The trio of Red Lions made their way to Tainan with the squad of 12 Carnegies FC players, as Typhoon Nanmadol made its way towards Taiwan having dumped its load all over the northern Philippines. Saturday morning in Taipei was clear, and the high speed rail trek went incident free until the arrival in Tainan.
As the combination of Carnegies and Lions (from here on in referred to as the Carnegions – would have been the CarnegieLions, but not enough Lions turned up for the extra letter) disembarked from the train and made their way down the escalator, mad whistling was coming from the platform. Looking around, we noticed that Ian was not with the rest of the team (Moga was also notably absent, having failed to make the train with the rest of the squad), so after waiting a minute or two, down the stairs came the unmistakable red head of Ian. He had got on the train with 2 bags, got off it with just one, and was trying to get back on the train, as it was about to leave, to pick up his football stuff. He therefore had to wait until the train made it to Kaohsiung, and then back up once more to Tainan, before he could get his stuff.
The rest of the Carnegions got taxis to the field, where in brilliant, hot sunshine, humid as fark, the first opponents were Kaohsiung Massive. As Ian had formerly played for Massive, the rumour was spread that he maybe left the bag on the train on purpose to avoid playing against former team mates.
It was not the prettiest match ever, both teams wilting in the sweltering heat, not many chances for either team in this three team group. Bryan was marshalling the midfield well, Jaime was fighting for every ball that came even remotely close to him, alas his strike partner Alberto was more likely fantasising about his woman’s boobs than getting his mind on the football, and so Jaime was left with a lot to do.
Hemingay in the Carnegions defence was also some sterling work, not allowing Massive any space. But on the one occasion where a through ball was played, he shouted keeper’s ball and stopped running, alas the keeper did not feel the same way, and your humble chronicler was forced in to diving at the attacker’s feet to make the save. Not for the last time over the weekend, Mao in goal shouted at people to not make calls that were not theirs to make.
Moga came on as a late substitute, and with his first three touches passed straight to the Massive players, bringing on the cry of “Moga, we’re playing in Orange today mucker”.
The Massive keeper was forced in to two excellent saves – I believe from Bryan and Jaime, but could be mistaken – to keep a clean sheet and gain a point for the southern poofters. Carnegions then had a whopping 6 hour wait until their final game of the day, so got a couple of beers in whilst waiting.
As the clouds came in, a break off segment of Typhoon Nanmadol finding its way to the shores of our fine island, the sunshine was replaced by cloud cover, and then drizzle and then, finally, as the Carnegions made their way on to the playing field against the Super Eagles, torrential downpours.
Eagles took the lead after just 7 seconds, the Carnegions giving the ball away straight from kick off, and instead of closing down the attacker, just opened a nice big hole like a Bangkok whore. Mao in goal got a decent touch to it, but couldn’t quite tip it past the post. 1-0 Eagles.
Knowing that they could lose 1-0 and still go through, Carnegions did not feel too much pressure, but conceding so early did not do the confidence much good. But the team fought together and put the Eagles under pressure. But the Carnegions attack could not muster any shots on target until some good pressure in the Eagles 18 yard box meant the opponents could not clear their lines, and in came Chappie, after several bobbles, popping the ball in to the back of the net for the equaliser.
This then spurred on the Carnegions, and pretty much all the pressure was now on the Eagles’ goal, but like a man with an incredibly short nob, the Carnegions were unable to penetrate, and the Eagles always looked quick on the break. And they did, regularly, forcing a corner from one such incident. And from the corner, the ball was met simultaneously by the Eagles forward and Hemingay, the ball looping over Mao in goal, who once more got a good – but not good enough – touch to it, restoring the Eagles’ one goal advantage.
But there was more to come – and the Carnegions had belief in themselves. Heads did not go down, and the pressure was maintained in the Eagles half. Jaime was brought down on the edge of the area, and up stepped Bryan who hit a thundering shot in to the net. The ball may or may not have taken a slight or even wicked deflection, depending on who you speak to, what angle they were watching from, and how much they have bribed your humble scribe, but the end effect was the same: 2-2.
And that – essentially – was that. The rain abated, the Carnegions were through to the Cup round, and an evening of fine food and beer was now being looked forward to.
The next morning the news came that only one pitch was available so the games would have to be shorter, down to 20 minutes. Once again the Carnegions had a rather nasty schedule, playing the 2nd or 3rd game of the day, then waiting 3 hours, then playing one more, and then another wait of 4 hours. But this is not the place or time for your humble narrator to complain. Indeed, it could be said that there was enough of that done on the pitch.
Up first were Taichung Compass. Having lost several of their good players recently, Compass has fallen down the ranks of Taiwan Expat football, and thus are not the force they once were.
Once more it was left to the outfield trio of Hemingay, Bryan and Jaime to fight the fight, although Xavier – on his return from the land of Napoleon – was in better form than on the Saturday, although it could also be argued that that in itself was not really difficult, as the ball handling skills of the usually reliable Frenchman were hardly to be seen.
Mao was forced in to one save from close range, getting an elbow to the ball to send it off for a corner after the Carnegions defence had taken a quick nap.
Shortly after Mao almost bollocksed it up, letting a relatively simple catch fall through his outstretched arms, almost allowing the oncoming attacker to get a good touch to the ball, but thankfully it was cleared, keeping the game scoreless.
There were very few clear cut chances for the Carnegions though, shooting opportunities limited by the fact that half the midfield were not making space for the half that was running. And despite having most of the possession, no goals were scored at either end, both teams having to settle for a point.
Next up, JFC. Having enjoyed something of a resurgency recently, no longer the whipping boys, as the Red Lions found out to their cost in the pre- Tainan friendly defeat. But they were definitely aided by some interesting and controversial decisions by the referee. Taken out not once, but twice by some poor Japanese defending, the referee was not interested in giving fouls to Jaime, and he also failed to spot two very clear handballs in the penalty area that even had Stevie Wonder up in his seat shouting for handball.
And as often happens in football, with the scores nicely set at 0-0, going in to the last minute, on comes Carnegions substitute Spike who, with his first (and indeed only) touch of the game, kicks the ball on to his arm right outside the Carnegions penalty area. And then came what was probably the most interesting call of the weekend. Despite the free kick being right on the circle of the penalty area, Mao chose to have a wall consisting of a mere three defenders. Carnegion players, JFC players, and even the referee looked more than slightly bemused at this call, and started to question the sanity of the Carnegions keeper.
The JFC attacker placed the ball, Mao placed the wall, the attacker looked happy with the rather large gap to Mao’s right, and thundered in a shot that was going straight for the far side of the goal, a goal that – if it were to go in – would surely give JFC a 1-0 victory.
Being the humble person that I am, I will not say whether or not the save was made. But the final result of the game was 0-0.
So with another few hours to go before the final game, and with all four group games so far ending up 0-0, it was all to play for, with only the top team able to make it to the final.
In the few hours between the JFC and Black Stars games, one keeper got knocked out, and was on the floor for 5 full minutes receiving treatment, and one would have thought that the referees would learn from that and afford some extra protection to the goalkeepers, but it was to be proven that nothing had been learnt from that experience.
After much re-organisation, our match being re-moved to the big pitch, only to be told that we were in fact playing back on the rugby pitch after all, finally the wait was over. JFC had beaten Compass 2-0, so the Carnegions knew it was 2-0 or better for us to have a chance to make it to the final. With the decision made by the master tacticians to go 4-4-2 for the first 10 minutes, before changing to 3-5-2 if the scores were level, the game was an open affair, with Jaime once again being on the receiving end of some hard tackles, the referee not seeing anything wrong with him being chopped down.
Both sides played well, the strong head wind counting for little against the Carnegions, although one of Mao’s goal kicks did not make it very far.
With the game neatly poised at 0-0, the formation was changed to 3-5-2, and as the clock ticked down, one Black Stars attacker skipped past one defender, then another, and – in what was without doubt the most disgusting challenge of the weekend – went in studs up against Mao who dived at his feet, claiming the ball, before getting one stud in to his right hand, another in to his left arm, the ball bobbling off, the referee not interested in giving a foul, but instead blowing for a corner.
Mao was incensed, the Carnegions were incensed, the Black Stars apologetic, Mao shouting at the ref that he must have been smoking some serious shit not to have seen that. The corner was cleared to safety.
With just one minute left, the Black Stars scored after Alex at left back miskicked the ball straight to the attacker, who slid the ball past Mao in goal, the Carnegions keeper once more getting a touch to it, but not enough to keep it out of the net.
With the game then lost, Mao went to retrieve the ball to make sure that enough time could be wasted to make sure that JFC made the final in place of the dirty Black Stars. A scuffle ensued, as the Black Stars tried to wrestle the ball out of Mao’s grip.
“Give me the ball,” said the attacker.
“Fuck off,” retorted Mao.
“Give me the ball,” repeated the attacker.
“Fuck off,” repeated Mao.
The referee decided to come and sort it out, Mao still held on to the ball, finally throwing it away. At this point, with the Black Stars showing lots of urgency, two of their players walked slowly back to the half way line. Twats.
Shortly after kick off the Black Stars had an opportunity to make it 2-0 but instead of passing like a normal person would, the attacker instead tried to dribble past 4 Carnegions before shooting a lame shot straight at Mao.
Mao kicked the ball up field, the referee blew his whistle, the Carnegions walked off the pitch, happy in the knowledge that despite losing, they had still stopped them from getting to the final.
As JFC and the Eagles kicked off, the Carnegions decided it was time to head back to Taipei. Jaime wanted to make sure he made it back to Taichung on time for the Man City game, and so he, Hemingay and Mao all sat together from Tainan on the HSR, drinking Asahi, talking shit about how crap most of the other Carnegion players were, and how dirty the Black Stars are. Some things just never change.
There’s a rumour that the Carnegions goalkeeper won the tournament’s best keeper award, but this is – at the moment – still unconfirmed. Probably more blatant propaganda by the far from humble Red Lions keeper.