Dale Saves City at the Death

Gathering at a rain-sodden Da Jia pitch on a blustery, cold day, while the Peacock opposition waited in their cars, Dan announced a 4-4-2 formation of Dale in goal, Matt Wharton at right-back and Dapper Wilkinson at left-back, with Alastair Frost and Alan Murray providing the bolster in central defence. In midfield Danny Weir on the right and Luis Mayorga on the left provided thrust, while Ebu fed and Christie sat in central midfield; up front Alex schemed in the hole behind Malcolm as the last man. Coach Dan left the sweet boot of Lionel Gonzalez and also veteran Golden Boot Dan Calvert on the bench.

The pre-match line-up and shaking of hands being delayed until 5.15, the Peacocks failing to shift from their cars until 5 – and even then being tardy about it – the Taipei City players had time to discuss which end of the pitch to attack first in case they won the toss. In the event, Captain Alex did win the toss and followed the consensus by attacking the less rain-affected end. At this point, the clay pitch was still quite firm underfoot even in the places where the ponds were forming.

The Peacocks are a team of quick, clever players, good in one-on-one situations. However, in this game Taipei City started strongly and the Peacocks needed to be sharp to withstand the first City assaults. It was never an onslaught, but Taipei City undoubtedly had more possession and put more pressure on the opposing goal in the first half hour. Ebu and Alex sprayed some excellent passes in these opening stages to create clear scoring chances. Malcolm was clear from an Alex through-ball only to be brought down by the last defender. (This was the first yellow card for the Peacocks. Possibly the defender in question was lucky not to have received a red.)

Unfortunately, the first half was marred by some arguing. City had two yellow cards very early in the game. While these may not have been deserved the referee was not disposed to stand around arguing and it was this bad atmosphere that threatened to derail the Taipei City challenge. One moment of comic relief came courtesy of the Peacocks’ goalkeeper who, for reasons only known to the Lord, decided to play ‘come and get it’ with Luis Mayorga. Luis’s challenge left the keeper in agony for a few minutes. Thankfully, the Peacocks’ number 1 got up to receive further punishment from Malcolm and again Luis later on.

At half-time Coach Dan said that the first half-hour was the best he’d seen City play this season. In defence the Frost-Murray partnership was strong. Dale had little to do in the first half except keep vigilant for the occasional long shot skidding toward goal, or gather a hopeful long cross. Matt and Dapper at full-back both managed to work passes down the flanks and, though the conditions weren’t ideal for switching the play quickly, the defenders and midfielders often combined with effective, simple passes. Alex was also busy, always an extra midfielder, linking up the play and probing for openings. Malcolm provided an excellent outlet even though he was surrounded by Peacocks. When City broke with pace the Peacocks’ defence was stretched. It’s also true that when City’s approach play was slower the Peacocks defended en masse and it was difficult to work openings. (The Peacocks are always worth playing against because they know how to defend.)

Towards the end of the first half City slowed down and allowed the Peacocks to put some pressure on the City back line. Still, with the City back line firm and determined, the Peacocks managed no clear cut chances so City thought they had every chance of getting a win as the teams headed off at half-time.

The second half began with some promise for City. Both Alastair Frost and Alan Murray often brought the ball out from defence with authority and poise. In the opening stages of this second half, City looked most likely to score. However, while City had no trouble getting the ball into the Peacocks’ half, the erratic behavior of the ball caused by the deep puddles there made it difficult for the City forwards to attack the penalty area. The best City could manage was often a hopeful shot from outside the box. And as the minutes ticked by, the pitch cut up more and more so that City legs got heavier and heavier and the ball became by degrees fickle, treacherous and treasonous. City never gave up and Alex and Malcolm in particular covered themselves in dirt and glory for the cause.

Early in the second half, Dan took Matt Wharton off and put Lionel on. Danny Weir moved to the vacated right-back berth so that Lionel could occupy right midfield. Then a little later, Dan took Luis off and put himself on. In doing this, Dan moved Malcolm to left midfield, so that Dan would be the target man.

The City substitutions didn’t change the character of the game too much. Also in the second half the Peacocks made three substitutions so they were just as fresh as City. Danny Weir did well at right-back even though it’s not his preferred position, and Lionel was game in right midfield. Dan was strong up front, and Malcolm was just as strong in left midfield, but by now the game basically was bogged down and City, who had arguably expended more effort besieging a team of Peacocks able to soak up pressure, gradually tired.

The Peacocks now began to enjoy more possession and forced some corners. Not for the first time in the game, the wind was a factor as a succession of Peacock corners seemed destined to arch into the danger zone and then fly harmlessly over the cross bar out of play.

With fifteen minutes to play, the Peacocks began to turn the tables on City. One high ball necessitated Dale to advance off his line and jump for it against some Peacock forwards. The slippery ball fell behind him, however, and looked to be going into the empty City net, and would have done but for a last ditch clearance by Alastair Frost. The resultant Peacock corner was well-taken and Dale had to punch it over the bar. The next Peacock corner was also well-taken, and this time Dale needed to punch it outside the box. Unfortunately, the ball fell to a Peacock who was able to volley a lobbed cross onto the head of an advancing forward close to goal. The header was virtually point blank and it looked a certain goal but Dale magically got down and stretched out his right arm. This was a top-class reaction save. Furthermore, Dale’s hand was strong enough to push the ball sideways. The ball eventually rolled out for another corner. Denied by a piece of goalkeeping genius, the Peacocks were not done yet! This time they took a short corner before crossing it in. The ball was cleared but this time the waiting Peacock on the edge of the box let fly with a thunderous volley, surely a contender for goal of the season against any other goalkeeper than Dale. However, Dale somehow bounded and leapt at extraordinary speed to tip the ball over the bar. This was incredible eighty mile per hour goalkeeping, and the second top-class save of the game.

Just a few minutes later, the referee blew his whistle to end the game. What had looked like a probable Taipei City win in the first half had become, by the final whistle, a near brush with defeat, avoided only by goalkeeping genius of the highest class.


What Does It Mean To Miss Against Mitsukoshi?

The opening games of a new football season always throw up difficult questions for football teams. Sunday’s game against Mitsukoshi asked a lot of questions of City, and we will have to wait a little longer to see if this season’s group of Taipei City players has the answers.

Conceding one early goal might be considered unlucky, but conceding two definitely asks questions! There was a general lassitude running all the way through the team in that first half hour that can only be described as pathetic. Did we think we were playing Dentway? The way Mitsukoshi gave City the run-around reflected poorly not only on City’s match preparations, which was typically sloppy, but also on City’s match fitness. Perhaps nobody should be surprised that City was not match fit in their second BML game. Still, we were comprehensively out-passed in the critical opening stages. City also showed worrying indecision in their passing, heading and challenges for loose balls. Whichever way you look at it, the first half-hour was a lamentable chapter in the history of the club.

Mitsukoshi deserve credit for putting pressure on a slow-to-wake-up City. The two best players on the park, the speedy Johnson and an impressive new midfielder in the shape of No.26, were both Mitsukoshi players. The other Mitsukoshi players also played their part with quick and crisp passes. There was simply an urgency about the way Mitsukoshi played that City could not match. Given that simple truth, the City players should ask themselves whether other better teams will let them back into games.

The two Mitsukoshi goals were the result of quick balls into space for Johnson. His pace carried him away from defenders and while his finishing was not deadly he got his shots away quickly – the hallmark of a good striker – and gave no time for City’s defenders or midfield to recover. 2-0 down after twenty minutes, in a match City expected to win? City was simply not ready to play a game of football against a good team. Thankfully, things got better.

Dale started in goal, with Matt Wharton at right-back, Ricardo Abrega at left-back, and Brian McGuinness and Mamadi Colley in central defence; Danny Weir was at right-midfield, with Luis Mayorga and Michael Christie in the centre and Lionel Cassanova in left-midfield. Up front, the physically imposing partnership of Dan Calvert and Ally led the line.

Quite late in the second half, already chasing the game at two goals down, City finally rolled up their sleeves and at least started to compete. City’s first goal came from Danny Weir who controlled a speculative cross which landed at his feet just inside the box. He sidestepped twice and then passed the ball into the corner. This was well-deserved for Danny. City began to impose more pressure and create more scoring chances as the half-time whistle approached. The second goal was a header by Dan C from a corner by Danny. This was a good call and emphatic finish from Dan C.

There were other opportunities to score before half-time. For example, Lionel found Dan with a great ball to feet in the inside channel. Unfortunately, Dan hit the ball at the keeper. Ally was an engine of industry and he was one of the few City players who looked as if he was serious about this game. The tide was turning before half-time, with the Mitsukoshi players looking tired, but the fast-paced first-half had actually taken a lot out of both teams.

At half-time, Lionel made way for Alex R, while Ally came off for Omar. Both Lionel and Ally had played some good football, and they were unlucky to be coming off because quite honestly it could just as well have been anybody else.

With Alex R providing some much needed bite and drive, and Omar playing with invention, the stage was set for a siege of the tired Mitsukoshi players. It was now that the Mitsukoshi goalkeeper decided to come out of his shell and make some good saves. There were a few good chances and several half-chances for City but no firm finishes. The only tactic Mitsukoshi had left was the quick breakaway spearheaded by Johnson and orchestrated by No. 26, but they had little real support because all the other Mitsukoshi players were defending behind the ball. While City dominated the second half and really should have scored, the truth is that City was only able to do this because it was less tired than Mitsukoshi, who had already shot their bolt completely.

The only bolt on display from City came from Alex R. While others either shot straight at the goalkeeper or side-footed lamely, Alex R finding the ball at his feet on the edge of the box, hit it with both power and precision. Did the goalkeeper get a finger to the ball before it cannoned back off the bar?

City managed to put the ball in the back of the net once, but the goal was disallowed. After some good passing down the right, Omar was near the bye-line and in a position to fire the ball behind the Mitsukoshi line of defenders. Instead, he turned brilliantly and gave a short pass on the floor, teeing up Christie who was running into the box from behind. Christie’s powder-puff finish was deflected by a Mitsukoshi defender into the net – almost certainly the only way it was going to reach the net – and City thought it had gone ahead for two seconds, until the linesman raised his flag. Although he had not touched the ball, Dan C was ruled offside for blocking the goalkeeper’s sight of the ball.

In the last three minutes, City (in the person of was it Matt W or Brian McG?) launched a good cross into the area where Omar and Dan both gamely went for the same header. Unluckily, Omar’s effort rebounded off the bar. A few, short minutes later the referee blew up and the game was over without any kind of sense of climax.

City Dent Dentway in Season Opener

Time: 1pm, Oct 28th, 2012

Venue: Bai Ling Bridge Riverside Park

By Michael Christie

On a dry pitch sprinkled in misty drizzle, City met Dentway in the opening game of the BML. It was the first game of the season and it showed! A very fast, skiddy surface meant that it was a day for passing strictly to feet. Sadly, lateness was possibly one more factor in City’s failure to open their season in tip-top form!

The starting eleven was Dale in goal, Matt Wharton at right-back and Dapper Danny Wilkinson at left-back, with Brian McGuinness and debutant Alan in central defence; Danny W, Alex R, Christie and Lionel C were spread across the midfield from right to left; and Big Dan C and Big Andy, making his City debut, started up front. (The Dentway defenders must have been cacking themselves before the game but they stood up to the big guys quite well, to their credit, when the whistle blew.) Ian Edwards started on the bench.

The game itself? There was a lot of good passing football from City, and Dentway could rarely get hold of the ball. However, one City player said we only switched the play once in the whole of the first half! On the plus side City attacked with pace. On the minus, there were, as one City player said, “blind alleys.” The City debuts of Alan in defence and Big Andy up front were creditable. In fact, everybody made some good contributions. Lionel C and Alex R played well in particular.

City opened the scoring courtesy of an excellently weighted through ball from Lionel to Dan. With a deft touch on the ball, Dan turned, beat his marker and finished with force. The next team to score was Dentway! From a free-kick on the right flank, Dentway floated in an inswinger over a four-man wall which was not adequately cleared, leaving a Dentway the simple task of poking the ball in at the far post. This was the one blemish on an otherwise spotless performance by the new-look City defence!

City responded with a goal. After some good work by Alex R, Lionel C and Danny W, Dan C was through. The goalkeeper parried his shot but Lionel C was in position to finish with a clinical left-footed half-volley. 2-1! City extended their lead a few minutes before half-time with a good far post header by Brian McGuinness from Alex R’s excellent corner.

3-1 was not a bad score to be holding going in at half-time but the City players were vaguely aware that they were not playing like champions. Anyway, at the start of the second half Big Andy made way for Ian Edwards, who looked sharp. The second half was, if truth be told, hard work for both City and Dentway. To their credit, Dentway kept looking for a goal and often passed the ball well even if they didn’t trouble Dale. City had some more good chances but, except for another strike from Dan, couldn’t add to the scoreline. Matt Wharton was the supplier with a long ball from right back that was misjudged by the central defender. Dan latched onto it and ran through finishing excellently off the post.

It stayed at 4-1 for the rest of the game. After the final whistle, City walked off the pitch with pride intact if not enhanced by a serviceable performance against a decent team also playing their first game of the season.


City Finish In Style

Time: 3pm, May 27th, 2012

Venue: Bai Ling Bridge Riverside Park

By Michael Christie

Were the celebrations following Taipei City’s draw against Bulien premature? Had Taipei City clinched the title or was it going to be taken away at the last? Following Fritz’s victory over the Red Lions on Thursday evening, Taipei City needed a draw or win to win the BML title outright on points in the last round of the 2011-12 season, against Fritz. Determined not to have to rely on superior goal difference (and also, just in case Taipei City turned up with less than eight players, the rules stipulated that three points would be docked from City’s final points tally), some of the players went to extraordinary lengths, traveling from as far afield as Taichung, to play in this one. Sadly, for some of City’s finest this would be their final game in a City shirt (with the proviso that you are always welcome back any time).

The rain the previous evening had softened up the surface but luckily the ‘good’ pitch was available again. Most of the 2011-12 Taipei City players had said they would be available for this game, so Dan was faced with the right kind of managers’ problem – which eleven to start out of fourteen good players.  However, at 3pm Taipei City had only ten men. Karim’s motorcycle had broken down so he had to get a taxi, while Dale could only make it for 3.30pm. So the starting team was Matt Wharton in goal, Spencer Pangborn, making a welcome return, at right back, Tom Clarke and Paul Brown (another City player making a come-back) at centre back, and Luis Mayorga at left back; in midfield, Alex Ramirez was in right midfield, Michael Christie and Karim Cham were in the middle, and Omar Malcolm was on the left; and up front were Neo King and Dan Calvert.

Watch the highlights here:

Possibly seeing that an 8-0 victory was beyond them, Fritz played at a pedestrian pace and allowed City to push up field and put them under pressure. The first City goal came courtesy of a fine move down the right. Alex released Neo down the right flank and his low cross was received by Dan, whose touch, turn and shot in the six yard box beat everybody. For the rest of the first half City put pressure on Fritz and while Fritz occasionally broke out they posed no threat to the City defence. Spencer, Tom, Paul and Luis were all in fine form. Unluckily, in the last ten minutes a Fritz breakaway move reached the penalty box and City conceded a penalty. The penalty was tucked away and so City and Fritz went in level at half-time.

By now, Dale Neal, Brian McGuinness, Ricardo Abrego and Brian Fitzpatrick had arrived and were itching to get on. At half-time Luis and Paul came off, Dale came in between the posts allowing Matt Wharton to move to left-back and Brian to go in central defence.

The second half began with City parrying some decent moves by Fritz and creating some chances of their own. With ten minutes gone, Christie made way for Fitzy, who took up the left midfield position. This meant Ramirez came into central midfield to partner Karim, while Malcolm moved to right midfield. The new midfield kept a tight formation and gained a stranglehold on the game which they never relinquished.

Now the goals came flying in fast. First, after some good work by Neo on the left, Karim belted a shot in off the underside of the bar. Next, Neo found enough space to shoot from outside the box, and the ball flew past the keeper’s outstretched fingers. Not to be outdone, Dan claimed the next two goals, both consummate finishes to win his hat-trick. While the goals were going in, Spencer came off, having played an excellent game. for Ricardo. And, last of all, Neo bagged another goal to make the final score 6-1. Was this flattering to City?

At 3-1 down and with twenty minutes to go, Fritz possibly lost a little heart. Nevertheless, City pushed up well and got the ball to Ramirez and Fitzpatrick on the flanks. Their service was good so City could actually have had more than six.

At the final whistle, City came away with four trophies. Two individual accolades went to Dan Calvert – best coach and golden boot – while defence legend Tom Clarke won the league MVP.  And, of course, Taipei City lifted the BML trophy.

Taipei City FC 6 – 1 Fritz

City Fight to the Draw

Time: 3pm, May 20th, 2012

Venue: BaiLing Bridge Riverside Park

By Michael Christie

A single point would be enough to claim a third BML Championship, but against Bulien anything might happen and what a day for a football match! On a waterlogged pitch fit only for crabs, ducks and other wildlife, Taipei City took on an old bete noire in an ugly-tempered game. The weather, pitch and the football were all equally ugly. (The only thing uglier was the refereeing, but that was past ugly!) The first half was a drab affair of punts and high balls in the air. City had two goals disallowed. The first was probably an off-side, but the second, which came from a free-kick and got a headed deflection off a Bulien defender, and which was finished expertly by Luis Mayorga with a chest and volley, was probably not. Anyway, 0-0 at half-time was a fair assessment of the game.

Mamadi Colley came on for Matt Wharton at half-time. In the second half, with some new energy needed, Michael Christie, Luis Mayorga and Oscar Auguilera made way for Brian Fitzpatrick, Dan Calvert and Neo King. The rearranged team had new impetus but it was Bulien who got the benefit of the linesman’s doubt when their forward picked up on a high lob from deep over the City defence. It was very clearly off-side but City’s otherwise excellent defence made the mistake of not following him into the penalty area, where he took the ball down and knocked it past Dale. Is it true that a setback is needed to bring out one’s true character?

Watch Bulien’s goal here:

It was at 1-0 down that City finally showed their true mettle. The tackles were harder and the pressure was now on Bulien, who defended deep. City won corners and sent everybody up. What scrambles! It was from a corner that the ball came out to Tom Clarke about ten yards out. He hooked the ball into the six yard box where Calvert got a foot to it. Was this 1-1? No! The linesman’s flag was up and in spite of the arguments from City that Bulien had had two men on the post throughout the proceedings a goal it was not destined to be.

Have a look at the video evidence here and judge for yourself…

City showed real grit to pick themselves up and keep going for goal. The last twenty minutes were really replete with drama. Bulien nearly won a penalty when their winger was upended near the corner post. (The linesman needed to intercede for City on this one. The ref had already pointed to the spot.) And, Alex Ramirez again had an altercation with the tallest Bulien player. (And again Alex came away satisfied!) These were just a few of the many memorable incidents that City can look back on. At last,  from a Weir throw in, the ball was knocked on by Calvert to the back post where Clarke managed to get a toe to it. 1-1! And this time it was (allowed to stand as) a goal! The final whistle blew not long after and every City player tramped off the field with a mixture of righteous indignation and vindication. City deserved a victory for their storming last twenty minutes but a draw was enough to secure the BML Championship.

Watch Tom’s late goal here:

City Prevail in Weekend Double Header

Venue: Bai Ling Bridge Riverside Park

By Michael Christie

Two games in two days is not recommended for a footballer’s health or for his play, yet, with four games left to play and firmly seated in the driver’s seat with all eyes on the prize of the BML Title, that was what was required of Taipei City against the rookie boys of San Chung High School on Saturday, May 12th and against the redoubtable Red Lions on Sunday, May 13th.

Saturday’s Kids Test City– Raw

The teenagers of San Chung are maturing all the time and proved it by givingTaipeiCity a stiff test. For seventy minutes San Chung held City to 1-1. Indeed, the boys passed the ball effectively and made City run hard. The game seemed to be heading for a draw until, with twenty minutes to go, substitute Luis Mayorga came on and immediately stamped his presence on the game. With his trademark mixture of guile and speed he snaffled his first goal on eighty minutes and then decided one was not enough so scored again to make the final score a flattering 3-1 to City.

Sunday’s Lions Test City– Roar

The Lions had a few of their players unavailable but still came to win the game – if they could. The first half was a leaden display from both teams, with neither team really deserving to score. However, after some sloppy play in the middle of the park from City, the Lions fed the ball to their right winger. He attempted a cross but got a lucky slice and the ball looped over the stranded Dale into the net. City pulled one back later through Neo King. It was 1-1 at the break.

The second half started off as drearily as the first, but with half an hour gone Oscar Auguilera came on to make his long awaited debut for City – what a difference he made! His first touch and incisive running was enough to create several chances for his team-mates. City looked like a good team again. Through a combination of wasteful finishing and good keeping from the Lions’ Volker, however, City couldn’t score. With only five minutes left on the clock, though, Oscar fed Neo through the middle and with that finish parried by the keeper and rolling into touch for a corner, Oscar showed magical pace to slide – a two-second, three-yard slide – and jab the ball into the net from the tightest of angles. 2-1 to City!

Peacocks and City Share the Points

Time: 3pm, April 15th, 2012

Venue: Da Jia Yingfeng Riverside Park

By Michael Christie

In their previous match, City beat the Peacocks through a Brian Fitzpatrick goal. The Peacocks had given City a really tough game, and probably deserved a draw. This time, on a windy, overcast but still overly warm Taiwanese April day at Da Jia Riverside Park, the Peacocks gave City a similarly tough game.

City had not played for three weeks, which is a long time when it comes to playing football. Dan settled on a starting line-up of Dale Neal in goal, Matt Wharton at right-back, Brian McGuinness and Tom Clarke in central defence, and Mamadi Colley at left-back; in midfield, Danny Weir, Alex Ramirez, Michael Christie and Brian Fitzpatrick occupied the right, central and left positions; and up front, Luis Mayorga partnered Dan Calvert. The strong bench had Neao King sitting on it, later augmented by Ebu Njie and Oumar Senoussi .

Possibly City failed to frighten the life out of the younger Peacocks in the first ten minutes. City managed to have the lion’s share of possession in this opening period, but looked a little rusty in their link-up play. Seeing this, the Peacocks started to move and pass, effectively on occasion. Their attacks were sporadic, but the City defence needed to be sharp to stifle them. City pushed up on the Peacocks’ whenever possible and without looking sharp still had most of the possession. This was the pattern of play for pretty much the whole of the first half.

There were plenty of talking points. The frequency with which the linesman called offside had the City forwards seething. There were also two possible handballs from the Peacocks in their penalty area. Once, close to the six yard box, in a position to shoot, Fitzpatrick laid the ball off to Calvert. Calvert’s shot appeared to be going in but hit the post. Did it “brush” a Peacock hand close to the line? For all of City’s pressure, however, there were next to no clear cut chances.

At half-time, Brian McGuinness and Brian Fitzpatrick came off. Mamadi went to central defence and Oumar Senoussi came on at left-back, while Luis went to left-midfield and Neao came on up front. The second half continued more or less where the first had left off. City had most of the ball and the Peacocks were content to defend deep in the hope of getting a breakaway. Encouragingly, when the Peacocks launched a long ball Dale was always out of his penalty area in double quick time to beat the Peacock forward to the ball.

After the opening ten minutes, Ebu came on for Christie in central midfield and coordinated play well in the middle. City laid siege to the Peacocks and some desperate defending was needed, but there were still no clear cut chances for City. The Peacocks basically defended their penalty box tightly and restricted to City to long shots. For about twenty minutes only City looked like scoring, though.

The final stages of the game saw City tire and the Peacocks regain some initiative. The last fifteen minutes really were too close for comfort for City. The Peacocks began to launch breakaways and only poor finishing saved City on two occasions. Then, in the last ten minutes they took the game to City somewhat. Possibly City was more relieved at the final whistle!

Fritz Exact a Draw

Time: 5pm, March 25th, 2012

Venue: Bai Ling Bridge Riverside Park

By Michael Christie

Two games of football in the space of twenty-four hours is a punishing schedule no matter what level of the game you play. If Fritz was going to get a result against Taipei City, this was a good opportunity. A few important players were missing, including Alex Ramirez and Omar Senoussi, as the Taipei City players gathered at Bai Ling on an exceptionally warm afternoon. Still, Taipei City put together a strong squad and Dan named a 4-4-2 of Dale Neal in goal; Ricardo Abrego, Brian McGuinness, Tom Clarke and Mamadi Colley at the back; Danny Weir, Karim Cham, Michael Christie and Brian Fitzpatrick in midfield; and Luiz Mayorga and Neao King up front. On the bench were Omar Malcolm, Dan Calvert, Michael Crossley and Danny ‘Dapper’ Wilkinson.

The new look Fritz had enough old veterans to be recognizable as Fritz but benefitted from some fresh faces. Playing a patient passing game, Fritz had control of the game in the opening exchanges. With the ability to pass neatly around the back, Fritz gave the City players the runaround. The City defense, as so often, was strong enough to cope when Fritz launched long balls into the channels, thanks to good pace and anticipation. However, the City forward line and midfield did not seem able to defend as a unit. Possibly this was because Fritz always had somebody spare in midfield, and possibly because City wasn’t enjoying a good day.

Up front, Luis and Neao were swamped. When Fritz had the ball they worked hard but were easily bypassed, and when City had the ball they lacked good service. On the flanks both Brian Fitzpatrick and Danny Weir struggled to get into the game, while in the centre Karim was strong but Christie was often getting overrun. So much for the first twenty-five minutes!

Fritz often had time and space to play crosses into the box and after a sustained spell of pressure they had their reward when a high ball fell for one of their poachers up front. 1-0 to Fritz!

With about fifteen minutes in the half left, Dan made a double substitution. He decided to bring Omar Malcolm on for Brian Fitzpatrick and himself on for Luis Mayorga. The new arrivals instilled some energy into City and finally City put some pressure on Fritz. A deep cross from Mamadi was met on the volley by Neao who lashed the ball into the opposite corner. This was a really powerful pile-driver. Did the ball get a touch from anybody, a City or Fritz player, as it whizzed into the net? Perhaps it shaved a few hairs. City was now level. The final ten minutes of the first half was much more enjoyable for City.

Deciding on no changes to start the second half, City kept up the pressure on Fritz for the first fifteen minutes or so. Karim, enjoying an excellent game, supplied a nice pass to Malcom who crossed well for Dan to jump and head over the keeper, and now City was 2-1 up and the double substitution was having the desired impact!

Christie, plainly tiring, was relieved by Michael Crossley and that was it for City substitutions on the day. However, Fritz was still able to make substitutions and continued playing a close, cagey game. Fritz has always been able to finish games strongly (it is perhaps no coincidence that they have employed German coaches in the past) and with all the City players finally tiring, they ratcheted up the pressure.

Fritz’s best player, their number ten, had frequently got into dangerous positions and when he was put through the City support was nervous. A marvelous tackle from Mamadi appeared to have averted the danger but the number ten got up again quickly, reached the loose ball and went on another little run. He didn’t appear to be scythed but he went down hard and Fritz had a penalty. Converted, it was now 2-2.

There were now about twenty minutes left. City still had enough energy for a few late flurries. Danny Weir, unaccountably stronger the more the match wore on, tore past two Fritz defenders on at least two occasions. And Malcolm, on the other flank, had the strength and guile to reach the byeline a few times. City almost got another goal when Danny Weir fed Dan Calvert on the right flank. Running strongly, Calvert had the pace to roll an excellent cross on the floor behind the defender for Neao in the box. Somehow Neao made up crucial yards to arrive ahead of his markers. Neao’s shot hit the bar.

The last fifteen minutes were desperate for City. Pressing forward en masse, Fritz always had a man spare and kept feeding the ball wide. The defence now had to soak up pressure and could only make the ball safe, which meant giving the ball back to Fritz. It was a relief when the final whistle came.

While the City players were disappointed not to have kept the historic winning streak going, two games in the space of twenty-four hours is no mean achievement, and the fact that Taipei City emerged unbeaten is proof of the players’ resilience. Taipei City will want to resume normal service next week.

Cushty against Mitsukoshi

Time: 7pm, March 24th, 2012

Venue: Bai Ling Bridge Riverside Park

By Michael Christie

In unseasonably cold weather, Taipei City took on Mitsukoshi in the first game of the weekend double-header. Rightly concentrating on the here and now, Dan Calvert asked his squad before kick-off to forget about Fritz the next day and just do their best to beat Mitsukoshi, a team capable of surprises. Dan named a 4-4-2 formation of Dale Neal in goal; Ricardo Abrego, Brian McGuinness, Tom Clarke and ‘Dapper’ Danny Wilkinson at the back; Danny Weir, Ebu Njie, debutant Michael Crossley and Omar Malcolm in midfield; and, Brian Fitzpatrick and Dan Calvert up front. On the bench were Luis Mayorga, Oumar Senoussi, Karim Chan and Michael Christie.

The first twenty minutes belonged to City, with two quick goals. The first goal came courtesy of Danny Weir intercepting a wayward Mitsukoshi pass in midfield, and carrying and passing the ball at pace to Dan Calvert, who finished coolly running at high speed. The second goal came from Omar Malcolm after sustained pressure. Again Danny Weir caused problems for Mitsukoshi with incisive dribbling down the right flank. He crossed the ball inside to Dan Calvert, who shaped to turn and shoot but slipped. However, with his back to goal Dan Calvert spotted a through channel for Omar Malcolm and back-heeled smartly into the space, about seven yards from the bye-line and eight yards from the goal. Malcolm elected to drill the ball into the opposite corner.

The early 2-0 score-line was the result of an energetic and intelligent all-round display by the City team. In a free role behind perennial lynchpin Dan Calvert, Brian Fitzpatrick found space and orchestrated several attacks. Making his debut, Michael Crossley was composed and crisp, working well with Ebu, who showed with his zest in attack why Taipei City is always better when he’s around. On the flanks, Danny Weir and Omar Malcolm were both in great form. Needless to say, all the defenders joined in the flowing passing, when they weren’t walking around with the Mitsukoshi forwards in their pockets. (Actually, Mitsukoshi’s Johnson is always a threat, but with Taipei City having so much possession there wasn’t much he could do.)

In truth, City stepped off the accelerator in the last twenty-five minutes of the first half. This meant that Mitsukoshi were able to come forward and sometimes embarrass City a little, but even then City had the lion’s share of possession and Dale was never troubled. Just before half-time Dan Calvert found himself free in the penalty area on the left. In a position where a ball across the face of the goal would have been a better option had there been a City player in position, Dan shot and the ball wriggle between the keeper and the near post. 3-0 at half-time!

At half-time Dan made three straight changes. Off came Danny Weir, Brian Fitzpatrick and Ebu; and on came Luis Mayorga, Omar Senoussi and Karim Chan.

City started the second half with urgency and pressed forward on Mitsukoshi again. Mitsukoshi did not enjoy being pushed back, but without real breakaway chances they had to lump it. As in the first half they occasionally worked some good moves in midfield and created half-chances, but that was all. With about fifteen minutes gone, Brian McGuinness came off for Christie. Karim dropped back into central defence with Tom, so Christie could partner Michael Crossley in central midfield.

The last half-hour of the game was played at a fair if not breakneck pace. City kept control of the game for most of the time. A further goal came from Omar Senoussi, put through by Malcolm (is this right?). And, in the last ten minutes Dan Calvert shot powerfully from outside the box to claim his hat-trick. His shot had enough power to go through the keeper!

Except for an injury worry to Brian McGuinness, this has to go down as a good day for City. 5-0 against a decent Mitsukoshi team, and without any obvious overexertion ahead of the Fritz game the next day, City cannot complain.

Taipei Overcome Toughest Hurdle Yet

Time: 7pm, March 17th, 2012

Venue: Bai Ling Bridge Riverside Park

By Michael Christie

As usual against Hong Ming Bulien, Taipei City did not enjoy the best preparation in the critical hour leading up to the kick-off. Several players struggled to arrive in time, but Taipei City still had a good eleven ready to start, and of course an exceptionally strong bench. The 4-4-2 formation comprised Dale Neal in goal; a back line of Ricardo Abrego, Brian McGuinness, Tom Clarke and Mamadi Colley; a midfield quartet of Danny Weir, Oumar Senoussi, Michael Christie and Omar Malcolm; and a front pairing of Brian Fitzpatrick and Neo King. On the bench were Luis Mayorga, Alex Ramirez and Dan Calvert.

Hong Min Bulien started stronger, testing City with some quick cross-field moves. How would City’s full-backs cope? Luckily, Ricardo and Mamadi revealed themselves to be in excellent form. McGuinness and Clarke also made several important tackles and interceptions during this period. In goal, Dale made some good saves and needed to be sharp. That he didn’t need to make any critical saves was a measure of the defence’s strength under pressure.

The City midfield took some time to get into gear, but after ten minutes managed to start supplying balls to the wide men and forwards, who often troubled the Bulien defence. Neo was pressing for every loose ball and they simply didn’t know how to handle Brian Fitzpatrick, who was finding space at will. Malcolm and Danny Weir were always excellent outlets, and Oumar was always looking to get forward.

Just when the game was taking on the character of a 0-0, Neo closed down a defender, got a touch and chased the loose ball down on goal. His pace enabled him to take it round the goalkeeper’s flailing right arm and then, instead of shooting from a narrow angle, he coolly took the ball inside again and slotted home.

Surprised but possibly not too rattled because City at this point didn’t deserve to be ahead Bulien continued with their passing game. But with some steam in their sails, City now pushed up and put pressure on Bulien. With his back to goal and Bulien defence pushing out en masse, Brian Fitzpatrick hooked a great ball over his shoulder for Neo to run free with on the left flank. Neo got to the bye-line and crossed at the near post for Danny Weir. A last ditch tackle from a Bulien defender blocked his shot and the ball squirmed loose, spinning quickly but moving at a snail’s pace, for Fitzpatrick deservedly to push home from six yards.

Now sensing the urgency of the situation, Bulien tried to play with more pace and aggression. However,TaipeiCitycontained their threat with composure. That is, Dale often needed to make good saves, but Bulien didn’t manage to get any clear chances on goal. The first half, in truth, was an equal contest, soTaipeiCitywas happy to be 2-0 up but well aware that the score at this stage was meaningless.

Dan chose not to make any changes at half-time, but warned the players to be sharp starting the second half. Fortunately, the sharpest players for City in the opening stages of the second half were Dale and the defenders. Bulien somehow found renewed energy and peppered the City goal with shots. Dale pulled off at least two magical saves to deny Hong Min a life line.

With ten minutes of the second half gone, Dan started making changes. First, Brian Fitzpatrick, a candidate for man of the match, made way for Alex Ramirez. Ramirez went to left midfield and Malcolm went to “inside-forward.” Then, a little later, Oumar, after another outstanding game, came off for Luis Mayorga. Mayorga went to left midfield and Ramirez went into central midfield.

With about fifteen minutes gone, Bulien finally got the breakthrough they needed. Having won several corners, their big central defender finally bundled the ball into the net.

If the pressure was intense before, now Bulien turned the screw. For the next five minutes they were all over City. Only some heroics from Dale – a shot from the left wing he pushed onto the bar was particularly memorable – saved City.

When Bulien eased off, City began to create chances again. By now Alex Ramirez was finding openings and weaving between players in his trademark style. He was designated an enemy by Bulien and came in for some fouls but as usual just got more fired up and was more of a threat. Dan Calvert came on for Malcolm, who had been excellent, with twenty-five or so minutes left. Calvert had a great header from a Danny Weir cross saved on the line by Bulien’s able keeper.

The last quarter of the game was quite cagey, with some good chances at both ends. Bulien made several substitutions throughout the game but while on the day they had canniness and speed of thought, they didn’t quite have the speed of foot they needed. Still, they were always dangerous. With just minutes on the clock, a Bulien chip cut open the City defence and one of their very best players was one on one against Dale. Dale came off his line, so the Hong Min Bulian player tried a lob. Luckily, Dale extended his arms and stopped the ball. This was a make or break moment.

Just a few minutes later, Alex Ramirez and Neo worked some triangular passes and when the Bulien keeper saved from Neo, the loose ball fell for Luis who tucked it away.

Possibly this was not a glittering City performance, but it was another triumph for excellent defensive and goal-keeping, with some help from some hard-working and occasionally inspired midfield and forward play.

TaipeiCity FC 3 – 1 Hong Min Bulien

Watch the City goals here…………