After several weeks without football, the Taipei Red Lions finally made it back on to the pitch in a friendly game against a Badgers team with a sprinkling of Shane players. They will not, however, be referred to as Shaggers. The game saw the debuts for several new players, including Genghis “Edwin” Khan, Gaddafi, and newbie Finn, Jarkko. It also saw the return of Ian, making his first Lions appearance since the Autumn Cup last year, who would also make a vital contribution to the Lions victory.
Chancy “Oh Captain My Captain” Cooke took to the pitch, with the whistle, having given the team talk and formation, an unusual (for the Lions) 4-4-2 being decided upon for what was expected widely to be an easy game.
The back 4 saw Jarkko pair up with Anthony, freshly back from a culinary tour of the US which, by all appearances, he seems to have enjoyed, Genghis “Edwin” Khan and Jose-Roberto. The midfield comprised of Mirko in the holding role, OG, Sergay and Rooney, with Jaime and the Polack up front. Your humble narrator was – for the first half (this time managing also not to get sent off) – in goal.
The Lions were perhaps a tad complacent in this game, not really taking it seriously, not giving the opponents enough respect. Before kick off, the Lions were told to play 3 touch football, and for the first ten to fifteen minutes, this is exactly what they did, playing some beautiful football, laying the ball to feet, OG his usual hungry self, looking for the ball, receiving it, and laying off another pass before heading over towards the recipient of that pass to get it back.
But despite the prettiness of the football, there was no real threat on the Badgers goal, the crosses lacking precision and not finding their intended recipients. The ball was passed forwards for Jaime to chase regularly, but he lacked support from the Lions who decided that after laying off a nice pass, they could just hang back and let the attacking force do the rest.
One cross came in from Jaime, Rooney looking like he was going to slot it home, but instead, from where your humble chronicler was standing, it looked like a mishit, although the news from the other end at half time was that Rooney was – in fact – taken out, and the ball not played by any player.
Shortly afterwards Jaime got taken out in a collision with the keeper, which looked like a clear penalty, no matter what angle you were looking from, with – obviously – the exception of Chancy’s, hence the lack of whistle blowing and penalty giving
At around the mid way point of the half, the Lions persistence paid off, Jaime on the left working hard to get the ball and deliver a hard, low cross to the Polack who slotted the ball home, 1-0 Lions. And with this goal in the bag, the Lions – already rather laid back – relaxed even more, and the pretty football was gone, the tricks and fancy football making an unwelcome return, especially as most of these tricks failed to work or fool the opponents.
Mora came on to the left wing, and fought valiantly for each ball, as the Lions searched for a second goal. His distribution in the first half was exceptional, as he combined nicely with the attacking pair, as well as OG and Mirko in the middle of the park.
To this point, the Lions defence had hardly been troubled, Jarkko controlling any balls through the middle well, Ant on the right making some well timed tackles. Genghis “Edwin” Khan also made himself available for passes that came in from the two central defenders, giving options to make sure the Lions could pass the ball out of defence, and upfield.
But this was all about to change, as the Badgers pushed forwards, and as a shot came in, Mao had to be aware as the Badgers attacker was well placed to deflect the ball, instead dummying it, leaving the Lions keeper to push the ball to where Genghis “Edwin” Khan should have been, had he been marking his player rather than, which is what it actually turned out to be, leaving his Carnegies team mate absolutely open with light years of time to smash the ball home for the equalizer.
The Lions response was to play more tricks, more uber-fancy football which they bollocksed up regularly.
Half time came, and Chancy changed the formation to a more attacking 4-3-3, bringing on Ian up front, also bringing on Gaddafi for Mao in goal, Jean-Remy also slotting in to defence for Jose.
But it was more of the same in terms of footballing quality, the Lions still preferring to fart-arse around instead of taking the game seriously, Mora’s fine passing no longer finding the intended recipient, OG and Mirko also not quite finding their rhythm, the lack of precision surely worrying for the captain. Gadaffi was brought in to action on more than one occasion, the defence perhaps a little scrappy, but nonetheless effective as the ball was cleared to safety.
The Polack spurned several chances, taking perhaps one touch too many when played through, Jaime also guilty of similar in a one-on-one scenario where he tried to take it round the keeper, his touch a tad too heavy, giving the Badgers defence enough time to get back and cover the shot.
But the Lions were not going to be denied, and with Jaime fighting for the ball on the left wing, he delivered a delicious, pin-point cross to Ian who was unmarked in the box, for a sweet nod-in to the empty net to put the Lions back in front.
This, however, merely led to more trickery by the Lions, and a resurgent Badgers. Rooney – who had been given a short rest – was brought back on, Chancy calling to Mao that he would be on in 5 minutes. Mao asked Chancy if that meant there were 6 minutes left. Rooney made an immediate impact as he constantly looked for the ball and made intelligent passes to feet or in to space, as the Lions tried to build on the lead.
Shortly afterwards, the Badgers had an excellent opportunity to level the scores with a low, hard cross from the right wing evading Gaddafi and the Lions defenders, with the Badgers attacker lunging for the ball, but not able to direct it in to the empty net.
And with that, Chancy called for Mora to be replaced by Mao, the whole team hoping once and for all that this would shut Mao up for, well forever would be the best option, but a long time would indeed be acceptable. Christ, a few minutes would do.
A long ball was played forwards from the defence, flicked on to the Polack for yet another one-on-one, but instead of scoring, the Polack messed up yet another chance. But the pendulum had swung, and the Badgers were now tiring, the Lions pushing forwards with more meaning.
Right after that, Rooney played the most sublime defence-splitting pass which gave your humble chronicler – who looked suspiciously in an offside position – the simplest of tap ins to ensure the victory (is that humble enough Mirko?).
This only spurred on the Polack who felt that if Mao can score, then he’d better get another goal before Chancy feels he should be put back in to the middle of defence once more, and so after a sublime cross from Sergay on the right, he coolly slotted home the Lions 4th, and then – as the final whistle was about to be blown – scored his hat-trick from a one-on-one after being played in by yet another delicious through ball.
Chancy then felt this was a fine time to call full time, the Lions ending up 5-1 victors, the Badgers perhaps ruing the missed chance at 2-1.
Oh, and Mao’s goal was not quite the way described in the report.