Reversals of fortune at the Taipei Autumn Cup

Taipei-based teams dominated the Taipei Autumn Cup held at Da Jia this last weekend. In the Tainan tournament a few months ago, the final was contested between the Eagles and JFC, but this time both teams were eliminated from the Cup competition on day one, left to fight it out for the Plate. JFC – however – failed to score a goal all weekend, whilst the Eagles could only manage a 3-1 victory against the Scunners, not even able to score against 8 man Celts on day 2 as they limped out of the Plate.

The Taipei Red Lions, hosts of the first tournament to be held in Taipei for over 4 years, had to rely on some last minute drafts to secure a full team on the Saturday, bringing in one player kindly loaned in from Jhubei FC, who also saw a much improved tournament than their inaugural one in Tainan. And it was these two teams that met in the first group A game, with Dean playing a pivotal role in a classic match against his own team.

The Lions – as is usual – started off slowly, with defensive errors from Clovis and Smithers respectively costing two early goals, the Lions 2-0 down after just 5 minutes. And with hardly any depth on the pitch, the Lions were looking down and out, but of course you never write off the Lions, and after working their way back in to the game, with some excellent midfield play from Fred and Dean, the Lions clawed their way back in to it, firstly getting a penalty which Gayer Rob fired in (the first of his many penalties over the weekend) to give the Lions some hope.

Morten and Mirko made some good tackles in defence, Ant playing some excellent balls in from the wing, and the team looked more cohesive thanks to the return of former team captain Rooney and some dogged fighting – as always – from Jaime. The midfielders were also combining well with the Lions attack, and putting some pressure on the Jhubei goal.

Shortly after having scored the first it was 2-2 and it looked like the game was going to stay that way until the dying seconds when some solid play on the right wing saw the ball fall to Christians feet, whereupon he unleashed a ferocious volley in to the far corner of the net to give the Lions a perhaps not totally deserved 3-2 victory, breaking the hearts and resistance of a very spirited Jhubei team.

Next up were the Kaohsiung Pacers who had not checked the schedule, thinking their first game was at 13:30, but instead being against the Lions at 12:30, and so the game time was reduced by 5 minutes. The organisers may as well have reduced it to 5 minutes, the amount of goal scoring chances that were available to either team.

Despite having had all the possession, the Lions just could not deliver the killer blow, the Pacers keeper not troubled at all, Mao in the Lions goal touching the ball a mere once or twice, as all the play was at the other end.

It ended 0-0.

Next up were the Tubbies who had already confirmed their position in the 1/4 final of the Cup on the Sunday, the only real chance of the game coming from an offside position, Mao making the save, but the ref had blown for the free kick anyway. Again, the Lions failed to score despite some great work from the midfield, Rooney, Jaime, Dean and Christian all working some seriously sweet, yet spicy triangles in the middle of the park, although that killer ball to open up the opposition defence was lacking.

After 25 minutes of not troubling the keeper once more, this game too ended 0-0, both teams qualifying for the Cup competition. Beers could now flow before the team headed down to Carnegies for the buffet.

Clovis took Gayer Rob home with him for a quick shower, and it was confirmed at the buffet that Clovis is indeed the giver. Polack the taker.

“Cometh the Hour, Cometh the Man”

To Sunday then, and the Lions assembled a massive squad of… err… 6, five minutes before kick off. No sign of Morten or Smithers, not that anyone was really upset at the latter, but as kick off approached, Fred, Ant, Polack, Christian and Ian arrived, and a full team of 11 was fielded for the game against Kaohsiung Massive.

Massive were quick out of the blocks and took the lead but the Lions don’t just lie down and take it up the arse, oh no! Once more playing the kind of football that Captain “Oh Captain My Captain” Cooke likes us to play – one touch, short passes, little tasty, crispy triangles of footballing goodness in the middle of the park – the Lions fought their way back in to the game, and from a threatening cross from the left flank, the Massive defender went up for the ball, and instead of heading it, inexplicably handled it, the ref having no hesitation pointing to the spot.

Up once more stepped the Polish one, the (penalty) taker, tonked it in low and hard to the bottom left hand corner to make it 1-1.

As the game wound down, Mao was brought in to action as Massive sent in a low cross from their right wing, the Lions keeper diving on the ball as the oncoming striker was about to pounce.

After 25 minutes of a very evenly fought contest, the ref blew his whistle, and the game went to penalties.

Jaime goes and sticks in it for 1-0 Lions, but Mao had not saved a penalty in something like 3 years for the Lions, so the attackers knew they needed to score all for the Lions to have a hope in hell of making it to the semis.

And wouldn’t you know it? First penalty, Mao flies to his right to keep that ball out.

“FUCKING YES,” shouted the Lions keeper, “GET IN!”

Obviously the wrong choice of words for someone who actually wants to save penalties, which could explain why he had not – up to that point – saved one for fecking years.

The inhabitants on the island of Kinmen reported hearing a very loud noise coming from the direction of the Taiwanese mainland.

The Lions missed the next 2 – with Andy Rooney missing his by a country mile, Clovis deciding that kicking the ball was not a concept he liked, kicking the ground instead, the keeper beginning his dive to the right before steadying himself, heading over to the food expertly run by Etienne of the Fu Bar, and Frankie of Frankies Pies & More (Clovis knows what the “more” is) stand to get himself a hot dog, before strolling back over to the goal where the ball was still slowly trickling its way towards the line.

2-1 then to Massive, but then Mirko sticks his in, making it 2-2. Massive then miss their next one, and Fred sticks in his: 3-2 Lions. Massive now know they need to score. But … it’s Mao in goal. So… easy.

Mao disagrees with this assessment, dived to his right, saved it, and feck me, the Lions are in the semi final.

The semi final was shite – Ant had to leave, but the Lions were not expecting him to turn up at all, so it was a welcome bonus to the boys. With just 10 players for the semi, the Lions chose not to try to break the rules by fielding a ringer, but in typical fair fighting spirit, chose instead to take on the Black Stars with just 10.

The 3-1 loss was no poor reflection of the game, the Black Stars pushing and pressuring the Lions at all times, Clovis for some reason playing the worst backpass in the history of football itself from 45 metres, under no pressure, and also with no accuracy, the oncoming Black Star attacker gratefully accepting, dummied the ball, wrong-footing Mao in goal, but then allowed the ball to go a tad too wide, Mao making one save but not able to hold on to the ball, the attacker then looking to take another shot, pausing, then sliding the ball in to the empty net, the lack of defenders noticeable, obviously the Lions defence having way too much confidence in their goalkeeper after his penalty kick heroics of the quarter-final.

So the Lions got to play the Mighty Shane FC for 3rd place, and brought in former Shane defender Tommy from the Badgers (one of two teams who failed to score during the weekend) for a reunion between himself, Gayer Rob and Mao, who played all CPL for Shane a few seasons ago. The Lions took the advantage half way through the game – the Polack getting his 4th of the tournament and thus becoming the tournament’s joint top scorer – then held out resolutely, Pfff making some well timed challenges in defence and chasing every ball, Clovis attempting to make up for his crap play in the Black Stars game – which got people asking whether perhaps he had some Ghanaian heritage, and also got him in to yet another race row, this time with Kim Sun Il who apparently is not black enough – by getting all pumped up and making some well time tackles.

Mirko was strong in defence too, Jaime strong as always, Ian making some good runs and laying off some nice balls despite his lack of practice, Rooney and Fred combining nicely with some interweaved passing movements, Mao rarely threatened.

As the game entered the last 20 seconds, Tommy kicked the ball out of play whilst under pressure for a Shane corner. Shane’s central defender Tom rose above Christian to power in an awesome header, Mao merely getting a touch to it, unable to keep the ball out, and with that the ref blew his whistle for full time.

Penalties again then, but surely no repeat of Mao’s performance of earlier?

Clovis was this time not allowed to take a penalty, having fallen below Tim “Brutus” Brown in the Red Lions penalty taking ranks. First penalty is taken by Shane.

Oh fuck me. Mao saves. Will we ever hear the last of it?

The residents of Kinmen Island heard a repetition of that loud noise from earlier.

Jaime though decides that it would not be right for the Lions to take the lead just yet, and so instead sends his penalty into orbit.

Shane then score, the Lions equalise.

Shane then shoot wide, the Lions take the lead… 2-1.

Next penalty… Shane shoots left. Mao dives left. Another fecking penalty save. Is this keeper on performance enhancing drugs or something?

Christian steps up… shoots…. GET IN!

Lions take 3rd place in the Taipei Autumn Cup.

Mao somehow gets keeper of the tournament award…

Well played Lions – some awesome spirit, and the kind of fight that makes me proud to wear a Red Lions shirt.

Finally, on behalf of all Red Lions in the Taipei Autumn Cup last weekend, I would like to thank the following people:

Etienne and Frankie for their fantastic food.
Kevin Skelly and the Carnegies team for their support.
Ant, Morten, Dean, Tommy and Ian for helping out by playing for the Lions.
Matt from Jhubei FC for his support in lending us Dean, and also for trying to sort out other players for us as well.
Tim “Brutus” Brown for his assistance with the score keeping Saturday.
Mora for his support on Sunday.
Michael Chandler for his help with getting the pitches sorted out for us.
Mr Liu and the rest of the refereeing team for a very good performance throughout the weekend – very consistent refereeing, not allowing any game to get out of hand.

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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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