The morning after the Red Lions Christmas party is traditionally a time for nursing headaches, or jumping in to taxis to get the hell home and away from whatever monstrosity of a woman whose place you have no recollection of going to. It’s definitely not a time for playing football, and especially not good football. And even if it was, it would not be a time for playing arguably the best football of the season.
Like a man about to shoot his load, a performance of this magnitude has been coming for some time, and today it just all came together for the Red Lions. The warm sunshine of Da Jia made a welcome change to the pitch black of dusk from the last two games, and what a difference it made to the Lions. Like a bear coming out of hibernation, the Lions were hungry for points, hungry for goals. Carnegies were more like rabbits startled by the headlights of an on-coming car.
As kick off approached, 14 Lions assembled, with Newbie Mark the Manc finding the pitch despite the chairman’s attempts to get him lost. Logan led the Spartacus, a pre-taste of how he would be on the field. If his performance against the same opposition earlier in the season was class, then this was pure panache.
The Lions started out in an attacking 3-5-2 formation, and how it worked. Chancy was given the full back role, flanked by Matt and Clovis, the Polack promoted to the front with Alex, with Volker, Thomas, French Alex, Christian and Logan across the midfield in no particular order. The Howler was in goal.
In the first half, everything (except the first touch, which Panda got horribly wrong) went just perfect for the Lions. Slow and patient build ups, followed by a change in pace, accelerating down the wings culminated in the opposition being left to chase the ball, the Lions giving a display of the way football should be played.
Within just a few minutes, the Lions were a goal up – the Polack scoring from close to give us the perfect start, after a nice slow build up from the back. Chancy distributed the ball to the midfield from where it went to the right wing, and a good through-ball to Gayer Rob gave him the chance to cut inside the defender and score. Not long after it was 2, a second or the Polack, showing his attacking prowess. Carnegies had done nothing in attack to this point, but they forced a couple of corners, the second being punched clear by Fowler, showing that sometimes he can actually judge a cross.
Then came the goal of the game, after some sleek passing in midfield, the ball made its way to Christian who delivered a cross so sweet it could have been made by Cadbury’s. Panda timed his run and jump perfectly to power-header the ball in to the net for 3-0.
Rooney then brought himself on, and made an immediate impact, scoring the 4th and 5th within 2 minutes, the second pouncing on a defensive hari-kiri, the Carnegies defence in total disarray. But it would be a serious offence, for which your humble chronicler would no doubt be fined a round by the chairman, if he were to fail to mention the dynamic midfield role being played by Logan. There was one moment where Logan was helping out in the left back position, played a ball in to central midfield and moments later appeared on the right wing to collect the return pass. No one could have covered more of the field today than him – and even Ben Johnson’s steroids would have needed to take performance enhancing drugs to keep up with him. In fact, the operators of Taiwan’s High Speed Rail have been on the phone trying to get him to release the secret of his kinetic energy this morning.
So 5-0 at half time, and as Rooney said “without being complacent, this game is over”. Men against boys is not the right way to put it. It was more like men against toddlers. Even Constantin, watching for the second successive week, was shaking his head at the Carnegies players, knowing he could do better.
The second half saw Carnegies mildly more awake, but lacking any forceful attacks. OG showed his frustration when on the ball he wanted support but got none, his team mates looking perhaps as though they were looking at a football for the first time. The Lions still pressured, Chancy making forward runs and always looking for the ball, his distribution today absolutely spot on.
Panda got his second maybe a third of the way through the half, to make it 6-0, three Lions players now on a hat-trick. The 7th though was from Christian, for once placing a shot rather than blasting the ball in to orbit.
Clovis was being marshaled well by Chancy at the back, and tried a couple of clever touches which went wrong, thus being told not to fart-arse around, and French Alex on the right made some good runs up to support the attackers. Any danger that did look like becoming a potential Carnegies attack was quickly snuffed out by the combination of Clovis, Chancy and Manc Mark at the back, Fowler left with very little to do. On the one occasion he was called in to action, a low and hard shot towards his near post, the Lions keeper was alert and made the save.
Carnegies had a couple more corners from the Lions right, OG proclaiming he would score from one of them, but these were nullified by the excellently positioned Logan and Chancy, and off the Lions went once more for a counter-attack.
With five or so minutes left, Carnegies had a valid appeal for a penalty waved on by the ref, Christian’s high challenge deemed nothing for the referee to blow his whistle for, but on a performance like today’s, you have to question whether Carnegies would have scored it anyway.
As the game drew to a close, another sweet cross from Christian was controlled by Panda, who scored his hat-trick, and then very shortly later, after yet another cross, he kicked air, turned a pirouette, and smashed the ball home for his fourth, the Lions 9th.
The referee decided this was enough of a stuffing for Christmas, and blew his whistle for full time. The smiles on the Red Lions faces as they headed off the pitch contrasted with the heads hung (perhaps in shame) by the opponents.
So the CPL season is over, and what a way to end it. It was a much better overall season performance from the Lions than last year, with memorable victories over the Scum, a 2 month clean sheet series (CPL record) and the double over Carnegies FC. Just like Vanessa Williams, the Red Lions went and saved the best for last.