7th October 2016
World Cup Qualifier
A. Le Coq Arena, Tallinn, Estonia
Estonia 4-0 Gibraltar
It was a tale of endeavour and ultimate frustration in Tallinn, as Gibraltar enjoyed a decent first half before succumbing in the second. A match that had begun with hopes of grabbing a first ever competitive point sadly ended with disappointing defeat, and by more goals than Gibraltar’s efforts really deserved.
The first 45 minutes had seen a reasonably solid approach, albeit with one or two scares, as well as seeing some promising attacking play. The culmination of that was when Joseph Chipolina put the ball in the Estonian net from a rebounded free-kick on 12 minutes, only to be denied by the offside flag. This was indicative, though, of Gibraltar’s willingness to commit the numbers forwards and go for it when the chance arose. This was no timid display from the men from the Rock.
But even before that, the warnings had come at the other end. Roy Chipolina cleared off the line in the opening exchanges after goalkeeper Jordan Perez had spilled the ball. There were a few similar scares as the result of defensive mistakes and Gibraltar’s willingness to attack. As the half ended goalless though, Gibraltar could celebrate the fact that they had completed two consecutive halves of World Cup action without conceding a goal – the second half against Greece and the opener in Tallinn. If only they’d been in the same game, we’d really have had something to cheer…
But as with the first half against Greece, the second period in Estonia took a rather different course. Less than two minutes after the restart Estonia took the lead through Mattias Kait, who latched on to a pass from Konstantin Vassiljev. Five minutes later, Vassiljev made it 2-0 with a low shot, and Gibraltar’s hopes began to fade fast.
Jeff Wood, Gibraltar’s coach, sought to stop the tide with a couple of changes, and this did see Gibraltar providing a threat going forwards once again, but it was to be to no avail. On 70 minutes it was 3-0 as Kait scored again following a corner that had been poorly defended, and Moskinov added the final flourish near the end with a deflected effort.
It was a tough lesson in the harsh realities of international football where even a limited opponent will punish the slightest weakness in defence. There was encouragement in attack and in the goalless first half, but the backline will need to remain resolute for longer and make the opposition work more for their opportunities if Gibraltar are to gain any joy in this campaign.
Sterner tests await, but this was an encouraging showing up to a point. There are positives to take, but the road gets worryingly tough from here.
Come this way for highlights…
Europe Group H Standings:
I said that sterner tests await, and the first of those is straight upon us and is arguably the hardest test of all. Belgium, comfortable 4-0 winners over Bosnia-Herzegovina on Friday, visit the Estadio do Algarve in Faro tonight (Monday 10th October) to take on Gibraltar.
Belgium’s star-studded line-up, with players dotted around the top teams on the continent, will be expecting a comfortable three points and, no doubt, a hatful of goals. They have two wins from two so far, with a 3-0 win in Cyprus last month in addition to the Bosnia win at home on Friday. For Gibraltar, there is little to lose in such a match. The world expects a heavy loss, and if that transpires then so be it. But the ambition has to be two-fold. Firstly, to keep the disciplined and organised approach that led to two consecutive halves of World Cup football without conceding, and secondly to take the limited opportunities to attack that come along.
Any opportunities that arise may well be snuffed out fairly quickly, but if Gibraltar show enough controlled ambition, the aim going forwards has to be simply to try and get a goal, and if that isn’t possible, then at least to get a couple of efforts on goal. It’s the little victories like this that Gibraltar will have to aim for tonight.
A shock result would be precisely that; a shock. And a seismic one at that. The hopes for a competitive point lay in Tallinn last Friday. Tonight is all about putting in a good showing, keeping organised, disciplined and above all, keeping going.