UEFA Nations League Tournament, Group C4 Match – Fourth Round:
Bulgaria – Gibraltar 5:1 (2:1)
Scorers: 1:0 Valentin Antov 23, 1:1 Ray Cipolina 26, 2:1 Kiril Despodov 36, 3:1 Radoslav Kirilov 53, 4:1 Iliyan Stefanov 55, 5:1 Marin Petkov 80
Referee: Pavel Orel (Czech Republic)
Ludogorets Arena Stadium: 3,000 spectators
Bulgaria: Daniel Naumov, Ivan Turitsov (60 – Ioan Stoyanov), Petko Hristov, Valentin Antov, Anton Nedyalkov, Iliyan Stefanov (72 – Nikola Iliev), Iliya Gruev (72 – Yanis Karabelov), Filip Krastev, Radoslav Kirilov (81 – Martin Minchev), Kiril Despodov (60 – Georgi Rusev), Marin Petkov
Gibraltar: Dale Colling, Lee Annesley (63 – Ethan Jowley), Lee Casciaro (63 – Reece Stitch), Ethan Brito (81 – Joseph Cipollina), Ray Cipollina, Jace Olivero, Bernardo Lopez, Liam Walker (72 – Nicholas Pozzo), Graham Torria (63 – John Sergeant), Scott Wiseman, Kean Ronan
Bulgaria achieved their first victory in this year’s edition of the UEFA Nations League tournament after defeating Gibraltar 5:1. With this result, the Bulgarians retain their position in League C of the competition, and the guests from the British Iberian territory are relegated to the lower level. The “Lions” already have 6 points and are 1 from 2 in the group Republic of North Macedonia, and the next meeting is looming in Skopje, a direct clash for the position after the leader Georgia.
The match was also the debut for Bulgaria’s new national coach Mladen Kerstaich, as well as for Ioan Stoyanov, Marin Petkov, Georgi Rusev, Ilia Gruev and 17-year-old Nikola Iliev, playing for Inter (Milan) under-20 youth.
This is the first victory for Bulgaria in 2022 and the first since October 12 last year, when under the previous coach Yasen Petrov, the national team beat Northern Ireland 2:1 in a world qualifier.
The Bulgarian team tried to start the match actively and in the opening minutes Radoslav Kirilov and Iliya Gruev shot, but inaccurately. In the 23rd minute, Bulgaria took the lead with a goal by Valentin Antov – his first in the Bulgarian national jersey. Filip Krastev passed from a corner kick, but Antov overtook the visitors’ defender and sent the ball behind Dale Colling with his head.
But the visitors from Gibraltar equalized after just three minutes, again from a corner kick. 39-year-old Ray Cipolina, who works as a customs officer and plays football in his spare time, signed up. Cipolina outran Iliyan Stefanov and directed the ball behind Daniel Naumov.
But the Bulgarians did not give up and took a new lead before the end of the half. Radoslav Kirilov broke through from the right, continued to Iliyan Stefanov, who pushed the ball a little clumsily, but then with a split continued to Despodov, who signed for 2:1 from close range.
The Bulgarian team sealed the victory just three minutes after the break, when Radoslav Kirilov scored beautifully from the air and after that Iliyan Stefanov scored his second goal for the team. In the 53rd minute, Petko Hristov broke through from the right and returned to the penalty spot, where Despodov shot weakly and Stefanov failed to hit the ball. But she reached Kirilov, who shot Coleing from the air. Two minutes later, Stefanov scored from a second attempt, heading the ball in. The goalkeeper blocked his first shot, but lost his balance during the addition and allowed the Levski midfielder to celebrate.
After that, the selector Kirstaich made a lot of changes, gave a chance to more debutants such as Georgi Rusev, Ioan Stoyanov and Nikola Iliev. Despite the new players, the Bulgarian selection continued to hold the initiative.
Ten minutes before the end, Levski’s young striker Marin Petkov scored his first goal for the national team, after he was brought out in a wonderful way by Radoslav Kirilov alone against the goalkeeper on a diagonal. Petkov, however, finished like a real master and shot the goalkeeper Kolayng.
In the 90th minute, a sixth goal could have fallen in Dale Colling’s goal, but the guard managed to cope with two shots.