Bai Ling was not the most fun place to be in the world on Saturday afternoon. Well, pitch B anyway. While pitch A was handed to the much more attractive Taipei Women’s League, the Red Lions were treated to some absolutely disgraceful refereeing decisions, some of the worst seen in recent years by any of the long standing members of the team. Strangely enough, the opposition did not need this additional assistance from the referee, as the lack of fight and determination to win was plain to see from all sides as they took on Hong Min.
Now that the Lions’ own title aspirations have gone, it seemed to your humble chronicler that the team just wants to get these final games of the season out of the way, and indeed on the bobbly pitch, the first twenty minutes saw the Lions struggle to put one pass together, let alone a string of them.
With all the play at the Lions’ end, Volker was the only player who really put up much of a fight, tightening up at the back as the defence looked like it was not just leaky, but veritably like a colander, with gaping holes in it.
Lining up with an unfamiliar 4-3-2-1 Christmas Tree formation, in the absence of Chancy “Oh Captain TFC’s Captain” Cooke, who promised to be at the game for the second half (he wasn’t – but he is fined again), perhaps it was this that led to the Lions’ downfall. Ok, that wasn’t it.
From the sidelines, it was spectacularly bad to watch, no one player standing out as playing even close to acceptably. Clovis and Ant were having a torrid time, Charles seemed to miskick quite a few times, Bryan and OG in attacking midfield lacked that cutting edge, and with Fred free and in space many, many times on the right wing, the Lions decided to play solely down the left, where Mirko the Carp and Andy the Bear attempted to find the aforementioned attacking midfielders. At the back, Carl was probably the best performer outfield for the Lions, but that isn’t really saying much. Up top, Panda it would be unfair of your humble narrator if i said he played badly. He never saw the ball.
The pressure was all on the Lions, and Hong Min, who interestingly still have a shot at winning the title, which perhaps might explain – although this is bound to be clutching at straws – why the referee was so obviously biased as you, my dear reader, will find out extremely shortly.
Despite some valiant goalkeeping, with Volker knocking the ball away on more than a couple of occasions for a Hong Min corner, it was only a matter of time before the opposition scored. Lapse defending assisted, and as the ball rolled past Volker and the back of the net rippled, the Lions’ heads were collectively down.
Not long after the first, Hong Min got a throw on from deep inside Lions’ territory. After the most blatant foul-throw which the referee deemed to be fine, although you know full well he would have pulled it back had it been a Lions’ player making the same move, the cross came in, evading all Lions defenders for the attacker to volley in sweetly.
So the game was effectively settled at this point, but the Lions decided this was the time to actually try to play some football, and slowly but surely one, and then two passes were strung together, but the issues of getting the ball to Panda, or to Fred, remained. These difficulties were compounded by some very poor off-side calls from the assistant referee, who – much like the ref himself – either forgot the rules temporarily, or is a cheating tosser.
With 10 to 15 minutes left in the first half, OG made his first – and indeed only – mazy run of the game, being pulled back constantly by the Hong Min defender. OG got more than a little pissed off by this, and – having been given the free kick by the ref in his one correct Lions call of the day – lashed out at said defender, who in turn decided it was fair to lash out right back.
After a short scuffle, OG was sent off. Bryan received a yellow for his involvement. And the defender also received red. At this point, your humble scribe felt it was truly fair. But the Hong Min players all surrounded the referee, and – after much debating and discussion in Taiwanese – the referee rescinded the Hong Min red card, which resulted in a little more arguing/discussion/kerfuffle, at which point Bryan – who it is rumoured had a Hong Min player in a stranglehold – was given a second yellow. So instead of the match being 10 vs 10, it was effectively 12 vs 9.
On the sidelines, it was suggested that the referee did not need to have a yellow shirt on, it would be a lot easier if he had on the same blue of Hong Min.
From the resulting free kick, Panda decided not to try blasting the ball like he usually does, but instead tried to look pretty, resulting in the ball not going anywhere near the goal. It was, however, the first goal attempt the Lions had.
The remainder of the half saw Hong Min not really know how to play, although you know they were not in the slightest embarrassed at the way they had cheated their way through the game thus far. So the Lions headed in to the half time break 2-0 down, the heads down, the anger of having to deal with such a cheating ref almost at boiling point.
The referee was asked about the red to yellow and he said he was allowed to change his mind. Then he said that OG pushed his player harder than the other player retaliated. For the record, ref, retaliation is a straight red card. Bollocks to how hard he pushed back. Cheating git.
So to the second half, and Hong Min still took another half hour or more to put the ball past Volker. They had no idea – much like the ref himself.
The Lions brought on their subs, Thomas, TB, Genghis, as they tried to salvage something, the enormity of the task not escaping any player. As the half wore on, and the Lions wore out, pushing players forwards in a futile attempt to get a goal which might just rattle the opposition, the holes at the back returned, and despite trying hard to get back, Hong Min scored twice in the dying minutes to make the score 4-0.
As the game ended, the referee was seen in that blue shirt that everyone knew he was really wearing. It is always more than a shame when a referee has to ruin a game by his own incompetence, but perhaps that too should come as no surprise with the knowledge of the fact that the defending champions still have something to play for. With refereeing performances like that, you’re not likely to bet against them.