A last minute goal that bobbled over the goalkeeper capped off an excellent all-round team performance from the Red Lions against a cheating, diving Peacock team that lacked any kind of ideas when it came to not blatantly trying to cheat their way to a free kick around the Lions penalty area.
Despite the absence of many players including Fred, Panda, Ichi the North Korean Border Guard, Jimmy Glass, Andy the Bear, Ginger Elvis, Joliet James and the only gay in the village, 16 Red Lions still turned up, the majority of them on time, with the exception of Scrachi Peluso whose tardiness was rewarded with a place on the bench. Those who arrived on time and started were:
Ant the Mamil and Genghis “Edwin” Khan as full back, with Kim “Token Black” Sun Il and Jose Roberto in the centre. The midfield 4 comprised of Mirko the Carp and Godfather in the middle, with Salah and Darren on the wings, and Tim “Brutus” Brown and Alonso up front. Your humble chronicler was in his regular position, wedged in between the sticks. On the bench were Greig, ready for his BML debut (oh – you think?), Sergay, Spike, Mora, Charles and Scrachi.
The lack of original ideas from the Lions opposition was evident from kick off, as they attempted a very poor shot on goal which went very, very wide. From the resulting goal kick, expertly taken by Jose, it was clear that the Lions were the hungrier team for the win, with Darren on the left shutting down the opposition and getting in some hard yet fair and well timed tackles in. Mirko the Carp was given a surprising amount of time in the middle, which he took full advantage of with some excellent short passes to Godfather, Darren, TB and Alonso.
TB was making sure that the Peacock defence had no time to settle, as the Lions took advantage of the short pitch to pressure the opponents at all times. Alonso saw a lot of the ball as well, and attempted a couple of pile drivers to test the goalkeeper, alas not hitting the target with them. On the right wing, Salah was combining well with Ant the Mamil, calmly bringing the ball from a defensive position to a more attacking one smoothly, then laying off a series of nice passes and crosses.
Despite the pressure on the Peacock defence, they were still able to break quickly on occasions, playing a long ball out side where the attacker sneaked past Kim Sun Il with only the keeper to beat. Thankfully Mao had narrowed the angle and got a decent enough touch on the ball as the attacker tried to slot it under the Lions keeper, Ant launching the ball to safety on the rebound.
At the other end, the Lions got a corner from the left wing, against the wind, so it was slightly surprising to your humble narrator that all the Lions attackers lined up at the far post. It was considerably less surprising, however, when Darren’s corner kick did not make it to the far post thus allowing the Peacock defensive team to clear.
There was one moment of indecision from TB, as Godfather called for the ball in the middle of the Lions half, only for TB to play the ball directly to the Peacock attacker who gratefully accepted before once more the Lions defence could regain possession and clear their lines. Strangely enough, Godfather decided to punish this one error, taking TB off the pitch shortly afterwards, and replacing him with Scrachi.
Peacock were not without their danger though, and a series of corners were won, although Peacock tried the same tactic every time of an in-swinger straight to the keeper. Perhaps the Peacock team was trying to play on the fact that the Lions keeper is crap with crosses at the best of times, yet still the ball was punched to safety and even – on one occasion – caught cleanly.
At the other end, only some intense defending prevented the Lions from opening the scoring, with at least three attempts on goal being blocked by a resolute Peacock defence, the ball finally being launched in to the Keelung River by Alonso.
Towards the end of the half, Darren was harshly penalized for winning the ball in the fairest of ways with an excellent yet hard tackle. The cries of “Ai!” by the player and – your humble scribe may well be forgiven for accusing – the Peacock trainer were heeded by the referee who looked like he might well change his shirt to a blue one for the second half.
Despite having most of the play, the Lions were unable to make the breakthrough by half time, Godfather giving the instruction during the interval to keep going, stay as we are.
Yet this was not possible as immediately after the break the Peacock trainer decided he did not like Godfather’s stitch work on Salah’s shirt, the 34 looking a little like… well… a 34, but let’s be honest, when you’re clutching at straws, then any straw will do. The referee decided – not for the first, nor indeed last time – that he agreed with the Peacock trainer, and so sent Salah off to get the number fixed.
Upon his return, the linesman thought that the number was ok, but the referee was still a puppet of the Peacock management regime, and used his FBI-esque communications equipment to convey to the aforementioned linesman that Salah could have ironed on an impeccable silk-lined number 34 on the back of his shirt, but he was still not coming on. So a 2nd Lions substitution was needed, Mora coming on in what would turn out to be a truly inspired choice. Scrachi dropped to the wing, leaving El Frijolero and Alonso up front.
Still the Lions pushed forward, winning possession and given a huge amount of time in the centre of the park. This gave the combination of Godfather and Mirko the Carp plenty of time to pick out the pass, either to the attack or out to the wing. Scrachi Peluso was getting nicely involved, making runs down the wing and inter-linking nicely with Mora and Alonso. Darren on the left was showing his highland terrier pedigree by not allowing anything on the left hand side of the pitch to go unchased, all the pressure now being exerted on the Peacock team which looked like it was going to capitulate at any given moment.
In one Lions attack, there were several intricate passes, with the ball finally being played to Alonso’s feet, the Lions attacker almost cracking the crossbar with a ferocious drive which – had it been a couple of centimetres lower – would have given the Lions a fully deserved lead. As it was though, the ball bounced down back in to the six yard area, before being cleared by the defence.
Midway through the half, a blatant foul on Godfather was conveniently given TO Peacock, before the referee changed his mind, obviously so used to blowing everything for the team in blue. Shortly after this, Alonso seemed through on goal just outside the area but was pulled back, the referee having no option but to give the Lions a free kick in a very dangerous position. Godfather’s attempt at a shot on goal ended up with a ball being lost in the car park.
Peacock was now relying on their usual “let’s dive around the penalty area and see if we can get a free kick” tactics, the referee being sucked in on more than several occasions by the blatant – that is blatant if you’re anyone but a Taiwanese referee – cheating. The Lions though had finally, after several failed attempts, worked out how to form a wall, and keep the opposition from taking a quickie. And from each free kick, the danger was cleared easily.
However there was one moment of danger where an in-swinger against the wind was hoisted in to the air, the ball bringing out what some have described as a “world class” save from the Lions keeper, as he tipped it over the bar for a corner. Your humble chronicler is much too humble to call it world class, but is not so humble that he is going to argue with the description.
Charles replaced the injured Jose at the back, heading to the right back position with Ant the Mamil being drafted in to the centre of defence with Kim Sun Il. Immediately Charles was penalised for a tackle which looked harmless enough, and shortly afterwards both he and Ant the Mamil were incensed by the referee’s decision to give a free kick just outside the area for the most innocuous of challenges.
Ant suggested to the player on the floor that he was a cheating, diving tosser, which somehow aggravated one of the Peacock’s midfielders, the referee jumping in between them before a fight ensued. The resulting free kick went straight in to the well-placed Lions wall, and – after a little scrappy defending – was cleared to safety.
Time was now running out, and the game looked like it could be heading for a goalless encounter, but there would be a twist in the tale. A Peacock attack through the middle was snuffed out by a strong Kim Sun Il tackle who then calmly played the ball up to Godfather who in turn laid a pass in to the path of El Frijolero’s run. As Mora ran inside his defender, Ant the Mamil was heard – with the most precise of calls – to shout “come on Mora, do some something special… one last time!”, a cryptic message if ever there was one, a distinct lack of clarity as to what “one last time” meant, yet it somehow seemed to work its magic.
El Frijolero cut inside his player then took what appeared from the location of your humble chronicler to be an extremely tame and most saveable shot, low to the near post of the diving goalkeeper who seemed to have had more than enough time to have it covered. But right at the last second, the ball hit a bobble which took El Frijolero’s shot over the keeper and it trickled in to the net to give the Lions a 1-0 lead. No one will argue that the goal was a touch fortunate, but then again there will be few who could justifiably argue that this goal was in any way undeserved.
Two minutes were all the remained between the Lions and 3 vital points to keep in touch with the league leaders Fritz, yet despite Peacock’s best efforts for diving some more, the referee seemed disinterested, and the Lions were able to play out the final few seconds of the game without any additional drama. Despite the lack of so many regular players, the Lions gave arguably the team performance of the season so far, and this must be a boost to the confidence for the show-down with Fritz.
Greig, who must have been relishing his opportunity to make a first Red Lions BML appearance before kick off, alas was not handed his opportunity, Godfather deciding that the sterling performance shown by himself and Mirko the Carp were just too much. Either that or he could not face the fact that 2 Scots would have been played in one single game.