How this game ended goalless is anyone’s guess. Actually, you could do worse than ask Godfather who missed open goals galore, emanating a shocking miss in the first period by Francois, but your humble scribe is getting ahead of himself slightly.
The Red Lions turned up for this 9 AM kick off with the usual lack of energy you would expect from a team of binge drinkers. It was hardly the massive squad that Godfather really wanted in order to get a good overview of the squad for the forthcoming BML season, but still enough players turned up for the Lions to actually field 11, and let’s be honest, what more could Godfather realistically hope for?
So to the game, and there was hardly a selection problem for Godfather – with just 13 players turning up on time, he chose to watch from the sidelines as the others played. The line up then was a 4-4-2, with Clovis and Paul “Ginger Elvis” Hemingay, sporting his ever-growing sideburns, as full backs, Jose and Ant in the centre of defence, Sergay, Spike, Mirko the Carp and Salah in the middle, with Jaime and Francois up front. Ok, it might have been slightly different, but it was an early kick off. Someone else turned up late – I believe it was Alonso, but as I was concentrating on the game itself, I may well be mistaken.
The Lions started strongly, nice passes to feet, spreading the ball around, the Japanese finding it hard to get a touch, and yet when they did have the ball, the Lions closed them down and regained possession. And, like Miss World (if you like that sort of thing), it was beautiful. That Lions passing game was a joy to behold, it just never got boring. The Japanese found it difficult to get the ball out of their own half, and when they did clear it up field, the defensive core simply switched flank to launch another wave of attacks.
The Japanese keeper was definitely the busier of the two players between the sticks, Mao was seen sitting in his fold up chair, drinking a latte and nibbling on a cheese croissant, not a care in the world, pretending to do the Times crossword when in fact he was checking out the Snoopy cartoons. But I digress. The Lions attackers were making sure that this was not going to be an easy day for the Japanese, shots and crossing coming in as though it were an American raiding mission in 1944.
In the middle of the field, Mirko the Carp was playing his usual role of fine passing, Salah fitting in nicely to his role, while the two wingers were playing well and getting in some decent crosses.
Thankfully for the Japanese though they had someone in goal who could catch the ball, so crosses were taken with ease. And despite the most uneven statistics of possession, the Lions shooting was tame at best. In fact, the first period was epitomized by the glaring miss by none other than Francois, who – when through on goal – took the ball past the keeper and instead of slotting the ball home as any normal person would, instead decided to take an extra touch before slotting it …. errrr …. wide.
The Japanese however did have one chance in the first period, getting a most tame free kick from the referee from an Ant challenge. Knowing the Red Lions keeper was crap at crosses, they whipped one in to the mixer, and with Mao so hopelessly out of position, he may as well have been in Luxembourg, the Japanese attacker got a free header, the Lions defender marking him also enjoying a nice trip to the Duchy, but smacked it over the bar for a goal kick.
The Lions had a succession of corners, one of which was delivered by Clovis, who failed to even get the ball to the front post. As most Lions were at the back post, this meant an easy clearance for our opponents. From the opposite side though, one corner was whipped in nicely, I believe by Jaime, the defender rising beautifully to head the ball on to his own post, the goalkeeper left stranded and wrong footed, the entire JFC team breathing a collective sigh of relief as the ball bounced wide for another Red Lions corner.
And thus signaled the end (essentially) of the opening period, the Lions easily the better team, JFC looking as though they were about to be battered. Mmmmmm…tempura!
For the second period, Godfather brought himself on, Francois was off, especially for that glaring miss. Godfather announced to the world that he would show Franky how to do it. Instead though it turned out to be a case of whatever Franky can do, Godfather can do several times over.
As well as bringing on himself, Godfather also introduced Ichi, the North Korean border guard, who switched teams after playing the initial period for JFC. Alonso, or whoever it was who turned up late, was also introduced.
The second period started the way the first one did, the Lions eating up the possession, playing some most excellent football, the passing going nicely, although Ant decided it might be fun to pass to the team in blue instead of the team in red. After all, variety is – as Ant will testify – the spice of life.
With the extra team to change out whenever they liked, the Japanese had more energy and so slowly they worked themselves in to the game, the Lions defence perhaps pushing too far up field, susceptible to the break.
Thomas had several chances to put the Lions ahead, but deemed the shots too easy, and so decided instead to miss them. Not once, not twice, but at least three times in the second period. And yet more was to follow.
The Lions kept pushing, but could not find a way past the JFC defenders, and when they did, the goalkeeper was there to make the stop. As the period came towards a close though, JFC got a break, and with Clovis marking zonally, probably the Twilight Zone, the ball was passed to the JFC attacker down their right wing, who took the ball past Mao and had a tight angle in which to slot the ball home. But Mao managed to slow the player a little by attempting to trip the attacker in the same way as saw him get a red card against Mitsukoshi last BML season, but it was just enough to break the stride of the attacker which brought Mirko the Carp in for a lunging, last ditch tackle which put the ball off for a corner.
From the corner Mao called for the ball. Mao rose like a soufflé. Mao actually, miraculously, caught the ball. JFC, who know that this is a physical impossibility, all closed in, knowing that Mao would drop the ball. Jaime went off for a run down the right wing, where the ball was duly delivered, and suddenly the Japanese were outnumbered at the back just as they were in Canton in 1938. However, the Lions once again were unable to capitalize on their numerical advantage, and the ball was cleared.
For the final period the Lions knew that JFC would have more energy, as they were constantly changing out their team. The Lions though were starting to slow down, but still they surged forwards, the scent of victory in their nostrils.
At the back, the Lions got a free kick. Clovis wanted to take it. Jaime shouted “No Clovis. No. No. NO!”
Clovis took the free kick. It didn’t go far but the JFC midfield was most appreciative.
“Which bit of “no” didn’t you understand Clovis?” came the sarcastic remark.
Thomas, Salah, Jaime all had their chances again to open the scoring, but failed miserably to do so. Ichi, the North Korean border guard fought well and made some impressive passes. At the back, again it was really too simple for the Lions, with Ant now finding his rhythm, and Jose happy to take on two attackers and distribute the ball to the wings, where the Lions could clear. Paul “Ginger Elvis” Hemingay was also making well timed tackles, although he too was seldom troubled.
With legs beginning to tire though, JFC broke and forced a decent save from the Lions keeper. With Mao hopelessly scrambling on the ground, resembling more a beached whale, the ball rebounded to the JFC attacker, Clovis once more nowhere to be seen, yet instead of simply slotting the ball home, the aforementioned JFC player decided to do a Godfather, and sliced it harmlessly wide for a Lions goal kick.
And so the game ended. 0-0, but it could have been 10-3. Chances galore, but no one was on hand to slot the ball away. Panda, who had no excuse for missing the game, and was fined two rounds, could possibly, and would quite probably, have had a hat trick in each period, but just when you need someone who has the sense to take the shot when the opportunity arises, instead of trying to look clever, and play the cool stuff, he decides instead to stay in bed.
However, thanks must be said to our Captain and Vice Captain for organizing the game at short notice, and if the Lions can find someone who can shoot and score, then there is still perhaps hope for the forthcoming BML season after all.