The Red Lions ushered in the new captain’s era with a hard fought yet well deserved victory over a hard battling JFC. With a mere 15 minutes to go before kick off, though, it was not looking so good for the Lions, as it looked as though perhaps the Lions would not even get to assemble a starting 11. Captain Chancy turned up with 14 minutes to spare, joining the likes of Kevin, French Alex,
Manc Scouse Confused Mark, Barras and your humble chronicler.
Panda then turned up, as did the Polack, Thomas, Clovis, Logan and Majo. Having said that, Majo was forced in to moving his car from the bus parking station, having made the slightly illegal manouevre of entering the Flower Expo grounds.
Paddy, Rooney and James all turned up to watch the game, and as the teams lined up, Panda suggested that we need to find a new name for French Alex, as there was perhaps going to be some confusion between the two.
“Alex, when you were at school, what was your nickname?” asked your humble chairman.
A quick shrug of the shoulders ensued, and the typical francophone answer of “Pfff” was barely audible. Pfff it is then.
Chancy realized that his ideal starting 11 which included Majo (who was still looking for a parking space) had to be extremely flexible, so the game started with you humble narrator in goal, Clovis, Chancy, Barras and Mark in defence, with Logan, Thomas and Panda in midfield, and Polack and Pfff wide attackers, and Kevin up front in the poacher’s role.
Fred was late – his excuse? “If the taxi driver had dropped me off in a better place I would have been early.”
So would you have been had you got up 10 minutes earlier mucker.
The Lions started brightly, with a lot of possession, making a few chances here and there, but not really pressuring the Japanese defence. When the Japanese did have the ball, they were harried by the midfield trio working well together. When the Lions’ opponents did finally get through the midfield, the well marshaled defenders were there to cover, your humble scribe having very little (if indeed anything at all) to do in the early morning sunshine.
Majo finally returned from Hsin Yi district where he had parked his car, but did not come on immediately as Kevin was doing a fine job of keeping the Japanese defence busy. In the central midfield Logan was busy playing what has recently become the Logan role, showing the Lions just how much we will miss him when he leaves for the cultural city of Manila for 6 months.
But if Logan was playing an instrumental role then Thomas it was who was absolutely orchestral. Always looking for the ball, he would receive it and play precise passes to feet or in to space, creating all sorts of danger for the opponents.
The Japanese number 37 was yellow carded for a late tackle on one Lion, whilst the Polack showed his man-handling intentions by giving a bear hug to one player who went past him. In most cultures this may be seen as a strange thing to do, but in Poland it apparently means “oh you’ve run past me. You’re such a good player. Here, let me give you a man hug to show my appreciation of your fine skills.” The referee, knowing this important part of Polish culture, understood that it is not a yellow card offence and merely gave the foul.
By this time the Lions had a couple of subs, so Fred and Majo were brought on, Charles also turning up, ready for a bit of CPL action. Yet despite all the play, the Lions were unable to really pressure the JFC keeper, so when half time came, the score was 0-0.
In Chancy’s half time talk he said that if the score was still like this after 15 minutes, we were changing to a seriously attacking 3-4-3 formation, desperate to get his captaincy off to a winning start.
Again the second half saw a lot of pressure from the Lions, and the Polack made one great run, having received the ball from Thomas, he went on one of those lazy runs of his, dropping his shoulder and running casually past one defender, then another at the by-line, before whipping in a dangerous cross which was eventually cleared to safety.
Chancy then took himself in to midfield, leaving three at the back, and as the Lions pushed forward, JFC could break down the Lions left, Clovis out of breath and out of position leaving his man and allowing way too much space for the attacker who took a searing shot at Fowler’s near post, bringing off one of a couple of top drawer saves from the Lions keeper.
The referee, it must be said, had a fine game, with one instance of a Lion fouling a Japanese in the middle of the park, some JFC players calling for the foul, the ref shouting “PLAYYYYYY!!!”, giving the advantage.
Shortly afterwards Chancy took a shot from the edge of the JFC penalty area, the keeper showing off his reflexes with a fine save low to his left. The Lions kept up this pressure, and finally got the goal they deserved. Less than a minute after the Polack was substituted for Pfff, and there is a general consensus within the Lions ranks that this is not at all coincidence, Thomas it was who scored, placing a curling shot in to the JFC keeper’s left hand side, 1-0 Lions.
JFC knew that this game was not over, and with the Lions still pushing for a 2nd, the game became an end to end spectacle. Charles had replaced Mark at right back, who in turn had replaced Clovis on the left. And as JFC broke once more down the Lions left, a fine cross was delivered to the far post, the attacker blasting the ball over the bar.
With just a couple of minutes to go, Fowler brought out another fine save, tipping the ball over from a rasping shot which some say may have gone over, others say may have hit the bar, and yet others still say perhaps may have gone in. Either way, the erratic Lions keeper made the acrobatic save, and the lead was maintained. From the resulting corner, Barras cleared the danger with a fine header and that was essentially it – the referee blew his whistle for the end of the game, the Lions off to a good start, and keeping a clean sheet in the process.
Thanks to all those Lions who headed to Carnegies after the game – again it was good to see so many of you there to support our fine sponsor.