On a Mission from God – Red Lions end the run of poor results vs City

“If you say no, then Jake and I will come here for breakfast lunch and dinner, every day of the week.”

Recent history has shown that despite out-playing the opposition, the Red Lions just can’t seem to get a result against the team previously run by the Pikey. Even being 3-0 up a couple of seasons back, we still managed to lose 4-3, the memory of JH’s red card and a spectacular howler by a certain, un-named player still fresh and vivid in the memory. The Lions though, with Joliet James up front, are on a mission from God, and were desperate to stop the rot of successive defeats.

Yet despite being on their home pitch, Bai Ling’s B cow field, without puddles, without rain, without Tim “Brutus” Brown and “the only gay in the Village” Clovis, the Lions would still struggle to contain their opponents, who this season are looking a lot weaker than we have ever seen in the past.

The Lions had been talking this game up all week, and when it looked like City were struggling to even field 11, confidence was high that this was the time when the Lions would roar, and take all the points.

Mr Liu blew the whistle for kick off.

And the Lions, it seemed, fell to sleep.

For the record, the starting eleven were:

Christian “Scrachi” Peluso, Charles, Jose and Genghis. In the middle, Mirko the Carp and Godfather in the centre, with Ichi on the right wing and Jimmy Glass on the left. Up front, Panda paired up with Joliet James. Your humble chronicler, unsurprisingly, was in goal.

“No Sir. Mayor Daley no longer diners here. He’s dead Sir.”

Right from the off, the Lions looked lethargic, disinterested. Dead. Despite all the good intentions of a motivational speech by Godfather and Joliet James before the match, the Lions seemed almost not to have turned up. Not only did the Lions find it difficult to get the ball, when they finally had it, they had absolutely no idea what to do with it, much like Clovis when handed a naked boob.

And so, having celebrated their fill of Christmas spirit at the Fu Bar last weekend, they handed it back, straight to City’s most grateful midfielders.

Within minutes, City had almost opened the scoring, having had the ball gifted to them not for the first, nor indeed the last time today. The Lions midfield and defence seemed to be in disarray, with no organization there, and gave City all the time they needed to rifle in a shot past the statuesque Mao. Thankfully the ball hit the post and rebounded out. Alas it was only as far as Dan. The good news though was that as the shot was a fecking thunderbolt, Dan had no time to react accordingly, and the ball ricocheted off him for a goal kick.

Twenty minutes in to the game, and that was really all that either team had in the way of chances. The Lions defensive line had worked out after the early scare that they needed to close down City’s attack, but the midfield just wasn’t given the opportunity to service and support the attack. Indeed, so many passes were still going astray, the casual observer could be forgiven for thinking that the ball was a hot stone, which the Lions deemed necessary to hand straight over to City.

As the half wore on though the Lions found some rhythm, Ichi and Scrachi on the right actually stringing passes together, a true source of inspiration in our hour of need.

Joliet James and Panda were now seeing some of the ball, although they still had no clue what to do with it, Dale in the City goal not troubled for the moment.

On the left, Genghis was getting in some crunching tackles, which made him lose his elastoplast. But despite this huge personal loss, valiantly he fought on.

In midfield, Jimmy Glass wasn’t given the space to work his magic, and Mirko the Carp seemed to also be having an off day, his passing not quite the precision one would expect from the German. Probably made in East Germany. It seemed that we missed the magic of Salah in the middle of the park, but as he had turned up (a) late and (b) without boots, he was deemed surplus to requirements, and thus spent the opening period on the bench.

Both Panda and Joliet James spurned gilt edged chances in the latter minutes, Joliet James taking too many chances when he should have just shot the fecking ball, and Panda stretching the City defence but also unable to get the shot away. Dale was becoming the busier of the two goalkeepers, although the Lions were still not firing on all cylinders.

Still the Lions fought on, and by the end of the half had found a certain amount of rhythm that gave them hope for the second half.

“Do you guys know Minnie the Moocher? No, but I once knew a hooker named Minnie Mazola.”

The second half saw more fight from the Lions, with Fred and Mora slowly introduced to the fold, trying to bring a little more to the middle and forward lines. But the Lions were dealt a blow early on as Ichi had to go off injured, the Korean border guard being replaced by Salah.

By now, Dale was being forced in to some saves, and made himself big on a couple of occasions as the Lions once more failed to put the chances away. Joliet James was perhaps the most guilty of all. Not perhaps. Was. Definitely.

“If the shit fits, wear it.”

Although the Lions were still in the driving seat in the second half, Salah was not bringing the sort of width that Ichi had done in the first half, and so many of the plays on the Lions right wing just fizzled out. Fred was fighting hard, chasing down the opponents, winning the ball on more than one occasion, the Swede in a mean festive mood.

Despite all this possession though, it was City who took the lead when they broke quickly and launched a counter attack. With the Lions defence split with a delightful through ball, Alex the Mayan Midget lobbed the Lions keeper who had come out to narrow the angle.

1-0 City, but the Lions were not done.

From what looked like the best move of the game so far by the Lions, some sweet passing along the left wing brought out a fine low save from Dale who put the ball off for a corner when the ball looked destined to go in to the net.

“At least we got a change of clothes sucker – you’re still wearing the same shit you had on three years ago”

City too were still dangerous, and were awarded a free kick on the edge of the Lions penalty area. With the Lions ambling back, and Jimmy Glass not exactly being quick to react to the pretty clear instructions from the Lions keeper (which bit of “left” or “tight together” don’t you understand?), there was one player who did pay attention. Problem was, that player was in a City shirt. In came the quick shot, heading for the far post, the Lions defence not even ready yet.

Thankfully though, despite being described as an “old man on holiday”, it was your humble narrator who pulled off a decent save of his own to keep the score respectable.

“You are such a disappointing pair. I prayed so much for you. It saddens and hurts me that two young men whom I raised to believe in The Ten Commandments should return to me as two thieves with filthy mouths and bad attitudes. Get, out and don’t come back until you’ve redeemed yourselves.”

And Mao wasn’t finished there.

“New Oldsmobiles are in early this year”

What the Lions needed from this game was a Christmas miracle. And they got it in the most unexpected fashion. Totally against everything you would expect from the Lions keeper, when City broke and crossed the ball in, Mao actually took the cross. And HELD it. I’ll repeat it for those who can’t quite believe their eyes here. HELD THE FECKING CROSS.

Not only that, he then launched the ball upfield, which was nodded on by Fred to the left wing where Jimmy Glass was in enough space for once, the City defence disorganized completely, which is of course what you would expect with Chappy in the team, and with Dale going walkabout, Jimmy Glass delivered a cross that could tempt the devil himself, and not even Joliet James could miss this open goal. But he tried. The ball hit the back of the net, and the Lions were back in it. Redemption was found.

“What kind of music do you usually have here? We got both kinds – country AND western”

With the game evenly balanced, and both teams going for the win, the final 15 minutes saw the Lions push forwards, City countering but not really endangering the Lions goal. Darren was brought on for his debut in a Lions shirt, and found the game to be a lot different to the one you would play on the rain sodden, windswept fields of Glasgow.

City broke down their left wing, Dan cutting in from the corner flag and looked up for someone to pass to. Unfortunately for him, there was only one player available, and by this time the Lions defence had put him under enough pressure for him to try a speculative cross in to the middle, which was easily lapped up by the Lions and cleared.

Mora, Joliet James, Fred, Jimmy Glass, Salah, all got involved, trying to carve a way through the City defenders to get that winning goal, but were unable to do so.

And back in the Lions half, another dangerous cross was whipped in but another Christmas miracle was happening, as Mao not only called to take the cross, but actually jumped – according to Kim Sun Il who was still observing from the sidelines – 6 inches higher than usual. Which must mean he got 6 inches off the ground. The Lions keeper plucked the ball out of the air, off the head of Calvert who was waiting for the ball to come down to a suitable height for him to nod in for the City winner.

“It’s 106 miles to Chicago, we’ve got a full tank of gas, half a pack of cigarettes, it’s dark and we’re wearing sunglasses”

And that was essentially the end of the action. Despite having the Lions share of the ball, and the territorial advantage that goes with it, the Lions could not find that final winning goal, and with just 15 seconds to play, made their final substitution, Kim Sun Il coming on to the pitch as Mr Liu blew for full time. It should be said that not one pass did Kim Sun Il play astray, not one tackle did he miss. A truly awesome, inspirational performance from him.

The Christmas break now kicks in for the Lions, the Fritz game in January being the next fixture, and the Lions can take heart from the performances over the last few weeks. This was the first time the team had been behind, and it took a concerted effort, and a lot of fight to secure the point against the current champions. Despite not being at their best, the Lions showed the spirit that can only come from one place.

We’re on a Mission from God.

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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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