Rock Cup Semi Finals - Europa 1-0 Lions
Gibraltar - Rock Cup Semi Finals - Europa 1-0 Lions The story behind the images: -
Europa secure their European presence by Stephen Ignacio
With the two top teams in the league now more than decided, Europa hinged their hopes of a presence in Europe on their result in the Rock Cup semi finals against Lions.
Lincoln with an 8 point advantage in the league only now needs to secure one more point to claim themselves champions, with three matches to go. Their next match against relegated Angels.
Europa’s second place position in the league would mean nothing without reaching the cup final, as they would then be in the hands of Lincoln winning the cup. The tensions were evident to see in camps hours before the Europa V Lions cup match started. Lions President Alex Grech admitting as much the previous evening, during a Lions women’s league match. Lion’s season had been mediocre for all intents and purposes, and reaching the final and winning it was their only hope of having any chance of reaching the Europa League qualifiers. This was after all the prize for the winners.
Europa took control of the match from the very first instance, playing a controlled passing game and trying to set their own pace. Lions were however to force them to rethink their tactics as they held on and even ventured to press them up front edging away from their area.
As the minutes passed the pressure on Europa player’s shoulders was evident to see as they started to lose confidence and allowed Lions into the game.
With the first half ending goalless, Lions came out with greater determination seeing that they had a chance at denting Europa’s hopes.
Neither side had any clear chances at goal, as it seemed Lions had started to take on a more offensive position a strike from the left saw Polish keeper Szpilczynski stretched to make an impressive flying save as the ball scooped over him. His punch however was steered into the middle of the area from where, Mendez, who had only just come in 12 minutes earlier for Barranco, pounced on it to header it into the net.
The jubilation among Europa players and fans was that of a cup final. With close to 400 people watching the match the intensity of the match became even bigger.
With just 20 minutes left on the clock Europa begun to play a tactical game to break up the pace and flow of the match. Players rolled easily from simple challenges, or would play to delay in taking throws or free kicks to the annoyance of Lions players who argued with the officials for not issuing any yellow cards.
Europa’s delaying tactics worked as they run down the clock giving Lions little to no chance to have many attempts at goal. Lions came close to equalising when towards the end of the match they broke through the right only to see Arevalo come out and block a shot which rebounded onto the Lions player for a goal kick.
Europa had done enough to secure their presence in Europe, at least to ensure that win or lose in the cup final their second placed position in the league and Lincoln’s presence in the cup ensured they could repeat last year’s European adventure.
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