12/07/16 : Lincoln Red Imps 1-0 Celtic.
Lincoln Red Imps of Gibraltar, a side full of part time players, humbled the Scottish champions – Celtic, in a historic match for the Gibraltarians. They go into the second leg tonight hoping to keep their monumental dream alive.
Home to just over 32,000 residents, Gibraltar is far less superior to Scotland’s 5.5 million total. To put things into context, the entire Gibraltar population could fit into Celtic Park, without having to even worry about opening the top tier. Before the match in Gibraltar last week, Celtic were firm favourites, heavily talked about, the Red Imps already written off before the ball had even been kicked. 40/1 the Imps stood to win the game pre match, how they were about to disprove this prediction. On national level, Gibraltar haven’t been hugely successful- often suffering high margin defeats, understandably however due to the smallness of this British colony. This prompted ludicrous score lines to be plucked from the air, with many predicting 7/8-0 stuffing’s.
As the sweltering heat beamed down over the rock of Gibraltar, the match got underway at Victoria Stadium. The Red Imps made an impressive start in what was former Liverpool manager, Brendan Rodgers’ first match. The heat and playing surface something Celtic were not accustomed too perhaps favouring the Red Imps. Celtic fielded a very strong side with most of their first team playing. New man Moussa Dembele who joined from Fulham was making an appearance, along with more experienced Hoops players such as Craig Gordon in goal, Scott Brown in midfield, and Leigh Griffiths upfront.
Even with all their experience and professional status- something wasn’t working. The second half began and within two minutes of play, Lee Casciaro who’s day to day job is a police officer, had the Scottish side’s defence in handcuffs, unable to stop him. A lovely flick over the defence saw Casciaro break the deadlock and sent the Gibraltarians into raptures. This was a shock score line! No one had even considered a win for Julio Ribas’ team. The game advanced into the latter stages, with Rodgers’ men still hunting for an equaliser. Leigh Griffiths came the closest as he hit the bar on two occasions- his best attempt being a thunderous free kick from the edge of the box, which somehow stayed out, and the rebound was lashed over the bar.
As the referee blew his whistle the Red Imps went ballistic! Inflicting an unthinkable score- line to keep their Champions League hopes alive! Who would have thought it? Celtic didn’t that’s for sure! They looked overconfident and appeared to walk out expecting a win before the ball was even kicked- the same can be said for all the pundits who never gave the home side any glimmer of hope! This is the most embarrassing result in Celtic’s 128 year history! Not quite the start Brendan Rodgers had in mind. Although, the Northern Irishman seemed optimistic in his post-match conference, making it clear that the green and whites would overturn the deficit on home soil. Should the Red Imps win tonight, they will face FC Astana- the Kazakhstan champions.
I will be rooting for the Red Imps, not only because they are the underdogs, but also because I have Gibraltarian heritage. Can they adapt to the colder climate and different playing surface? Will the occasion be too much to handle for players who have jobs such as a shipping agent ( Kenneth Chipolina) , a customs officer ( Roy Chipolina ) , and a policeman ( Lee Casciaro). It is a tight knit squad that’s for sure, with two sets of 3 brothers playing- The Casciaro brothers ( Ryan, Lee, Kyle ) , and also the 3 Chipolina brothers ( Kenneth, Joseph and Roy).
Will they make history?