Every (Under)Dog Has Its Day

Time: 3pm, December 5th, 2009
Venue: Bai Ling Bridge Riverside Park

By Alice Davis

Was there the air of over-confidence amongst the Taipei City team on Saturday afternoon? Were the players expecting Rogue FC to succumb to their playful fancy tickles, roll over, and die? Only City’s players can answer that, but one thing was evident. Rogue ain’t no poodle. Baring row after row of jagged teeth, Rogue’s seemingly (and suprisingly?) well-rested players snarled and grimaced their way through all ninety minutes of a toughly-fought match. Their fearlessness seemed to take City by surprise, and almost every attempt at their usually stylish fashion of play was torn apart from the inside by the pitbull opposition who incessantly snapped at their heels.

It would not to be fair to say Rogue created many chances of their own, but they did, critically, prevent City from ever getting together any serious attack. With City posing little danger moving forwards, the minutes ticked by to reveal the side was lacking much of a striking threat at all. Rogue’s determination built, and some might say it was just a matter of time before their resilience was rewarded. At the half-hour mark, Andy Rodgers capitalized on a “moment of shortsightedness,” worming his way past the last standing defender to take on the goalkeeper from a pretty fair distance. Did even he think such an audacious shot would hit the back of the net? The point is, it did. 1-0 to the Underdogs.

The City response was negligible, if there was one at all. And, if Rogue were the Underdogs, City were the Sleeping Dogs and seemed happy to let themselves lie. The hardy opposition, buoyed by their goal, scored again. Paul Cartstairs added a second just minutes before the halftime whistle.  Another charming shot, one of the few aesthetic moments in what was generally an eyesore of a game. Were Rogue as stunned City were? Only the Rogue players can answer that, but the silence from Taipei’s dugout in the break was as deafening as the noise coming from the leading side.

The second half was barely under way before the wagging-tailed Rogues had a third goal to their name. A scruffy battle in the box compounded Taipei City’s problems, an own goal adding to City’s misery. Russell’s yells of, “It’s still nil-nil, lads. It’s still nil-nil,” may have confused some of the fans, but seemed to be working. At three-nil down, it probably sounded like sarcasm.

With twenty minutes left to play, only a superhero would have a chance to turn the game around. Tim Murphy’s presence as he moved up front was dominating, but it wasn’t his day to score. The defence and midfield play was certainly improving—or maybe Rogue had begun to stop heeding Russell’s determined shouts. With the delayed arrival of Dan Calvert, could he feel the burden on his shoulders? Had he painted a red-and-yellow ‘S’ on his chest? Could he score a hat-trick in less than twenty minutes?

As it turns out, the answer is, almost. Having bombed it over to Bai Lin Bridge in a Danmobile that was running on sheer willpower rather than fuel, the super sub made an immediate impact on the game. With their feathers finally ruffled, Rogue were forced to step up their game to contain a City side that finally appeared to have woken up. Dan scored moments later, a scrappy header from a corner. And before too long, another beautifully placed shot into the top right hand corner.

But time was running out, and any dying attempt to equalize was thwarted. As the final whistle blew, Rogue’s cheers echoed around northern Taipei. A dejected City team, saved from humiliation by Dan’s late goals, were left with the realization that, in football, nothing is for granted, even if you think you’re Top Dog.

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