The day finally came, and the two top teams in Gibraltar in recent years squared off in search of Rock Cup glory. This match saw biggest turn-out of the season as expected, with both sets of fans in fine voice. Lincoln were as always the favourites, wanting to consolidate yet another double and Europa were looking to cause an upset and lift their second senior trophy since the club was reformed. Europa have had more than their fair share of upheaval over the last few weeks with a sudden change in management and a season-ending injury to keeper Javi Muñoz. This together with a shock defeat in the last match of the season at the hands of Lions has meant a less than ideal start to the tenure of Juan Jose Gallardo as first team manager. The match started very promisingly for Europa with some good movement from midfield with the speedy Joselinho and Guille Roldan on the wings trying to feed the Premier Division’s top goalscorer Pedro Carrion. Soon Europa were dominating possession and their superiority was clear. The game was sometimes a passionate affair with each team giving as good as they got. Of note was a loose elbow which caught midfielder Ivan Moya on the nose and required treatment. Lincoln were subdued in attack with a couple of runs from Lee Casciaro coming to nothing, but were also holding firm in defence. Chance after chance went wide for Europa as unfortunate finishing or Raul Navas defending the Imps goal was getting in the way of what would have been a deserved lead. Forty-five minutes of domination with nothing to show for it against Lincoln has been an all too familiar feeling for Europa this season.
The second half started with a more entertaining pace as Lincoln realised they had to put the work in to get ahead. The Red Imps upped their game and limited Europa to only a few chances, the clearest one coming from Livramento who found himself one-on-one with Matt Cafer, the Europa keeper with a great low parry from a very powerful rasping shot by the Portuguese midfielder. Lincoln were beginning to show signs of urgency while Europa strangely began to take the foot off the gas. An injury to referee Tim Reoch meant that 4th official Yaro Borg took his place on the pitch. The game was still a stalemate with only fifteen minutes to go. Lincoln got a free kick near the right edge of the area which was perfectly delivered by the dead-ball maestro Liam Walker onto the head of Joseph Chipolina waiting on Cafer’s far post. Nothing Matt could do about it and it was 1-0 for Lincoln. Wild celebrations from the Red Imps faithful as it was clear that Lincoln were on the ascendancy once again. There was nothing to do for Europa but keep plugging away and they very nearly made a breakthrough as Guille Roldan’s cross from the byline met the newly introduced Javi Martinez who fluffed his lines in front of Navas, the ball eventually cleared upfield. With Europa desperately seeking an equaliser, Lincoln had the space to make more chances count and five minutes before the end of normal time Walker again made no mistake curling an inswinger past Cafer who was rooted to the spot to make it 2-0 and put the game beyond any doubt.
Lincoln saw out the last few minutes plus injury time to record yet another cup triumph, and it’s the third in a row for Esteban Ribas’s men. Disappointment for the green and black as another chance to get the better of our eternal rivals went begging. Silverware still eludes Europa with last year’s Senior Cup being the only honour achieved so far in the club’s latest incarnation. The club must keep on growing and gaining experience in these high competition matches to be able to better our rivals. Another great test coming up in the UEFA Europa League first round next month. We believe the future is bright for Europa FC, we will be back stronger next season. As far as the domestic season is concerned, there is one last thing to be said. To paraphrase the famous Gary Lineker quote: “Football is a simple game. Twenty-two men chase a ball for 90 minutes and at the end, Lincoln always win.” Congratulations to the double champions.
Lincoln Red Imps FC 2 – Europa FC 0