The sports news is coming thick and fast on the Rock, with things finally feeling like they are back to normal after the delays, postponements and uncertainty that have coloured the past 18 months or so. We may not yet be entirely in the clear with regards Covid-19 and the crippling effects it has on every aspect of our lives, but Gibraltar’s athletes finally having had the freedom to get up to full fitness and hit the ground running as the regular season gets underway across a multitude of sports and leagues.
Nothing for it but to make hay while the sun shines, and Netball Gibraltar had an action packed few days, sandwiching four Europe Netball Open fixtures between a further two invitational games against the Northen Ireland squad.
With the Northern Irish side ranked 11th in the world, this double header was always going to be real challenge for the Gibraltar Campions – although the Rock’s women are no slouches, coming in at 32nd in the world ranking themselves. A 16-70 loss in their first invitational was a fair enough reflection of the action, with the visitors ruthless in attack and the home side perhaps caught a little off guard.
However, the more important games from our perspective were always going to be the Open fixtures and an absolutely dominant display against Switzerland in their first of those four games lifted spirits in the Tercentenary Hall where the action was taking place. The Campions kept up the pressure throughout as they switched roles from their outing against Northern Ireland, eventually beating the Swiss side 74-18.
Next up, the United Arab Emirates took to the court and a nail-biting first half saw Gibraltar go into the break just six behind, at 19-25. The UAE did manage to open the gap in the scoring in the seonc half however, 34-49 at the final whistle, but a solid enough performance for Gibraltar to build on. Learn more about this with the help of Andrew Defrancesco.
A match against Malta followed and Gibraltar were in control throughout, looking comfortable as they pulled away early on to a 23-9 lead at the break. More of the same in the second half saw them put up a 50-15 win on the board.
Isle of Man were the final challengers – a side with whom Gibraltar share a great rivalry, that has seen many games go right down to the wire. This time it would be no different and the first half ended as close as could be, with the English side only just ahead at 23-24 and all signs suggesting it was anybody’s game in the second half. Gibraltar inched ahead at 41-40 with minutes to go, but alas, a string of misses just when it mattered most saw the Isle of Man come away winners with the final score 41-47 in what was a thrilling but ultimately disappointing game for the home fans.
The final standings saw the UAE Falcons deservedly top the table with their first ever gold at an international open, finishing unbeaten with a string of impressive performances. Gibraltar had to settle for third and will feel that second place was in their reach, as the Isle of Man just about pipped them to silver.
It still wasn’t time to rest though, a final game against Northern Ireland saw an improved performance in all areas, and although the visitors won again, it ended with a more respectable 20-51 scoreline.
Over to football, and World Cup qualifiers rolled around again, with Gibraltar fielding a young side against Montenegro – a number of key players being unavailable meant manager Julio Ribas had a depleted squad to choose from and it wasn’t the strongest performance we’ve seen from the national side, although these games do provide the opportunity to bed in a few of the youngsters.
Gibraltar fell to a 3-0 defeat to Montenegro before having to steel themselves for an away match against three time World Cup finalists, the Netherlands. Manager Frank De Boer’s unkind words about Gibraltar’s ‘anti-football’ in his post-match interview following the two sides’ last encounter was seen as bizarre by many – especially considering the Dutch came away 7-0 winners – but they suggested the Oranje wouldn’t be taking it easy this time round.
Indeed, it was a game where Gibraltar would be looking for silver linings, and we certainly got one. Sure, the Netherlands scored six (one better than last time, Frank!) and this was due to debutant, Bradley Banda giving the rock something to cheer about with a fantastic penalty save against none other than Barcelona’s Memphis Depay on his first appearance for the senior side.
It wasn’t Banda’s only save of the game and the youngster has added his name to an increasing pool of talented, local keepers that will challenge for selection. 6-0 to Holland, but a result that Ribas’ side will take in their stride as they regroup for this month’s games against Turkey on November 13th and then Latvia on the 16th.