International football returned to the Victoria Stadium over the past week. Local supporters welcomed the return of these games to the Rock after enduring the long round trips to Faro and responded in force. The Under 21 side faced two tough tests in competitive matches in the Under 21 Euro Qualifiers campaign against Serbia U21 and Russia U21 while the Senior team squared off against Latvia in a friendly game.
The inclement weather was not kind to the Under 21s in their fixture against Serbia on Friday evening. With the wind and rain lashing down on the pitch the Under 21 lads faced a side of immense quality, indeed former Under 20 World Cup winners in 2015. They went down 6 – 0 but gave a good account of themselves in the first half. Erin Barnett played the full 90 minutes leading the defence and used his experience, a particular highlight was a last ditch clearance off the line.
The senior side, however fared a lot better and gave the massed spectators gathered at the Stadium something to cheer as a deflected Liam Walker free kick went into the net in the 88th minute of the game to give Gibraltar a 1-0 win. Gibraltar, in all fairness, played very well throughout the game and went toe to toe with our opponents for the most of the game. Chino made his long awaited debut and responded with a man of the match performance to which the crowd responded too with rapturous applause. Jamie Bosio also got a run out during the second half and he put himself about in his usual strong and effective manner. We hope that this result augurs well for the forthcoming UEFA Nations League games in September.
The U21s faced a tough physical challenge in Russia U21s in the last International on Tuesday evening. The weather was perfect and so was Gibraltar’s first 40 minutes. Annesley and Olivero joined the line up a mere 48 hours since their game with the full squad. Indeed Gibraltar had the first chance on goal and they matched Russia pound for pound. A lapse in concentration let Russia in for their first and they quickly followed with a quick fire second minutes before half time. Gibraltar were to reap the bill of the physical effort of the first 45 in the second half and as energies dropped Russia imposed their physical superiority to finish the game off 5-0 in their favour. Michael Negrette got 15 minutes on the pitch but mention must go to all the u21s as they gave it their all and the exhausted faces at full time told the story of the pitched battle they were in.
A mixed bag of results but the important thing is that the national teams were back at the Victoria Stadium and it is hoped that works begin apace at the Stadium to make sure that the football going public can enjoy more games at Home!