Gibraltar’s national team fell 2-1 to a vastly more experienced Rochdale side in a friendly match at the Victoria Stadium. Goals came from Simon Hackney, Jason Kennedy, and a goal for Gib coming from Joseph Chipolina.
Even before the game kicked off, you could tell who would be the physically superior side, with Rochdale’s players clearly a lot bigger than their Gibraltarian counterparts. This was always going to be a difficult game, and it took just 3 minutes for the first goal to come. A decent build up of play led to the ball being played to Simon Hackney, and Hackney, wearing the number 19 shirt in this friendly after just joining Rochdale from Colchester, calmly put the ball in the back of the net, giving Rochdale a handy start.
After the early set back, Gibraltar started to pick themselves back up and get back into the game, but were not helped by conceding a second goal on 23 minutes. Admittedly, there was little they could do about it, as Jason Kennedy single handedly took apart the Gibraltarian defence before taking a shot from just outside the box which went in quite nicely, to round off a terrific individual effort. Despite this second goal though, it was Gibraltar who started to look the more lively, showing some nice work both on and off the ball, and having a few chances at a goal themselves, including an audacious overhead kick that almost found its way in the back of the net. However, they did get a goal back with a couple of minutes to go until half time.
A corner kick won by Gibraltar after a close effort beforehand was put in the box, and Joseph Chipolina of Linense comfortably lashed the ball into the back of the net to give Gibraltar’s fans something to cheer about.
The first half went without many stoppages, apart from a planned, and very sensible stoppage at the half hour mark to allow both teams a drinks break. The 34 degree heat would’ve been hard for either team to play in, and the drinks break was a very good idea from whoever thought it up.
As the second half came to play, Gibraltar once again showed a lot of good skill on the ball, and promised a fair bit. They had a few chances of their own to go with the numerous chances Rochdale had, but unfortunately there were to be no more goals in this game. There were however, for some reason, a fair few hard tackles going in both ways, not entirely necessary for a pre-season game, and one of the Rochdale defenders needed a head bandage put on after suffering a wound in a goal mouth scramble.
As the game wore on, substitutes came into play, as the fitness differences between the professionals of Rochdale, and the amateurs of Gib clearly came into play, as did the customary drinks break half an hour into the second half. Rochdale were sporting a number of new signings, including goalscoring Simon Hackney, and loanee Stephen Darby, who is currently on loan from Liverpool. Darby had a solid game, although in truth he had relatively little to do at right back. Jean-Louis Akpa Akpro though, fresh off the bench, had a number of chances to score near the end, but missed all of them, including a few one on ones that he inexplicably didn’t manage to either put away, or even get on target sometimes, much to the amusement of the local crowd. The crowd, which hardly filled up the West Stand, seemed to be enjoying the game, with numerous chants going throughout, including asking if the Rochdale team ‘were Oldham in disguise’. As the game neared a close, Gibraltar had a couple of chances to grab an equaliser, but couldn’t, and eventually, the referee, who had a quiet, if occasionally questionable game, blew up for full time.
Gibraltar are supposed to be playing Cardiff on Tuesday in Jerez, but there’s been no word on whether that is set to go ahead or not. Won’t be able to make the game myself though.