Après la pluie, le beau temps

As Typhoon Songda swept past Taiwan, brushing its eastern coast on Saturday, dumping masses of rain on the island, you could have been forgiven for thinking that the game the following day would be cancelled. Many Lions assumed this to be the case as they made their preparations to watch the Manc Scum get spanked in the Champions League final, but as the rains subsided, the notification came through that unless more rain followed, it was game on for Sunday.

Morning came, and glorious sunshine and clear (that’s relatively clear, as in clear for Taiwan) blue skies greeted those of us who were awake early enough to welcome the morning. There was no sign of any threatening rain clouds, and as the lunchtime kick off approached, the Red Lions assembled en masse at Da Jia which had soaked up a lot of the rain and was surprisingly playable, the Sahara-esque dustbowl of previous weeks finally back to a field of green.

As the previous game finished, JFC with their second consecutive 1-0 victory, this time over the Celts, Captain Cooke was making the closing statements on his team talk. Keep it on the floor, he said. And I want at least ten passes to feet from each of you each quarter.

It seemed that Barras would take this to heart, and the Lions quickly grasped control of the game against the league’s Cellar Dwellers, TFC, knowing that a victory would take them in to third place in the CPL, no matter what the outcome would be of the Carnegies – Black Stars “Battle of the Teams that seem not to be able to end the game with eleven men on the pitch”.

Battre le fer faut, tandis qu’il est bien chaud.

It was the Polack who had the first opportunity in the opening seconds of play, seeing a header come off the bar, a warning sign that TFC failed to heed, as the Lions pounced upon the weaknesses and fragilities of their opponents who were also suffering the effects of having three suspensions after their rather interesting game against Carnegies FC a couple of weeks ago.

Barras seemed to be taking Captain Cooke’s pre match talk to heart, wrapping up his first ten passes to feet within the first minute of play, TB out on the left wing finishing his not long after as the two combined extremely well. The Lions seemed to be camped in the TFC half, the defensive line up of Matt, Chancy and Rooney hardly troubled in the opening stages. From midfield up to attack though, the Lions were in fine form, carving up opening after opening, with Volker, Jaime, Thomas, Fred, Polack, TB and Barras seeing a lot of the ball, spreading it wide, piling on the pressure that TFC seemed incapable of handling. Within the first two minutes you could tell a goal was coming – it had that air of inevitability.

A l’ongle on connaît le lion.

And it duly came as the Lions dug their collective claws in, Thomas scoring from fairly close range after some sweet collective team passing. The second came shortly afterwards after a perfectly weighted corner delivered from Rooney from the left, Thomas scoring his – and the Lions – second. Only ten minutes in to the game and – with no disrespect meant to our opponents – it was already over.

Jaime was then put through with a delightful ball and with only the keeper to beat contrived to put it wide when from where your humble chronicler was standing, it seemed easier to score. Shortly after that, Jaime repeated the previous action, showing that missing the target does indeed come quite easily for him.

The reader may so far be thinking that the Lions only had ten players on the pitch, and unless Volker was playing a dual role of midfield-based goalkeeper, there was no gardien de but. And to all intents and purposes, “Howler” Fowler may well have been taking a nap, in much the same way as he played the whole game last weekend against Da An. The defensive trio must have had in mind the keeper’s performance from the previous game as they stepped up their own to make sure that the Teflon gloves were not tested once more.

However when the keeper was brought in to action, he atoned for his gifting of Da An’s second goal last weekend by tipping the ball off for TFC’s first (and only) corner of the half.

By Quarter time it was 2-0, could have been 5-0, and the Lions’ opponents were being truly mauled.

Jamais deux sans trois.

As the water break finished, the Lions picked up from where they left off, with Barras essentially running the show. His distribution, commitment and running were precise and tireless. Another goal was surely on the way, and indeed was duly delivered by that Italian once more, hitting his first hat-trick for the Lions, and a pure-hat-trick at that. Having already been fined with a couple of rounds by Chairman Mao earlier in the week, Thomas decided to go all out for another one, trying to catch up with Minister of Propaganda’s record of one million rounds fined.

A couple of substitutions were made, Mirko, Panda, Charles and Christian coming on, the German getting yellow carded for holding on to his opponent in a show of affection shown more predominantly by the man-handling Polack. It has been noted that of the yellow cards shown to the Red Lions this season, 42% of them have been picked up by Germans, despite the Germans only making up 14% of the Red Lions squad. All Germans in the Red Lions have thus been fined a round, with the exception of Volker who will be returning from the Heimat with a fine gift for Mao. These two incidents are of course purely coincidental, and not in the slightest related.

And right on the stroke of half time, Panda nodded in at the far post after another delectable cross (again from Rooney, your humble narrator is led to believe).

Un bienfait n’est jamais perdu.

The second half started as the first ended, the Lions in full control, Barras taking charge of the midfield, Mirko back to the sidelines after his yellow card, Volker back on, and once more the Lions pushed forwards, looking for more goals, the hunger not lacking, Jaime eager to atone for his faux-pas, Panda looking to catch up Thomas, Thomas looking to score more, and the midfield eager to provide those telling passes.

At the back, a ball was played out to Matt with the call of “get it on the floor”, a call which went totally unheeded as he and Christian juggled with the ball in the air, but still there was enough time to get the ball under control, the Lions looking in absolutely no danger whatsoever of losing this very comfortable 4 goal lead.

And with TFC yet to make a meaningful attack, there was precious little pressure on the Lions defence, leaving plenty of time to spread the ball from one flank to the other.

Up front, crosses were being delivered nicely, but Thomas was beginning to get just a tad cocky about his shooting, trying deft little touches when perhaps he needed to control the ball first. But his fourth goal was to come, as the ball was delivered to him on the left hand side of the penalty area, and he took a shot which was blocked by the keeper, the rebound falling nicely for him as he slammed the ball home for the Lions 5th goal of the game.

Qui naquit chat, court après les souris.

The final water break came, but the Lions weren’t finished – and the final twenty minutes saw yet more goals as first Panda scored with another header at the far post in what was almost a carbon copy of his first, and then with just a few more minutes left, Jaime realised that he was going to be the focus of all Lions jokes about forwards who are not able to hit a barn door with a banjo (sorry, no French proverb available for that one!) and finally nicked one home to make the score 7-0 Lions.

And then came the first, and only, lapse in the Lions defensive concentration as they pushed perhaps a little too high and were cut open by a good through ball to the TFC attacker who bore down on goal. The attacker was waiting for Fowler to make the first move, the Lions keeper just closing down the shooting angle, staying big, waiting for the attacker to make the first move. The shot came in, Fowler got a hand to it, bundled in to Chancy who flew over the Lions keeper, landing with his face on the ball, leaving the TFC attacker temporarily unsighted, leaving Rooney with enough time to get back and make the clearance, keeping the Lions clean sheet nicely intact.

Moments after, the final whistle was blown, the referee having done an excellent officiating job, the jubilant Lions consoling their opponents, making sure that there was a spirit of bonhomie as they left the field, job done. Barras must have covered every blade of grass on the field during the match, without doubt the understated performance of the day, despite Thomas’ 4 goals.

Où peut-on être mieux qu’au sein de sa famille?

And so as Carnegies FC took on the Black Stars, the vast majority of the Red Lions squad assembled at our fine sponsor Carnegies, all eager to meet Paddy’s brother and suck up to the next Red Lions chairman, Lyndon, who made his first public appearance at the pub.

Beers were bought, Mao getting in his round after his poor performance against Da An, bringing a close to this matter once and for all.

The boys from Carnegies FC trickled in, after another game in which they failed to score, a 3-0 defeat at the hands of the Black Stars condemning them to 5th place in the CPL table, behind the Lions who climb to 3rd and – it brings your humble scribe absolutely no pleasure whatsoever to mention this (and the smirk on my face is because I was reminiscing of something completely separate) – JFC in 4th.

Le vin délie langue.

One more victory from the final 4 games will assure the Lions of a place in the top group of the play offs, and the next game – perhaps against Carnegies FC – could well be a classic.

Mao would like to thank all those players and WAG’s who turned up to Carnegies after the game – it was excellent to see so many of you there. Especially those who turned up to the match but did not play – Clovis and Kevin springing readily to mind.

All of these are reasons why the Taipei Red Lions is not just a football team. We’re family.

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About Mao

Chairman Mao. The man who takes the Taipei Red Lions to new depths of corruption. Hands out more fines for more reasons than any man in history. Thinks he's a good keeper, but try sending in a cross for him to take. But he writes a mean match report. And even occasionally buys a round himself. And he keeps the Politburo in check.
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