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
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
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.
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.
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.
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.