Some things just go together. Chips and Mayo. Bacon and eggs. Fritz and cheating referees. OG and Chancy’s passing.
Fritz went top of the BML season thanks to some serious and blatant cheating that even one of their own players felt embarrassed about, and apologised for after the game.
But it all started so brightly for the Lions, coming out of the blocks quickly against a Fritz team that looked lacklustre and truly lacking in motivation.
Bai Ling pitch looked like it had recently been hosting a gymkhana event, the field bobbly and bumpy, the lights in the goal area getting worse by the season, and the corners by the river almost in complete darkness. But this did not stop the Lions from playing some very neat football as Fritz didn’t even get a touch for the first couple of minutes.
The opening goal came after Chancy on the right picked up the ball in his own half, and some intricate passing between him, Thomas and Christian culminated with the ball finding the Polack in the Fritz penalty area, whose shot was blocked by the goalkeeper, Thomas following up to score the rebound. 1-0 Lions. (Disclaimer: i may be wrong about the scorer – but i was in near darkness at the time).
Shortly after this the Lions had another golden opportunity, but the 2-0 did not materialise, and Fritz were able to survive. It is the opinion of your humble chronicler that if we had scored that, then there would have been no way back for Fritz.
Half way through the half, the Lions keeper took a fairly poor goal kick that lacked distance, Thomas got out-jumped, the ball went down the centre to the attacker who had way too much space, and he shot low and hard past Fowler to make it 1-1.
The Lions still pushed, and played some awesome football, with Mora and Alex making some good runs, but being caught “offside” on many occasions. Gayer Rob in a central midfield role fought for every ball, Thomas played some great passes, and OG reserved some of the magic he had shown at training to make some mazy runs and combine well with pretty much every Lion on the pitch.
By this time the game was getting niggly, the referee giving a foul for any Lion breathing in the direction of any Fritz player, but missing the blatant fouls of the team in blue who hacked and chopped their way through the Lions, pushed the defenders out the way, and cried like babies when a Lion made a perfectly fair tackle. Sure it is easy to say before the game that we know what it is like, but the frustration was growing inside the Lions camp, but nothing was to prepare us for what happened on the half hour mark.
On the Lions left, Hemingay and the Fritz number 12 had a bit of an issue – the Fritz player pushing Hemingay off the ball for the challenge, the ref and linesman both seeing it but deeming it to be fair, then Hemingay told the number 12 what he thought of it, leaning in close to get his point across, only to be pushed away in retaliation. The end result: red card for Chancy.
Oh no – the referee then re-consulted with his linesman, and rescinded the red card for Chancy, giving it instead to Hemingay. But only a yellow for the number 12.
With the man advantage Fritz pushed a little, sensing they might actually get something, and after skipping through the defence on the Lions right wing, they delivered a cross to the far post which went past both their own players, but Christian, desperate for a BML goal of his own, smashed it home. If only he could do that in the correct goal. 2-1 Fritz, but the dominant team still in terms of possession were the Lions.
Half time came, and the Lions were still in it, despite the numerical disadvantage.
The second half was all Lions, with an excellent shot from Christian to the near post acrobatically saved by the Fritz keeper. Two appeals for a penalty (both handballs) were waved away by the referee and if any neutral had been watching, he or she could easily have been of the opinion that the ref must be on a retainer by the team in blue. And if that were to be the case, then the performance by the ref today would have netted a pretty hefty sum.
Fritz tackled unfairly, and even the ref decided he had to take some action, and gave the Lions a free kick. Someone in the crowd fainted at the decision. Shortly afterwards Thomas got cut down from behind by the dirty number 12 who saw a second yellow and got sent off. Numerical parity was restored, and the Lions kept pushing, the keeper making some good saves, the crosses not quite hitting their mark.
OG thought he had scored when a great through ball put him in with a challenge against the Fritz keeper, and although he played the ball and put it in the net, the ref decided the challenge was much too dirty and disallowed the goal. Of course, given the nature of the game to that point (and indeed further on) that was only to be expected.
The Lions pushing forward so much gave Fritz the opportunity to counter, and from one such attack, Clovis made a great block on the line to prevent the opponents from extending their lead.
Mora got injured in a challenge, but with no subs left, stayed on and fought valiantly. Rooney had also brought himself on for the last 20 minutes, and combined well with the midfield and attack.
Clovis tried an audacious chip from 45 metres, trying to push the ball over the tallest Fritz player on the pitch, who tipped it on to the crossbar before securing the catch.
With just five minutes to go though, Fritz wrapped it up as a through ball was not dealt with by Charles who was coming back from injury, and the attacker shot from just inside the area past Fowler to secure the points.
Still the Lions did not give up, fighting for every ball, but could not muster a second goal.
It was a great fight from the Lions who can easily feel aggrieved by the fact that at times Fritz had 14 players on the field. Offside calls that were not, fouls on the Lions not given, fair tackles by the Lions given as fouls. The attacking 3-5-2 formation seems to be one that works though, and the Lions have adapted to it well.
Play of the day goes to Majo who came to watch the game with his Manc Scum supporting son. Asked to lead the Spartacus he shouted…
leaving the Lions slightly disoriented. Perhaps it is his fault we lost…