On a day that Matt Clark made his final Red Lions appearance, the Red Lions also bowed out of the first half of the CPL season with a hard fought defeat at the hands of a spirited and determined Carnegies team, eager to avenge their 9-0 drubbing by the Lions in the previous encounter.
It was another hot and sunny day at Da Jia, as the Lions were not sure just how many players would be turning up. Missing through injury were Chancy, TB and Paddy, who was whining about how Mao had injured him (not for the first, nor indeed the second time) in last weekend’s game. Also out due to vacation was Christian, Ant and Pfff offered no excuses as to why they were not there, but at least Ant had mentioned his inability to turn up. Strangely though, in what is believed to be a highly controversial event, missing was the “Leader of the Revolution” – Dumbass “Don’t call me Thomas” Costa.
Rumours were abounding of a drug and alcohol filled Friday evening for the league’s top scorer, and even a cryptic SMS to Mao stated “I don [sic] feel that well”. Poor little baby. Whereas many Lions in the past have shown their bravery and commitment to the team, the Leader of the Revolution, Don Dumbassini instead revealed his true colours by not even turning up to watch.
Instead, Mora turned up to make his first Red Lions appearance of the CPL season, newbie Eric made his first (and also final) appearance for the Lions, heading back to North Carolina in 2 weeks, and Matt’s brother Justin also got changed and ready, in case he was needed, despite not being a footballer (some would say – of course – that he follows in Matt’s footsteps, but Mao would most definitely not condone suggestions of that ilk).
The first quarter showed that Carnegies were up for the game, and were looking to atone for that heavy defeat last season. They had brought in the big guns in Calvert, OG, Francois, the match being put back to the late kick off to ensure that Bryan would be at the game, flying back from Malaysia that very morning. Featuring several Red Lions players from the BML squad, Carnegies had a couple of chances that went narrowly wide in the opening period, the Lions playing deep, letting the opposition come on to them, soaking up the pressure and countering whenever possible.
Eric was thrust in at left back, with Barras and Charles in the middle, Matt on the right, then two efficient, German defensive midfielders in Volker and Mirko, then Fred in the middle, with Majo and Clovis on the wings, and Leonhard up front. As usual, Mao was in goal, and on the bench were Panda, Polack, Mora and Justin.
Having soaked up the pressure from the opening 15 minutes, the ball was played out to the Lions left wing, with a pass in to Clovis, who stumbled and looked like he was dribbling the ball, Shaquille O’Neal style, the referee not spotting this rather blatant basketball move, before laying off a pass to Mirko who unleashed a bullet of a shot past Moga in the Carnegies goal to put the Lions one up.
Immediately after play was resumed, Calvert had an excellent opportunity to score at the opposite end, but his shot went just a little wide of Mao’s far post. And that was really all that was left of the action in the first period.
The second period though saw Carnegies upping the pressure, and when Matt clipped an attacker’s heels just outside the penalty area, the referee pointed to the spot, giving a penalty. Lions reject Bryan blasted the ball with some serious power to Mao’s left, Mao diving the right way but not getting close, to equalise for Carnegies.
And a couple of minutes later, the Lions defence was under pressure once more, with Barras being shoved in the back, another thing that the referee failed to spot, the ball then finding its way back to Bryan whose shot was once more too powerful for Mao in the Lions goal to give Carnegies a not totally undeserved 2-1 lead.
The second half saw much of the same, but with the Lions now a little more attacking-minded, Mora and Panda on, looking for an opening. Mora had several opportunities to score but his lack of precision from shots meant that most were not on target, Moga being forced in to one save from an excellent Mora header after being set up by Panda.
The Lions were putting pressure on what was perceived to be Carnegies’ weakest link – Hemingay – who was not having his best day. But despite seeing more of the ball, they could not quite break the deadlock, and failed to make Moga work for any further saves.
In the final period, with the game nicely balanced at 2-1, although in your humble chronicler’s opinion it would of course have been more nicely balanced had the score line been in the Lions favour, the Lions pushed in to a 3-5-2 formation, Charles being pulled off to add an extra midfielder in an attempt to salvage at least a point from the game, giving Calvert and Co more space to exploit at the back, but the trio of Barras, Matt and Eric covered well.
“Gayer” Rob on the left failed on several occasions though to run back to support Eric in defence, but still Carnegies attackers seemed to have been watching Mora, a couple of attempts being off-target, Mao not forced in to any save. In fact, the only time the Lions keeper was brought in to action, it almost ended in disaster. Barras was shielding the ball as it came towards the Lions’ penalty box, pursued by a Carnegies attacker, Mao made a late call for it to be his, and as he went to ground, the ball bobbled around, and ended up between his legs, the attacker not going in for what would have been a legitimate challenge.
Shortly after Mora had an excellent shot from the left hand side of the Carnegies penalty area, the keeper not even reacting to the rasping shot which was – alas for the Lions – slightly over the bar, as the Lions looked in vain for that equalising goal.
With 5 minutes to go, at least that was the call from the sidelines, the referee blew his whistle for full time, Carnegies moving in to third place as the opening half of the CPL season drew to a close. The camaraderie which was shown by both teams after the game was an indication of how close these two clubs have become recently, and despite some mild disappointment within the Lions at the defeat, no one was whining, not even “Shaq” Clovis and indeed Hemingay, the most notorious whiners of both teams.
As post match beers were drunk by both teams, Mirko was making sure that he would be credited with the goal this time around, mentioning that it should be the highlight of this match report. However that goal was overshadowed by his vicious, unprovoked attack on Captain “Oh Captain my Captain” Cooke’s girlfriend, smashing a ball in to her face, almost bringing the poor lass to tears. It remains to be seen whether or not this aggressive German will ever be picked for a Red Lions team again.
So the season break is now in effect, six weeks for the Lions to get completely pissed up every weekend, with a trip to Fulong planned and a friendly game expected the weekend before the season restarts.
Red Lions thanks go out to Eric who looked not at all like a fish out of water despite playing in his first competitive game for an eternity. If you find a way to prolong your internship, you’re most welcome to join us. Certainly a lot better than our usual left back!
And finally, to the man of the match – Matt’s brother Justin. He may not have got on the pitch, but he didn’t put a foot wrong all game. Unlike his brother, whose foul for the penalty was not the prettiest way to end his spell in the Red Lions.
To all those returning to the US, the Red Lions thank you for turning up, for playing, for being a part of our family.
And to Don Dumbassini: you’re fined a billion rounds. Revolution my arse.