Rock-solid Gibraltar hold Slovakia to memorable draw on debut

Tue Nov 19, 2013 4:03pm EST
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FARO, Portugal (Reuters) - Gibraltar celebrated their first match as a UEFA member with an impressive defensive performance to hold Slovakia to a goalless draw on Tuesday.

The stands at the 30,000-seater Algarve stadium were big enough to fit in the whole population of Gibraltar but the 500 fans who traveled from the rocky enclave celebrated as if they had won.

It was Gibraltar's first full international after the rocky territory became UEFA's 54th member in May following a 14-year court battle against Spanish objections to their football ambitions as a national side.

Waving red and white flags and some Union Jacks, the Gibraltarian supporters watched a display of nervy but brave defending by their mainly amateur side throughout the match.

After hearing their national anthem for the first time at the highest level, Gibraltar captain Roy Chipolina gave a pre-match motivational speech to his team which seemed to work.

He combined with former Manchester United, Stoke City and Sunderland defender Danny Higginbotham to clear wave after wave of Slovakian attack.

Halfway through the first period, Gibraltar goalkeeper Jordan Perez denied the Slovaks with a good reflex save from the visitors' main threat on the night, midfielder Karim Guede.

Slovakia were without their two leading players, Napoli striker Marek Hamsik and Liverpool defender Martin Skrtel.

Midfielder Daniel Duarte also cleared a ball off the line as the Gibraltarians held firm to halftime.   Continued...

Gibraltar's Jeremy Lopez (R) fights for the ball with Slovakia's Pavol Farkas during their international friendly soccer match at Algarve stadium near Faro November 19, 2013. REUTERS/Rafael Marchante