In a game between two teams that tried to look like giant Spanish teams, the Red Lions, in their resplendent red and white stripes, looking almost Atletico-esque, took on the league’s second placed team, Black Stars, playing in their Barca strip. It was hardly an “El Classico” by any definition, but with the Lions assembling a team that would compete – in numbers at least – with JFC, Captain Cooke was facing a serious dilemma as to who to pick for the starting 11. This task was made a little easier with Fred’s early morning wake up call not being punctual, his taxi driver once again not driving him to the place he wanted to, which – he swears to God – would have seen him arrive on time for the first time since the creation of this Earth.
Former vice Captain, and current Minister of Diplomatic Affairs, Christian, was also rewarded with a place on the bench due to his tardiness, the new captain showing no mercy to those who are not punctual (ie there before the captain arrives). Tim “Brutus” Brown failed to deliver his fine of a round of Sapporo Beers, and thus sees his fine doubled, however this did not deter the Captain from selecting him in the starting line up. An internal Politburo investigation will be commencing soon.
To the game and the first quarter was pretty much a non event, with hardly any goal mouth action to mention, the only slight scare for the Lions being a rasping shot that went just wide of the post. Other than that, the bumpy dust bowl that is the pitch at Da Jia made it difficult for either team to get the ball on the ground and play attractive football. The play was all in the middle of the park, but Barras and Chancy were well organised to deal with anything that did make it towards the Lions defence. Matt and Rooney in their respective full back positions were also not troubled too much, as the Lions midfield played like a well oiled, if not dusty and well oiled, machine.
Alex up front was not given the sort of service he needs, although Don Tomassini was looking to receive the ball at any opportunity. Despite this, the Lions had trouble in getting the ball in to the Black Stars penalty box, the goalkeeper hardly even getting a touch in the early stages.
On the one occasion where the Lions had been able to find space, Panda and TB working well to get in to an attacking position, the ball was passed in to Tim “Brutus” Brown who had an empty, glaring net to shoot at. However he decided at this point not to shoot, taking a touch in order to give the goalkeeper and defender a chance to get in to a better position before shooting straight at the defender who was able to kick the ball to safety.
When the first water break came, the score was 0-0, most of the spectators on the side of the pitch falling in to a slumber, such was the lack of excitement available. But that was all about to change in the second quarter, as the Black Stars seemed – not for the first time – to implode. Firstly after a foul in central midfield, the Black Stars got abusive, and swore at the ref. Straight red card for the perpetrator.
Shortly afterwards, Don Tomassini was needlessly brought down in the box, the referee hesitating not one bit to point to the penalty spot. Thomas picked himself up, dusted himself down, and duly despatched the penalty to put the Lions 1-0 up, despite the keeper getting close.
Black Stars were incensed at the decision to award a penalty, and argued some more, the ref this time producing one yellow card only in an attempt to cool the opponents down. The Lions kept out of the insults, having witnessed no less than 5 red cards in the game between TFC and Carnegies FC prior to kick off.
So with a goal and a man advantage, the Lions then perhaps thought the game was over, but the Black Stars were fighting valiantly to get themselves back in the game, and preserve their 2nd place in the league. However with the Lions defence solid, any potential threat was quashed, the Lions not overly troubled at this point.
Half time came, and the Lions knew this game was theirs for losing. The Black Stars came out in the 2nd half, with renewed vigour, the Lions showing more complacency. Clovis entered the fray at right back, Alex Pfff on the left wing replacing Brutus. Christian was introduced on the right wing, and Fred was also introduced up front.
A free kick was given away just outside the Lions penalty box, Fowler producing a fine save as the ball was curled around the wall. The Black Stars were now pushing forwards, trying to find the equaliser, and it looked, for most of this spell, like it was the Lions who had a numerical disadvantage. The Black Stars gained a succession of corners, those swung in outside of the 6 yard box headed away confidently on several occasions by Barras, who had a very strong game.
Those corners that did make their way in to the usually dangerous zone were miraculously held on to by the Lions keeper. Normal service of fumbles is expected to resume shortly.
But as the Black Stars pushed forwards, they left gaps at the back, and from one of these the Lions secured the game. A pass up the right wing to Christian was initially flagged offside by the linesman, the referee spotting a Black Star defender further back though, and thereby overruling the linesman. Christian bore down on goal, drawing the keeper, then passing to Don Tomassini whose initial shot was well saved by the Ghanaian keeper, only to rebound straight back to Thomas who pirouetted like he was Jolyn Tsai, thumping the ball in to the net. 2-0 Lions.
Once more Black Stars were slightly upset at the fact that the linesman had flagged, hurling verbal abuse his way until the ref sorted it out. Of course, what the Stars had failed to recognise was that once more it was the ref who had ruled play on.
After the final water break, the Lions captain then scored a cracking goal from a free kick which went through the poorly positioned wall, and under the hapless Black Stars keeper. And that was 3-0, game over.
The Lions, with games in hand, now move a couple of places up the table, but will have to improve on this kind of performance if they are truly going to promote themselves as title contenders. But defensively it was a very good display, and with the Panda away on business, the captain might have to resort to putting the Polack up front next weekend in the big game against (most likely) Carnegies. That is, unless Fred miraculously makes it to the pitch on time.