Animal Crackers

On a day of English Premier League derbies, the Manc Scum’s title ambitions being dealt a massive blow, QPR beating the crap out of an undisciplined Chelski side, the Scum (aka Animals) crumbled to a CPL defeat at the hands of their arch rivals the Taipei Red Lions. It was a beautiful, sunny autumn day at Da Jia, the pitch bobbly, the wind swirling, all combinations to ensure a very unpretty match of football, but most at stake was the pride of the Lions, who had suffered a heavy defeat against the same opponent last time round.

The Lions had assembled in full nice and early, giving Captain “Oh Captain my Captain” Cooke the rare luxury of being able to decide his starting 11 30 minutes before kick off. Mao was chosen as first choice keeper, probably only because Volker was away and Kevin did not turn up. In defence was the combination of Gayer Rob and James “Casey Stoner” Lewis, with Ant and Charles. In the middle were Clovis and Christian on the wings, with Fred, Mirko and Rooney in the middle of midfield, and Dumbass “Don’t call me Thomas” Costa making a rare, sober appearance up front. Ian, Paddy and Panda were on the bench. Pfff was nowhere to be seen.

The game started at a frenetic pace, the Animals racing out of the blocks, knowing that an early goal would set them well on the way. Mao in the Lions goal was immediately called in to action, smacking a through ball the crap in to touch, and at the same time whingeing to the ref that he had been clattered in the event. The ref, and indeed the linesman, were blind to this event, but they weren’t blind 60 seconds later when Gayer Rob decided that he wanted to handle the ball in the area, a return of the famous Chicken Wing which cost the Lions the CPL title a few years back.

The Animals attacker placed the ball, Mao crouching down, watching every move, trying to gauge where the heck the ball was going to be shot, not having a clue, the attacker hiding his intentions well. The ref blew his whistle, and up stepped the attacker. Unfortunately for him, the penalty was shite. Mao, in fine penalty saving form after last weekend’s 4 penalty saves, proved that it was no fluke, punching the ball clear, with a combination of Charles and Gayer Chicken Wing clearing the ball for a corner.

The Animals left winger was causing all kinds of problems for the Lions defence until James “Casey Stoner” Lewis took him out in a rather late tackle, receiving a yellow card for his actions. Strangely enough, after that the danger from the left wing dissipated.

But the Lions were not really able to put together any passes in the first period, being closed down at every opportunity, despite the midfield working hard to find space. Clovis especially was having a shocking time on the left wing, and it came as no surprise when he was substituted very early.

All the play was at the Lions end, but the Animals’ profligracy proflagacy profrigracy wastefulness in front of goal meant that most of their shots were wide or way over the bar, and all through balls seemed to be easily collected by Mao. The Lions keeper was also extremely slow in collecting the ball for those goal kicks, and there were plenty of them. Strangely enough, his kicking was also not too bad, although the midfield did all too often let their attackers in.

The first period ended goalless, the referees calling for water breaks on this sunny afternoon. Chancy rallied the troops during this short break, but then it was more of the same as the Animals pushed forwards, the Lions finding it difficult to put any pressure on their opponents goal. But then came the Lions first, and indeed only, chance of the opening half, with Ant and Rooney combining well with Christian who cut in from the right and smashed in a powerful shot which the Animals keeper did well to get a hand to, knocking it on to the crossbar to keep the scores level.

At half time, Chancy told the players that they were leaving a wide hole, and this seemed to be all the inspiration Clovis needed to improve. He – after all – loves to fill a wide hole.

To the third period then, and the moments of inspiration that changed the game. With Jaime pushed in to midfield to give the Lions more depth, Fred initially dropped to centre back, then back to midfield, causing total confusion in the Red Lions ranks, Thomas was getting more service, the Lions now able to string together more than one pass at a time, although those gorgeous triangles of short passes still weren’t coming together, the Animals for the first time in the game were being put under a little pressure themselves.

And after one beautiful ball to Thomas was fed in to the penalty area, the Lions attacker was brought down by the defender who was nowhere near the ball, the ref having no hesitation in pointing to the spot for the second penalty of the game.

Sending the keeper the wrong way, the Animals were given their second penalty lesson of the afternoon, the Lions taking a 1-0 lead.

Chancy put Jaime back in defence, shoring up things at the back, and Clovis returned at left wing, angrier than before, more determined than ever to show he can actually play. And straight in he went, timing his hard but fair tackles well, distributing the ball well, and sending Thomas through just a couple of minutes after his first goal with a deft and perfectly weighted pass to score a second.

This woke the Animals up from their slumber, and they now tried desperately to get back in to the game, being caught offside several times as they pushed forwards trying to salvage something, their hopes of a CPL title trickling out of their grasp.

From the right wing, a pass was sent through to the far post, the left winger shouting as it came over “That’s what I’m talking about”, then totally mis-controlling it and letting it go out for a Lions throw.

The Animals were still pushing forwards but their frustration was showing as they were reduced to shooting from distance, the Lions goal hardly troubled as the lack of precision showed. Mao continued to walk off the field to collect the ball, the referee suggesting that the Lions keeper should get on with it.

 

Panda was introduced to the game, chasing those passes in to space on the right, combining well with Christian who was playing his final game of the season, having been recalled to Europe. In defence, Ant made several exceptional tackles and challenges, fighting for every ball, giving the opponents no opportunity whatsoever on the right hand side.

At the final water break the Lions knew that 20 minutes were all that stood between them and an historic victory against the arch rivals. And with the body language of the Animals telling the full story, it was time to bring in the big guns – Paddy being introduced for his first Lions appearance since being flattened by – err… – your humble chronicler several months ago, also making a couple of vital clearances. He also played Clovis in nicely a couple of times, as the Lions tried to launch a counter-attack of their own.

Oumar, always a fighter, spear-headed the Animals attack, skipped nimbly past a couple of defenders, only for Mao to clear and – at the same time – get the added bonus of kicking him. Not long afterwards, the Animals cut open the Lions defence with some of the neat passing that the Lions had failed miserably to replicate, Mao once more being brought in to action to keep the Lions first clean sheet of the CPL second round.

Fred, Christian and Mirko still fought for every ball, chasing back to defend at all times, all Lions making well timed tackles to preserve this 2 goal cushion, not wanting to give the Animals anything. Pfff – who had not seen the mails stating that it was a 1:30 kick off – had turned up and was introduced on the left, as the Lions played out the final few minutes.

And finally the referee blew for full time, the Lions blowing the CPL title race wide open, and collecting their first win of this season’s second round. It was a great team performance, with no shouting or arguing on-pitch by the Lions, and good preparation for the big one – next weekend’s clash with Carnegies!

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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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