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Football: Thrilling penalty shoot out for U13 final

The mini tournament being played this week in the Victoria Stadium, has seen the participation of teams from the UK like Harlow Sports Marquis and Saturn as well as a San Pedro team a team from La Linea called Sabal and of course Gibraltar's own GFA selections. Unfortunately a very talented side, from Guadiaro pulled out at the last minute.

Gibraltar's under 13 selection faced Sabal Atletic from across the border:

Sabal whose senior team play in one of the regional divisions, brought over a strong squad of their youngsters to play against our boys representing Gibraltar. Sabal have recently acquired two players from Gibraltar, Jamie Walker and Liam Franco both of these boys being very gifted players as were the majority of the Sabal side. Sabal regularly fields sides in their local league from under 7s to under 17s and then of course their senior side. Sabal's pedigree in producing some exceptional players regularly sees scouts from La Liga's, Sevilla FC, Cadiz and Malaga attend their matches. In fact Pewsey a Gibraltarian who used to play for Sabal has now been signed up by Atletico Madrid.

The Gibraltar side also boasted some very talented players and the enthusiasm which all the players brought to the game reflected the desire to win and improve on their footballing skills.

The game got off to a fairly slow start with both teams slightly on edge at the realisation that they were playing in a final of a very respectable tournament. As the first ten minutes passed of the allotted 40 minutes each way, Sabal began to impose themselves on the Gibraltar selection, their technical ability was evident as they passed the ball with some great one twos. This meant that the territorial advantage was significantly in Sabal's favour. This pressure was highlighted when on the 15th minute Sabal managed to break through and score with a low left shot to the Gibraltar goal the Sabal side were exstatic, only to be denied by an offside call by the referee. Despite their control on the game our boys did very well in defence with some notable examples on clearing their lines with some excellent clearances to protect Gibraltar's goal.

However on the 25th minute, Sabal Atletic managed to break the deadlock and Brandon Lopez managed to score an elegant goal with a low driving shot that went into the left hand side of Gibraltar's net. The Sabal side were elated but quickly composed themselves to keep the pressure on the Gibraltar side. The 35th minute of the first half saw some excellent work by the Gibraltarian midfield, which resulted in a beautifully timed pass to Gibraltar's Sean Sousi, he surged forwards moving into the penalty box, committing the keeper and slotting the ball under Sabal's goalie, Diego Fernandez's legs. The 100 or so crowd supporting Gibraltar were on their feet to congratulate and cheer on their boys, who had managed to draw the match against the run of play.

The second half was a more evenly contested affair although Sabal still had the higher percentage of ball possession and territory. They were however put under pressure by an empowered Gibraltar side, that were now inspired by Sousi's goal and the home crowd. This meant that Sabal's possession was not as tight as it had been in the first half, which allowed the Gibraltarians to test Sabal's defence with some long balls towards their strikers.

The rest of the half continued very much in the same way it started with some attempts at goal that proved to be unfruitful. It may have been the realisation that the final was going to have to be decided on a five penalty shoot out, which saw both sides make some last minute attempts to win the game. One of these was from Gibraltar's Walton who managed to break through the Sabal defence and provide him with an excellent scoring opportunity, however he hit the ball with the outside of his foot, which resulted in the ball going to the right of the goal. The crowd was at now the edge of their seats as the 40 minutes of time neared its end. Two other opportunities came from the Sabal side in fairly quick succession. The first came from a beautifully weighted cross from Sabal's number 16 Sergio Martin, his shot however, went right across the face of the goal, and managed to miss the heads of both defenders and strikers. The crowd let off a huge sigh of relief. This relief was short lived as soon after Sabal's Francis Sanchez managed to tear through the Gibraltar defence only to kick the ball directly into the hand of Jamie Payas. The referee immediately blew the final whistle and the two teams headed off to determine who were the ones chosen to play out the saga of a penalty shoot out.

First to the penalty spot for Sabal was the Gibraltarian Liam Franco who converted with a low shot to the right. First up for the Gibraltar side was Ricky Duarte who also managed to convert with a great shot. The second penalty by Sabal's Diego Cobo saw Jamie Payas make an excellent effort to save the penalty which hit his leg and rolled over the goal. Gibraltar then managed to draw level with a converted penalty by Alex Reyes. The third penalty, taken by Sabal's other Gibraltrian, Jamie Walker saw Payas make an excellent save, which the Gibraltarian crowd greeted with a loud roar. Unfortunately for Gibraltar Sykes Garro's great effort was also saved by the Spanish keeper. This brought Fede Callejon to the spot who put his penalty away with a great shot to the right of the goal. Andrew Rodriguez also managed to score for Gibraltar. This now meant that the last two shots were the deciding shots of the final; first up was Sabal's Francis Sanchez who convincingly slotted the ball in. The final attempt was by Gibraltar's scorer in regular time, Sean Sousi, who delivered a great shot, which was convincingly saved by the Spanish keeper.

This game was a great example of sportsmanship, the players were all real gentleman and both sides consolidated and congratulated each other with equal enthusiasm. This, unfortunately could not be said for some of the Gibraltarian spectators that unnecessarily insulted the players of Sabal.

All in all it was a very entertaining evening with fabulous conditions and an equally illuminating experience by the two teams. We hope both teams the best of luck in their football development.

Richard Manning has done a superb job in organising this event as well as pretty much all the other junior events being held in Gibraltar. We must congratulate Richard on his great organisational skills and dedication in providing our youngsters with the opportunity to play competitive football, week in week out.

There are many images of the game on the left hand side of this page feel free to click on the Stickam player and go through the gallery. Or Click here


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