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Lincoln Red Imps fired up to finish job and heap pressure on Celtic boss Brendan Rodgers

By Graham Luney

It's David v Goliath, only this time Goliath is back for revenge while nursing a black eye. Lincoln Red Imps can still be found floating on cloud nine after their sensational 1-0 win over Scottish giants Celtic in the first-leg of their Champions League second qualifying round clash last week.

It was a humiliating start for Ulsterman Brendan Rodgers as Parkhead chief.

His first competitive game in charge of the Hoops will haunt him forever but the boys from Gibraltar are living the dream.

Tomorrow night they will be at Paradise defending that slender lead courtesy of Lee Casciaro's goal and also believing anything is possible because 2016 is, after all, the year of the underdog.

Most of the Red Imps side are part-timers, working hard during the day in various jobs from a police officer, customs officer, admin clerk to shipping agent.

Where does the football come in? They simply do it for fun.

Celtic and Rodgers are on a revenge mission but should the unthinkable happen and they crash out of Europe, then the former Liverpool boss will find the axe hovering over his head even this early in his reign.

All the pressure is on them. Their opponents, who don't have big wages or expectations, will enjoy watching the Hoops sweat.

Right-back Jean-Carlos Garcia said: "I get up at seven to start work at eight. I work until about half-past three in the afternoon, maybe go to the beach and then get myself ready for training at seven in the evening.

"It's realistic to think the lower-ranked teams in England or Scotland might be impressed by us, why not? We are part-timers but we train every day. We have dreams of making it. Anything can happen in football.

'We don't have the mentality of going out to lose. We saw what Iceland did at the Euros and Leicester City winning the Premier League. Football is different from 30 years ago. If a team are compact and work their socks off, you can get any result."

Captain Roy Chipolina works as a customs officer but the 33-year-old, who was born in Enfield, England, admitted: "I've used up all my special leave and now I'm into my annual leave."

The defender, who played against Scotland, Germany, Poland and the Republic of Ireland for Gibraltar in the qualifying group for Euro 2016, added: "We're living the dream.

"There was no pressure on us before the first-leg, so there is probably even less pressure this time. It's a big ask because you can't begin to compare the teams. All the media attention has been unbelievable. It's new to us but the lads are enjoying it."

Midfielder Anthony Bardon added: "Everyone will have their eyes on this match.

"I love Gibraltar but I didn't want to get too comfortable living here. If I got a job and earned decent money, I wouldn't want to leave. I've given myself three or four years to make it as a professional footballer.

"They are good but we have proved we can compete against them."

The winners of the tie play Zalgiris Vilnius or Astana in the next round, with a play-off round to follow to reach the group stage of the Champions League.

Lithuanian side Zalgiris and Astana are tied at 0-0 ahead of the deciding leg in Kazakhstan.

Belfast Telegraph


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