Last week, two official friendlies between the futsal teams of Gibraltar and Malta took place in the Tercentenary Sports Hall (TSH). The two matches saw both teams gain a win each, as a 4-3 win for Gibraltar on the Thursday was followed by a 4-2 victory for Malta two days later.
The original plan for these futsal games were for a three team competition to be held. However, Wales, the planned third team, pulled out at very short notice (Wales went to a four team tournament in Poland, featuring the hosts, Moldova and Norway instead). Despite the late cancellation, Malta agreed to play two friendlies against Mario Prescott’s team.
Malta, who are the lowest ranked of 106 nations in futsal, (Gibraltar will enter the rankings officially after playing 10 games; so far they have played eight) would provide a good test of Gibraltar’s credentials, being a nation of similar ability. A sizeable crowd filled the one stand in the Tercentenary Sports Hall, and they were treated to two high quality encounters.
The first game saw Gibraltar, wearing their white away kit despite technically being at home, beat their Maltese counterparts 4-3 in a thrilling battle. Despite Malta’s experience showing in the game, Prescott’s team were never losing in what was only their fourth game with the current squad (the team who went to Nice last year were mainly national football players). A double from Andrew Lopez, alongside goals from Ian Rodriguez and Duane Robba meant that Gibraltar’s fans could go home happy seeing their nation win. Malta’s goals came from Jovica Milijic, Cedric Sciberras and Dylan Musu, but they couldn’t grab an equaliser to spoil Gib’s night.
The Saturday night saw both teams eager to see off the week in style, but it was Malta who were to deservedly take the spoils in a 4-2 battle. Despite Gibraltar taking the lead through Jamie Walker, goals from Giancarlo Sammut (x2), Jovica Milijic and Rennie Tanti ensured Malta could relax in the final minutes. Gib did get a goal back through Andrew Lopez (top scorer from both teams over the two games with three goals), but there was not enough time for a comeback of sizeable proportions.
Overall, having international futsal on the Rock was almost a novelty, but it is more than welcome. The crowds seemed to enjoy the event too; hopefully this translates to higher attendances at domestic futsal games, which are ever Saturday and Sunday at the TSH.