Tuesday, 28 June 2011

Alderney 1 v 6 Gibraltar

Sunday 26th June 2011
Island Games, Men's Tournament, Group B
St Georges Park, Newport
Admission: £3.00
Tournament Programme: £3
Match day programme: 20p
Attendance: 156
Match Rating: 4

The opportunity to watch some rather unusual international football together with some off-season action attracted me to the Isle of Wight for a couple of days, to take in some games in the football section of the Island Games, an Olympics-style tournament including island nations from all over the world. First stop for me would be an afternoon kick-off at St George's Park, home of Newport (IOW).

St George's Park, located just outside of the town and about a ten minute walk south of Newport bus station, is quite an impressive ground considering the Wessex League they play at, with very good facilities, is easy on the eye and is very well maintained. As one enters the ground, there is an all-seater grandstand offering good unobstructed views of the action.on one length of the pitch and on all three other sides there are shallow stands for covered standing all painted in club colours. Plenty of trees, a couple of hills and a peaceful setting ensure that the ground has a nice rural feel to it. Programmes for the entire men's and women's tournaments were on sale for £3, with contained 34 pages with information about fixtures, squad listings and ground descriptions, although it lacked anything about the history of the tournament or about the islands themselves, which would have been interesting reading. Also produced was a four page publication for the individual match which just included team squads for this game. From that point of view, the individual match programme contained no further information than the tournament programme. As a souvenir of the match, and priced at only 20p, it was a welcome publication, although considering the charging for games was a controversial decision in itself - with all other games free of charge, as has the football been in previous tournaments, it would have seemed appropriate had this very basic match programme been included with admission.

Considering the small size and population of Alderney, they deserve credit for putting out a football team at the Island Games, this being only the second time they have managed to do so, the other back in 2003 when the games were held in neighbouring Guernsey, when they won one game, beating Saaremaa to be ranked eleventh of the fifteen participating teams. Although the mind boggles as to how Gibraltar can be classed as an island, they have entered the men's tournament of the Island Games every time bar once since 1993. They have generally been an average peformer, although they did win the tournament in 2007.

On a blisteringly hot day, the opening ten minutes were quite even, however, when Gibraltar opened the scoring on 12 minutes through Joseph Chipolina with an excellent strike with the outside of the foot from outside the penalty area, the game completely transformed, as Gibraltar obviously sensed that Alderney were a very limited team who were there for the taking. Within minutes, a fabulous overhead kick struck the crossbar and appeared to bounce over the line before bouncing clear, but no goal was awarded. By half time, Gibraltar had opened up a four goal lead, all well worked goals helped by some accommodating Alderney defending allowing far too much time and space to the tricky Gibraltans. Roy Chipolina scored on 27 and 29 minutes, Lee Casiaro on 38 minutes, and one feared the scoreline might become embarassing for Alderney.

The lead was increased to five on 50 minutes with another excellent goal, a precisely played one-two finishing with a cute finish into the corner of the net by Casciaro for his second of the game. Finally, after wave upon wave of skilful attacks, with Alderney only having their keeper to thank for some very good saves to keep the scoreline moderately respectable, Gibraltar seemed to take the foot off the gas and Alderney managed to get on the scoresheet on 64 minutes through a deflected shot by Joshua McCulloch. Gibraltar should then have restored their five goal advantage when they were awarded a penalty, but the shot was screwed horribly wide. After a fairly dull passage of play, Gibraltar finally did score their sixth when they were awarded another penalty, this time Daniel Duarte made no mistake in sending the keeper the wrong way. 6-1 was how the match ended, and this was a fair reflection of proceedings - if anything, the one goal Alderney scored flattered them, who were completely outclassed and struggled to get out of their own half for most of the match. Gibraltar on the other hand were a joy to watch with their skills and fast passing game, although it was sad to witness their theatrics and trying to pick fights with the Alderney players (one wonders how they would behave if things were not going their way in a game?!) particularly when the Island Games is proudly billed as the friendly games.

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