10th October 2016
World Cup Qualifier
Estadio do Algarve, Faro, Portugal
Gibraltar 0-6 Belgium
It was a record-breaking night in Faro on Monday, but sadly not for any giant-killing reasons. Belgium’s Christian Benteke scored the fastest ever World Cup qualifying goal after only 7 seconds in what was a nightmare start for Gibraltar’s debutant goalkeeper Deren Ibrahim.
Benteke’s strike removed the one from San Marino’s Davide Gualtieri against England in 1993 from the record books – a fact that most England fans will no doubt be eternally grateful for.
In many ways it was a similar scenario to Gualtieri’s goal. Gibraltar had kicked off but lost possession when Ryan Casciaro was caught on the ball by Benteke who then ran through on goal and fired home. With the team visibly shaken, including a stunned Jeff Wood on the sidelines, it might have been easy for Gibraltar to capitulate.
Had Thomas Meunier’s 11th minute shot gone in instead of hitting the post things may have got rapidly worse, but Gibraltar thankfully held out for a little while longer before Axel Witsel’s deflected shot from outside the box made it 2-0. Ryan Casciaro was again the unlucky one, as his attempted block was the cause of the deflection.
Gibraltar struggled to keep the ball for anything longer than a few seconds against Belgium’s highly vaunted players, but they finally managed a notable foray forwards on the half hour. Thibaut Courtois got his gloves dirty for the first time when he palmed a decent strike from distance from Kyle Casciaro over the bar.
Belgium’s third came shortly before the interval – Benteke again – with another soon after the restart – Mertens. And within a few minutes Benteke completed his hat-trick. With more than half an hour to go and the core standing at 5-0, prospects of a thoroughly demoralising rout were troublingly high.
Whether it was Belgium easing off, or Gibraltar gaining a foothold once more it is hard to say, but only one more goal found its way into Gibraltar’s net before the end when Eden Hazard scored after some nice link-up play. Ibrahim made a few late saves to prevent the score from getting worse.
Come this way for highlights…
Elsewhere the group saw a pair of 2-0 wins, for Bosnia-Herzegovina over Cyprus, and for Greece away to Estonia.
Europe Group H Standings:
So Gibraltar’s first pair of official worst in the world fixtures see two defeats from two, and confirmation that their stay at the bottom of the rankings will continue for another month at least.
Unlike their fellow basement-dwellers they will definitely be in action again next month with a trip to Cyprus on 13th November. With both teams currently sitting on 0 points, perhaps there is hope for this fixture to produce the positive result we crave, however the defensive blunders and lack of sustained concentration need to be remedied if there are to have any hope.
I don’t want to be too harsh as this latest match was against true quality opposition, but it is the self-inflicted wounds that hurt most in such games. Cyprus will punish such laxness too, but there is at least the possibility of a better outcome even if it remains a slim one.