Lincoln came back three times to deny Europa a first bite of the cherry as the League Champions won the Pepe Reyes Cup for the third time in a row last Saturday.
The 3:2 final score courtesy of a Lee Casciaro brace added up to what could be an important psychological victory over a much-talked-about Europa team set to face Lincoln in the first match of the league next week. In fact, the style of Raul Procopio’s triumph probably showed off how far Europa’s 80% new squad have to go, with Lincoln only going into top gear when they needed to, because as the coach said, they are still warming up for this season.
The match itself reflected the fact that at least the League Champions were not wanting to push themselves too much as they liked, with match fitness at an all time low after a short pre-season with many new last-minute additions to the squad.
Play was scrappy from the start, with passes often missing their mark, and Lincoln looking like a shadow of their usual selves. This meant that in terms of early chances there was little to choose between the two sides with nervy, physical challenges until two shots on goal from Europa in the 23rd minute seemed to galvanise the Champions into action.
What followed was a torrent of one-way traffic, with set-pieces and through-balls finally leading to the breakthrough. Joseph Chipolina rose highest from a Lincoln corner and at the second attempt headed home, much to the relief of the Lincoln fans at that end.
The goal was almost followed by another from a similar situation a minute later but Europa managed to steady their ship with a few pot-shots themselves before the break. Whatever the Europa coach told them at half-time, it did the trick, as they came on in the second half with a ravenous appetite which seemed to surprise their nemeses.
First, the Lincoln goalscorer almost gave them a helping hand with a horrendous back-pass which was only saved point-blank by Raul Navas, and second a more match fit Europa got on the scoreboard thanks to a run down the left and expert conversion by Joselinho.
Match fitness
But again it was a few minutes before Lincoln struck back, this time in superb fashion from Lee Casciaro, who controlled a cross from Yeray and fired into the bottom corner demonstrating fantastic technique. This was almost followed by another after the ever creative Liam Walker’s flying volley from 30 yards out almost crept in.
At 2:1 up Lincoln seemed content to let Europa have the possession and got pushed deeper and deeper. With the end in site, however, the inevitable happened. A defensive mistake led to the second equaliser and Guille headed the second equaliser. This time though, the riposte was misjudged, with two Lincoln chances blasted over from promising positions.
And so the fans groaned as we pushed into extra-time, the relentless Levante wind billowing into the West Stand making it feel like the game was dragging on with no foreseeable conclusion. End-to-end action soon got their attention again and just when it looked that Lincoln were starting to freeze, up stepped Casciaro to grab his second from Roy Chipolina’s headed cross.
The two-goal Lincoln hero confirmed to us that match fitness was something the players were in need of: “After finishing the Champions League qualifiers late, we started to train again in the middle of August so this game and the two international matches have served as our pre-season.
“Europa have been training twice a day in a very professional set-up so we hope to be ready to play them again next week. New winger Yeray is technically a very good player and I hope we gel together as we had to deal with a few other injuries too.”
This was a message echoed by Procopio: “We are still at a preparatory stage so winning a match like this one that has been punishing us so much is a real joy for me, especially as next week we play them again with points at stake.
“On the evidence of this match, this year it is going to be much harder than the previous season. But I think that within four or five matches we will be firing on all cylinders as the new players start to find their place in the team.”

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