteristically nervous. Perhaps the occasion or the nervous anticipation prior to the match had got the better of the players but we were cagey at best. Britannia had no real class players to speak off and their play was largely based on punts over the top seeking to exploit the pace of winger Pishvaie. The first chance of note came on the 12th minute when ‘Chino’ was able to easily parry a tame Camacho header. That was pretty much it, other that a game full of stops and starts with lots of fouls. There was little opportunity for the football to flow such was the tension on the pitch. Ref, Mr Warwick had at this point a solid control of the match, something that unfortunately was not going to last.

The only genuine heart in mouths moment came on the 30th minute when an Otero header from a whipped in cross beat Chino and came off the crossbar. It was almost fumbled into our own net by one of the defenders but thankfully slid out for a corner. United had little to show up front with Robert Montovio ploughing a lone furrow chasing shadows. No matter how hard Collado or Abdul tried they couldn’t get in decent support positions to give the isolated Montovio some support. Just before half time a clearly offside Britannia goal was disallowed by the assistant. As the whistle blew United supporters where somewhat downbeat, Britannia had won the first half on points.

United in defence

United in defence

The second half started brighter for United as Mark Casciaro began to get more and more of the ball. He was everywhere on the pitch today, covering every blade of synthetic grass, getting tackles in and getting his team mates to move around him. Indeed, he became the target of some rough handling by the Britannia players and the referee failed to give him any meaningful protection. Yet despite the improvement it was Britannia that had the clearer chances, all of which did not really trouble the dependable Chino in goal. Manolo Nuñez had seen enough and on the hour mark sent in Byron Espinosa, for his debut, and Steven Gilbert to have fresh legs and lungs on the pitch. The next incident, however was to have a definite impact on the game.

Britannia winger Camacho pounced on an error by Lee Buhagiar to put himself on a 1 on 1 situation against Chino. As he bore down on the keeper his touch was somewhat heavy and the ball veered towards the corner. Chino, already committed, was adjudged by Mr Warwick to have clipped a clever outstretched leg. He pointed at the spot and called the keeper over. His red card hoisted above an unbelieving Chino meant the keeper had his marching orders. The crowd instantly heckled the referee. Though the penno was understandable the red card was not. The ball was clearly veering away from the goal yet off he went and Liam Neale made his debut under the most stressful of circumstances. He nearly even got a hand to it but Pishvaie netted Britannia’s first goal of the season. It was not the last time this individual was to have some centre role in the match!

Going down to 10 men seemed to galvanise United that surged forward as we used to do last season. Byron Espinosa should the class that mark him as a player of immense potential. He was put through by a delightful Steven Gilbert ball having ghosted in from the wing. It was only a last ditch tackle by the defender that stopped him from going 1 on 1 with Barnfather in goal. Gaining in confidence United sought the equaliser. Andrew Lopez run his socks off while Montovio prodded and was looking for the space in which that killer ball could be delivered. Yet as legs tire so do minds, a quick Britannia counter from a ball we lost saw Mancilla rifle off a quick shot that hardly left the ground. Liam, only recently on the pitch, dove quickly and parried the goal bound shot with his legs. The young keeper showing why he is in the Gibraltar National Squad.

Tried as they could, despite Britannia’s time wasting, United could not find the much desired breakthrough until the 85th minute. Following a save from a Britannia free kick Liam launched the ball forward. Robert immediately got in between the sky blue center halves and he must have disconcerted them as a very poor pass was intercepted by him. He danced past the defenders and left the keeper for dead with a cool finish from the left side of the area into the far corner of the goal. Supporters erupted in joyous celebration as the refereeing upto that point had left a lot to be desired.

Robert celebrates in front of the United support!

Robert celebrates in front of the United support!

Unfortunately the refereeing was to take a turn for the worse. With seconds remaining Montovio was shoved to the ground by Britannia player Pishvaie after some handbags between attacker and defenders. Pishvaie had no reason being there but in he went to shove Robert to the ground. With tensions running high players of both teams congregated on the scene as more shoving and pushing ensued. Pishvaie seemed especially up for it and continued goading the United players. All the while Mr Warwick stood observing the scene. As tempers settled Pishvaie saw the red card to which there was more shoving and pushing. What is inexplicable is the referee’s next action. With all the pomp in the world he marched to Mark Casciaro and brandishes a red card to the astonishment of everyone in the stands. Mark had not shoved or pushed anyone or incited or aggravated the incident. Considering he had been kicked from one end of the pitch to the other it was surprising to say the least that he was sent off for something he was not involved in. Meanwhile Pishvaie, adding dissent to his red, was still on the pitch reluctant to leave. The whistle blew soon after but the incident had left a bad taste in supporter’s mouths as we had fought hard for a point.

Next up is the Reserves against Lions Reserves while our next match is next Saturday against Europa FC.

Interview with Club Captain Andrew Lopez

Club Captain Andrew Lopez took time from being a father, his full time job and the busy training schedule to speak to us about how he is feeling about the forthcoming season. In many ways Andrew is the heart and soul of the Club who has worked tirelessly since the relaunch of the club. He is now also part of the Committee and has given, and continues to give all for the Cause.

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We first asked Andrew how he felt the pre season had gone. He was quick to point out that pre season kicked off 3-4 days straight after the league had finished. At first it was a shock to the system but the squad was soon working extremely hard since as we need to have a higher level of fitness to compete. The introduction of the new professional manager has helped us improve a lot.

As one of the longest serving members of the squad we asked him about the quality of player that the club had been able to attract during the off season. His answer was emphatic!

“The team is starting to form a solid foundation. Many Gibraltarian players have joined the cause willingly wanting to help this great club achieve its goals. The importance of maintaining ‘only local players’ is a major boost for all those who have been side-lined ever since Gibraltar attained UEFA membership due to the influx of foreign players. We have signed great players with keen ambitions to perform, which is what we are always after. Youngsters as well as experienced players who have boosted the morale, which was already high with having won the 2nd Division and promotion to Premier last season.”

“We have great players in the squad, and I can’t really mention anyone in particular as there are so many quality and technically gifted locals, who can indeed perform to the highest level. All I can say is that the GFA manager should be looking thoroughly at this squad for locals who will be playing the full 90 minutes and I can guarantee they will give their all for Gibraltar. Call ups will are sure to come as the quality in the squad is unmistakeable.”

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Andrew was as emphatic when asked whether he felt the team was ready for the challenges to come:

“We have set standards very high, if we wouldn’t, what would be the point? We always need to set high objectives or achievements in order to perform to the maximum. This will get the best out of our players, especially if they want to give all they have for this club. The main objective is challenging for the Europa League spots, we cannot get any higher than that, however, I do believe staying in the Premiership is more than essential this year.”

We also enquired at to his feelings in leading a squad comprised only of locals:

“As Club captain, it is a great honour being part of a squad comprised completely of Gibraltarians. As mentioned earlier, everyone at the club wants to succeed… sometimes the willingness and ‘amor propio’ as we say, can take your further than skill or professionalism on its own. We are a great bunch of players and the love I have for this club and its players is something I cannot really explain. I always go out of my way to help the club in good and bad moments and so do many other players who have a long history here.

I understand the difficulty of having ‘only locals’ in a strong Premier League filled with foreigners who have been playing in some more professional leagues throughout their career. I can truly say that if most of us were born in any other country which was UEFA approved, we would have been competing in professional leagues too, as the skill and technique of many Gibraltarians is something which you cannot deny. Its just unfortunate that we have only just joined UEFA a couple of years ago. This, however, will benefit many of our  youngsters who now have something great to look forward to; the Champions League!

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Andrew left us with this final thought: “We must keep focused and work together as a team, but i can really say we are more than a team, we are a family and will push ourselves in becoming a strong force.”

We thank Andrew for his time and I know he is more than eager for the ball to start rolling this weekend and cannot wait to lead his troops into battle. Andrew certainly epitomises our club motto of ‘Vi et Animo, Ad Victoriam’. With Heart and Soul to Victory! Remember Sunday, 16:30 vs FC Britannia FC XI. Football’s back!

 

Transfer Window Review

The transfer window closed yesterday and it has been a very productive and exciting one for the club. Though it was clear that some players were going to leave the club, the uncertainty lay in the quality of the player United could attract. The club moved very quickly in the initial stages of the window. Europa Point FC striker Robert Montovio was quick to sign on eager for more Premier football. Likewise GFA goalkeeper Liam Neale signed from Glacis United. Liam was not the only Glacis player that came our way with center backs Sean Mascarenhas and Steffan Cardona also joining the club. Further exciting news followed with the capture of Europa’s FC pacey attacking midfielder Abdul Bakkari and Man 62’s Naoufal El Andalussi. United was showing early on that they meant business.

It was not all however about new signings. The core of our title winning side renewed their contracts. Chino, the Collado brothers, Lee Buhagiar, Jared Buhagiar, Carl Thomas, Mark Casciaro, Andrew Lopez among many others renewed wanting to prove their mettle against Gibraltar’s Premier sides. No doubt the early capture of UEFA Pro manager Manolo Nuñez Sanchez (formerly of College Europa) was enticing players to remain and develop themselves.

Yet with new signings come goodbyes. Dylan Mañasco hung up his boots and so did Daniel Wahnon, whose sterling work made many of these signings possible. Damian Rocca also retired (for a second time) and can now be seen alongside ‘Figo’ playing in our FUTSAL side. Joe Borg and Stefan Cumbo both left to Mons Calpe seeking regular football while Evan Coleing rejoined the Red Imps in Division 2.

As the window progressed more local talent was attracted. In Byron Espinosa the club was able to score somewhat of a coup. A genuine starlet of local youth football United were able to prise him for Lions FC setting a bench mark. Alan Parker, a regular GFA U19 international joined from Lincoln FC and in Dylan Borrell we secured the services of a keeper with plenty of potential. Further talent was added to our midfield with the arrivals of Jamie Bosio and Jamie Currer from Man 62 and Glacis United respectively. True class came in the transfer from Lincoln FC of midfielder ‘Pitu’ Anes. A player with plenty of local renown and who was reforging his relationship with Mark Casciaro in midfield, a fulcrum of Lincoln’s success not too long ago. Illustrious veteran Duane Robba also signed on bringing a wealth of experience and bagfuls of talent, the living epitome of form is temporary but class is permanent.

On the eve of deadline day former United defender Kenneth Chipolina, rejoined our ranks on a season long loan from Lincoln FC. Kenneth had gone Lincoln’s way as part of the Mark Casciaro deal last January. A popular member of the squad at the time he was welcomed back with warm hearts and open arms. Similarly, Lee Muscat key to the championship winning season last year renewed his contract hours before the transfer window closed.

The die is now cast with our season to kick off on Sunday 27th September at 16:30 vs FC Britannia XI

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Spotlight on Youth Football

Yesterday one of our Under 9 teams, Gibraltar United Fill A Skip, was invited to play a friendly in Spain against a side from La Linea called Calderon. This is the second time our team has crossed the border to play friendlies having beaten La Peña del Real Madrid 3-2 last week. They emerged victorious yesterday as well and are proving to be a solid, compact and effective unit. Things are looking up as we #SupportLocalTalentForTheFuture