Joseph Chipolina’s penalty made the difference in a historic game for the British overseas territory
Gibraltar celebrated their first competitive international triumph on Saturday, winning 1-0 in Yerevan against Henrikh Mkhitaryan’s Armenia in the Nations League.
The British overseas territory, who were only admitted to UEFA in 2013 after a prolonged legal battle, were dominated by their hosts in the Armenian capital, but Jopseh Chipolina’s 50th-minute penalty gave the minnows a lead that they clung to doggedly as manager Julio Cesar Ribas’s hitherto point-less side saw out an historic win.
Hrayr Mkoyan fouled Lee Casciaro in the area and Lincoln Red Imps man Chipolina stepped up to score from 12 yards and get Gibraltar up and running in Group 4 of the UEFA Nations League’s League D.
Gibraltar had gone 22 matches without tasting victory before Saturday, during which time they finished bottom of their qualifying groups for both Euro 2016 and the 2018 World Cup, conceding more than 100 goals in their 20 games.
The pre-match build-up in Yerevan had briefly been reduced to farce when staff at the Vazgen Sargsyan Stadium played the national anthem of Lichtenstein instead of Gibraltar as the teams lined up, an oversight for which the Football Federation of Armenia promptly apologised over social media.
Gibraltar are the smallest member of UEFA, and after first being rejected for membership in 1999 were forced to take their case to the Court of Arbitration for Sport, following resolute opposition from the Spanish Football Federation. Spain stakes a political claim to Gibraltar’s sovereignty.
Despite the win, Gibraltar remain bottom of Group 4, behind Armenia on goal difference. Macedonia lead the way, and look set to claim the Euro 2020 play-off spot on offer to the group winner.