A much improved performance from the Taipei Red Lions was shrouded in controversy as City took a giant stride to retaining the league title. The 3-1 victory was not a result that reflects the nature of the game, with the Lions on top for most of the second half.
It all started off with the Lions adopting a 4-5-1 formation, designed to contain the City attack, and not focusing so much on the very creaky defense. The starting line up was Mao in goal, with Kim Sun Il and Charles in central defence, Matt and Chancy the full backs. In midfield, Logan, OG and Barras, with James and Christian on the wings. The Polack Minister of Propaganda was up front, all on his ownsome.
The gauntlet was laid down by City within the first few minutes, with that Pikey Ross bringing down Christian in one of the most vicious fouls seen in recent seasons in the BML. Not going for the ball, and with Christian shepherding it out of play for a Lions throw in close to their own 18 yard box, the Pikey brought Christian down from behind, bringing a scream from the Lions player which could be heard in Hsinchu. For some strange reason which most people thought was the fact that he had actually left his cards at home, the referee failed to reach for his top pocket and produce what would quite rightly have been worth a red card. Not even yellow. Not even a packet of Marlboro.
With City quite visibly on top for the first period, the Lions gave away a free kick just outside the box, and with the wall lining up, City sent players forward with the Lions attackers not coming back. This ended up with 3 unmarked players at the far post, and with the ball landing at Dan Calverts’ feet, you knew he was not going to miss from a couple of metres out, despite the wicked slice on his shot. 1-0 City.
The pressure was all on the Lions, and a succession of corners found the Lions struggling to clear the ball. When the ball did go out for a goal kick, the Lions had troubles getting any distance, the balls for the BML almost as hard as cannonballs. One shot from distance came in, with Howler Fowler diving to his right, the rebound being cleared for yet another corner by Kim Sun Il/Chancy who had worked out that their keeper’s Teflon gloves were still being worn.
The Lions were finding it difficult to get out of their own half, resorting to long balls up to the Polack who was had his own problems in finding his stride. This is not to say, however, that all the chances were solely for City, and the Lions did manage to better the total of shots on target from the first game within the first half hour, James scuffing a shot straight at the keeper after doing all the hard work, and the Polack shooting from a tight angle. But aside from a few half chances, it was City who were applying the pressure.
Seeing the problem, Rooney brought off both Charles and the Polack, reverting to a 3-5-2 in order to give the Lions a little more thrust up front. Replacing these two were Bryan and Mora, and it injected some life in to the Lions play.
Half time came, and the Lions were definitely getting more in to the game, Rooney explaining that this was definitely a match for the taking. And the second half exploded in to life with Bryan smacking a ball against the cross bar from the right hand side of the City penalty area, the goalkeeper stranded.
Despite working hard, OG’s game was not the usual flow we have come to expect, but there could be no faulting his commitment. Logan and Barras fought well, winning several headers in key areas, and the three man defense was holding firm. The Lions equaliser came after some good play from the Lions midfielders who played some awesome defense splitting passes, the ball finally being bundled in to the net by Bryan. 1-1 and City now looked visibly shaken.
It was all Lions who took the game to their opponents, and suddenly the confidence was there for all to see. With all the play in City’s half, the Lions set about finding that second goal, alas the attack not able to find that final touch that could seal the three points and truly open up the race for the BML title. There was an appeal for handball in the area, which looked very valid from where your humble chronicler was standing, but the ref, as well as having left his cards at home, had forgotten his contact lenses.
Christian had been taken off, replaced by Fred, and Alejandro made his first appearance for the Lions this season, with Ant also coming on to bring some fresh legs to the Lions game.
City were still dangerous on the break, and from a header back to the keeper from Chancy which was slightly short, Dan Calvert sprinted on in to the Lions penalty area, Fowler amazing all on-lookers by pouncing on the ball, happy to see the ball rebound nicely.
Shortly afterwards though, City struck once more – Alejandro had given a free kick away for a hand ball which was a soft decision, City taking the kick quickly and passing out to their left wing, where Puerto Rican Alex picked his spot nicely at the far post to make it 2-1.
Fowler was replace by Volker in goal, and the Lions fought in vain to recover from this setback. Panda was sent on, his first game after scoring against the Japanese. From one cross he rose like a salmon, alas getting under the ball and powering it over the bar as the Lions pushed forward.
With time running out, the game concluded in controversial fashion. With Chancy injured, lying on the ground on the far side, City showed their lack of sportsmanship by carrying on and not passing the ball out of play like any normal team would. The gap in the centre of defense was exploited, the ball slotted away to make the score 3-1, the whole Red Lions squad incensed at this total lack of spirit from the opponents.
Clovis was brought on for the last 45 seconds to replace Chancy, as abuse was hurled from the Lions to the Pikey whose welcome at training sessions seems to have been rescinded. Unlucky in defeat for sure, the Lions can keep their heads held high in the knowledge that at least we have class, as opposed to the Pikey scum.