The Taipei Red Lions saw out the Mao era with another victory to end the season in 2nd place after Taipei City forfeited their game in valiant pussy fashion against Hong Min. Unless Hong Min loses by 17 goals to Fritz in their final game, they are champions. Thanks to City for not even putting up a fight, giving the BML less than 24 hours notice before requesting a cancellation of the game. Classy. Fickle nobends.
As the Lions assembled at the Bai Ling A pitch for the last time this BML season, the pitch being rolled, for what it was worth, the dust being compacted, only to be rechurned in to dust as the match was played, the mood was a little sombre. Some news had already filtered through about City’s toothlessness, and there were also several last minute absentees, including Clovis and Ginger Elvis.
For the record, the starting lineup was:
Genghis, Christian, Bryan and Greig as the back four, with Mirko the Carp, Joliet James, Darren, Jimmy Glass and Fred in the middle with Panda up front. Your humble chronicler, making his last BML appearance for the Lions, was in goal.
On the bench were Tetsu, Thomas, Kim Sun Il and Francois.
The Lions were in no mood to give the opponents any time or space as they rushed in to the game with controlled aggression, making some fine tackles and passing movements. After just 2 minutes they thought that they had taken the lead but Joliet James was flagged offside by the linesman, so the goal did not count.
It did not seem to matter though as Mitsukoshi’s defence was hounded continually, and as such was bound to make mistakes. And this is exactly what happened after less than ten minutes, as Jimmy Glass chased down his defender, stole the ball and tonked in to the penalty area unopposed. As the Mitsukoshi keeper came to close the angle, he unleashed a power shot low in to the far corner of the goal to put the Lions in to a 1-0 lead.
And the Lions were not stopping there – the midfield worked hard to hassle the opponents, trying to build on this lead and put the game to bed. The Lions midfield was working hard, laying off passes and moving in to space for the return ball, tirelessly searching for a way through the Mitsukoshi defence.
The knowledge that another 15 goals could secure the title did not really help though, and slowly Mitsukoshi also worked their way in to the game, playing on the counter with the pretentious, precocious twat of a number 29 up front leading the way, still needing his gloves in the arctic temperatures of – errrr – 27 degrees.
The Lions passing did become a little more erratic, and the precision that the Lions had seen in the opening encounters seemed to go AWOL as the half wore on. Having said that, Christian was whipping in some superb crosses from corners and free kicks, the most tempting of which was headed over by Darren when you really would have expected him to score. Perhaps he was trying to be like Bryan from the previous week by missing the target from point blank range. This miss could also explain why he decided not to turn up at Frankies afterwards, the knowledge that a fine of a round would be coming his way was something he needed to escape from. Or perhaps he just wanted to go home to watch Scotland lose to Wales at Hampden.
At the back, Bryan and Greig seemed not to have the same sort of level of understanding and communication as perhaps any combination of Charles, Ant the Mamil, Jose and Kim Sun Il would have had, but they still managed to deal with anything that the Mitsukoshi attack threw their collective way, the Red Lions keeper not really brought in to action except for some very basic stuff (which many will agree is more than enough for the man with the Teflon gloves).
Genghis and Christian were also getting in to wide positions to make sure that there was always a passing option available to the defenders and midfielders as the Lions pushed for another goal which would put to an end – they hoped – any thoughts of a resurgence by Mitsukoshi. And despite having so much of the ball, the Red Lions just could not find a way past the opposition keeper, with many players guilty of missing chances, hitting the ball wide or high when perhaps there was more time to compose a shot than they had realised.
In the midfield, Fred was getting in some strong, fair tackles, winning the ball and laying it off for Panda or Joliet James to run on to, but there seemed a little misunderstanding here too from time to time, the passer not anticipating the run and passing to no-one in particular, or anticipating a run that did not come, and thus laying off the ball directly to Mitsukoshi’s most grateful defenders.
So as half time arrived, the Lions could not build on the lead, but were looking comfortable all the same.
There were no half time words of wisdom from anyone, so we’ll cut immediately to the second half.
Essentially it was more of the same as the Lions pushed forwards, but the referee seemed to be a little strange in the second half, giving fouls against the Red Lions for the most innocuous of challenges. It almost seemed like someone had had a word in the ref’s shell like at half time, and suggested that he blew his whistle a little more often against the Lions. And fouls which would normally be given to the Lions, such as a blatant push off the ball, were simply waved on.
With perhaps a quarter of an hour played in the second hald, Greig was penalised for a nothing challenge just outside the box. With the wall nicely in place, the free kick came in, Mao failing to deal with it despite having a clear view of the ball at all times. Despite getting a touch, the ball went in for an undeserved equaliser.
Mitsukoshi now seemed to be fully content with a point and sat back a little, allowing the Lions to push forwards, as they looked for a winner. Kim Sun Il, Francois, Thomas and Tetsu all came on, pushing Bryan forwards but still the lack of passing precision hindered the Lions. But as has been shown all throughout this season, the Lions just don’t stop fighting and they pushed and pushed, and just when you thought that perhaps this time the Lions had left it too late, that there were no scraps left for the Lions, up pops Panda who – and I am sure he will admit this himself – had not had the best of games until that moment, turning on a $1 coin to slide the ball home out of reach of the outstretched Mitsukoshi keeper to give the Lions a 2-1 lead with just seconds left to play.
Mitsukoshi had no answer, the Lions gained possession once more and played down the clock as the season came to an end. The final position of 2nd is the best that the Lions have had since we won the competition in 1997, many years before the vast majority of current Lions players joined the team. So some fantastic results and performances, victories over City and Fritz, and a “close but no cigar” moment with the title.
And with this BML match report, your humble chronicler bows out of Red Lions league football action, and my role as Chairman comes to an end. It has been an amazing 11 years as a Red Lion, and the last 4 and a half as chairman have been most rewarding. It has been a privilege to run this team, and I hope that I pass it on in a better condition than when I took over.
I would like to leave you with these words, paraphrasing the legendary Brian Clough:
I wouldn’t say I am the best chairman the Red Lions have ever had…but I am in the top one.