With the first ever Taichung tournament to take place at the pitches close to the freeway exit, pretty much all the Jhubei guys were waiting as the Taipei contingent turned up, Clovis, Fred, Tim “Bruiser” Brown and Panda heading down on the HSR, “Not Yet” Lewis arriving a little later, also by HSR, with Andy the Bear and Mrs the Bear, and the ever increasing Mao clan both driving down.
There was a good mix of players, with Matt, Cyr, Alex, Kris, Dean, Jeremy and David all turning up from Jhubei to give the squad a nice even 14 players, with 7 from each team.
Plus ca change…
The opening game was against reigning champions Massive, who had beaten the Lions in a penalty shoot out in the previous final, after playing seriously defensively the whole game.
Their recent Southern League game vs Jhubei saw them play with the same tactics, so it came as something of a surprise to see the team from Kaohsiung race out of the blocks, and camp themselves inside the Lions half for the first five minutes. With no goalkeeper available, Volker unable to make the trip to Taichung due to “work”, and Mao still whining like a pussy about his minor injury, the first day saw a rotation of players all vying for the honour of taking this most prestigious of positions.
After his heroics against Fritz in the first half of the final BML game of the season, Panda volunteered to take the first shift between the sticks, as the Lions defended well, Jhubei Matt at the back trying to marshal the defence as the team looked to find some cohesion. And after those first five minutes of sustained pressure, without too much in the way of goal attempts from Massive, the Lions slowly started to find some rhythm, passes started to find their mark, the team pushing forwards and making some leeway in to Kaohsiung territory.
But all in all, the game was without too much of a threat to either goalkeeper, and so the 25 minutes ended goalless, a typical Red Lions opening game score. With only one team from each group going through though to the Cup stage, it could come down to who beats the Badgers by the biggest score, and with the Animals going out with a 4-0 victory, the Lions knew they had to also score a hatful.
The pride of the Lions
Jhubei Matt took his stint in the sticks for the game, the Lions making use of the full squad of players and the freshness, if that is the correct term, of the remainder of the squad, Jaime being brought on, and Mao, Panda and Cyr up front, the Lions coming out in a very attacking formation as they raced out of the blocks.
From the moment the ref blew his whistle it was clear there was only going to be one winner, the Lions ravaging their opponents, and taking the lead after just a couple of minutes, Panda slotting home after the Badgers keeper spilt the ball, although some would say that Mao had viciously fouled him by going in late.
Panda scored his second shortly afterwards as the Lions attack found gaping holes in the Badger’s defence, the Lions passing game doing well, Dean’s distribution from midfield finding their intended recipient, Fred on the right wing, obviously annoyed at having his rightful place up front taken by that pretentious Red Lions chairman who couldn’t hit a fecking barn door with a fecking banjo.
Modesty prohibits your humble chronicler from informing you who scored the Lions’ third.
Mao pulled himself off after this, giving TB the chance of some glory up front, and you thought that finally the floodgates would open, but despite the pressure, the Lions were unable to increase their lead for several minutes, Jhubei’s Kris slotting home the Lions fourth.
As the game entered the final few minutes, Panda’s hat-trick would be complete as the Lions ended their rout of the badgers, a 5-0 drubbing giving them hope of top spot.
There’s a reason why we don’t like the Scum, and they showed it in their blatant diving and cheating and wasting time, and their niggly tackles in the final group game.
Jhubei’s chairman Matt was upset at his opposite number from the Lions getting on the score sheet in the previous game, and decided that he would also do the same in this one. Alas it was in to his own net, past the hapless Clovis who volunteered (for volunteered, read “was volunteered”) to go in to goal.
It must also be said at this point that Clovis did play well, and that the Scum was not able to penetrate his net.
The Lions were unable to score, despite the good attempts of Cyr, Kris and Dean from Jhubei, and Fred, Panda and Jaime from the Lions.
So 2nd place in the group, as Massive could only win 2-0, after being creamed 3-0 by the Scum, and a realistic chance of getting something from the Plate competition on the Sunday.
The evening came, and the Lions assembled at the hotel lobby to go for their traditional team dinner, Panda – the Minister of Health and Education – once more doing a fine job in finding a place that did not just great food, but also 3 bottles of Asahi beer for $100. With deals like that, the food could have sucked and it would still have been a great evening.
The Jhubei boys turned up as well, TB starting things going by telling jokes, or at least attempting to recycle those old ones that he uses so often with the Lions, Mao also regaling an amusing tale or two himself. The entire Da An squad of 3 was also invited, Ricardo celebrating his birthday (aye congratulations) and so an evening of alcohol abuse started.
As morning came, several Lions found their way to the breakfast hall, but there was also a couple of notable exceptions. Fred, not known for missing any meal, somehow managed to sleep through, and there was no sign of TB. Mao called the local police station, and also the local jail, but neither had any record of TB. Coming to the final resort, Mao tried his room at the hotel, and there was an answer. The entire Red Lions squad was more than slightly surprised at him not being in trouble. However they were less surprised to hear that TB was not feeling too well after a night on the sauce, and thus would not be playing that day.
Panda, sharing a room with Clovis, had spent the night making sure his pillow was safely fastened to his arse, given the reputation of his room mate, especially after the Andy the Bear saga.
The shame of the Lions
After the celebrations of the previous evening, it was only fair that the Lions opening opponents would be Da An. Having scrounged some more players, they were now up to an impressive … errr… six, so the Lions valiantly lent them Clovis as goalkeeper, believing this would be sufficient enough for them to score plentiful, Panda selflessly going for the golden boot.
Having initially agreed to a 3-0 bye, the Lions now changed their minds, thinking that if we could put 5 past 11-man Badgers, we could surely double that within the first minute against Da An plus Clovis.
They were wrong. Hopelessly wrong. Da An held the Lions to 0-0, with Clovis playing outstandingly, saving several goal bound shots, the Lions wasteful on occasion after occasion, Panda’s dreams of being the top scorer at the tournament going up in smoke. Mao saw a shot destined for the top corner palmed away by Clovis who showed the sort of resolve he fails to show when playing for the Lions. Panda and Cyr and pretty much all the Lions failed to even get basic shots on target, blasting wide when it would have been so much better to just pass the ball around until the right opportunity came.
Thankfully at the end of the game, some renegotiations took place, with the added benefit of the organizer of the tournament not liking Kim Sun Il one little bit, an emotion that most players on the Red Lions team can totally empathise with. The 3-0 bye was re-awarded to the Lions, and suddenly we were back on top of the group.
Reversal of fortunes
Next up were Phoenix, and to say that this was not the Lions finest hour would be like saying that the Titanic hitting the iceberg was not the most successful maritime event.
Clovis made the sort of howler you would usually expect from the Lions usual keeper to gift Phoenix the lead, and pretty much all heads went down at this point, as the Lions got stuffed 4-0. Clovis also got a yellow card, the referee hassling him for hitting out at the Compass attacker as he came in, attempting to get the ball.
With Andy the Bear injured, and TB AWOL, there was only one sub available, and the word “sub” is used in its loosest form. The final game of the day was against Compass. The Lions knew that a win would take them to the Plate final, and anything less would mean they got to go home at lunchtime.
Another mix up at the back would gift Compass the lead, but the Lions fought well, with Jeremy in defence making some good tackles, and Fred in front of him seeing a lot more of the ball, the sets of players finally working out how each other plays. Jaime and Panda up front were pushing, but again not really putting the Compass under too much pressure.
Clovis picked up his second yellow of the day as he either tried to punch the ball outside the area, or tried to punch the oncoming attacker. Thankfully the resulting free kick was cleared by Matt, who shortly afterwards called to be replaced. Errr… you are aware who the only sub is aren’t you mucker?
Oh for the love of god…
And so Mao came on, the Lions forced in to shuffling the formation around, as they pushed forwards to try to get the equalizing goal. Alas despite their best efforts, a good attempt from Jaime being blocked well by the Compass keeper and an audacious backheel from the Lions chairman to Cyr, which actually found it’s intended recipient, it was not going to be, and the Lions came home with 3rd place in the plate, having scored in only one of 6 games during the course of the weekend.
One interesting statistic to have come from the weekend of football is that whenever either Andy the Bear or your humble narrator were on the pitch, the Lions did not concede. The aforementioned players in question feel that this speaks volumes.
Despite the relatively poor final position, it was still another great weekend of Red Lions football, our strong links with Jhubei FC cemented, and our thanks to them for a great effort over the entire weekend!
Also thanks to Allan of the Scunners who organized the weekend, and also to Kim Sun Il, although what for, your humble chronicler currently is unable to remember.