San Chong Salvage Point

Time: 1pm, December 13th, 2009
Venue: Bai Ling Bridge Riverside Park

By Michael Christie

On an extremely hot day, with the sun beating down from a high place, Taipei City kicked off against San Chong. Ross had warned everybody before the game that San Chong had recently strung together some good results against the better sides in the league, so they would not be the pushovers remembered from previous seasons. He was right. The starting line-up was Dale Neal in goal; Alex Daly, Tim Murphy and Matt Wharton at the back; Spencer Pangborn and Ed Cartee in the wide positions; Mike O’Gorman, Michael Christie and Alex Ramirez in midfield; and, Stevey Reymond and Niklas Denser up front.

Right from the whistle, San Chong were determined to put pressure on the ball at all times. The ball went from San Chong to Taipei City and back again quite often in the first five minutes and, a little worryingly, Taipei City seemed reluctant to exert themselves fully in that time. There was hesitation in the challenge and indecision in possession from everybody but Mike OG. Possibly encouraged by City’s anaemic start, San Chong pushed forward energetically. Their speed and sharpness was such that City had no choice but to respond.

From the ten minute mark, the City players began to warm up properly and put in some hard work. (Those great days when you discovered you were nimbler and quicker than the older and bigger boys playing for the opposition were dimly recalled. Now the City players were one and all older and bigger than the whippets of San Chong.) For the next ten to fifteen minutes the two sides more or less shared the spoils of a keenly contested game. There was some good possession football from both sides and while the game wasn’t an “end to end” classic, both teams had pressure and chances in front of goal. Notably, Dale made a wonderful save at the feet of a San Chong forward when he was clean through on goal, the one time in the game the City defence was properly breached.

The deadlock was broken around the twenty minute mark by an own goal resulting from a low near post cross from Ramirez. Oddly enough, Tim and Steve took turns to jump over the ball before the unlucky San Chong defender stroked it home from three yards. City were determined not to rest on their lead, but now San Chong had their tails up so they played with real discipline and force.

San Chong ran City ragged for about fifteen minutes of the first half. Their teamwork, discipline and fitness shone through as they passed the ball through and around a hard-working but tired City. The pace of the game was getting too much for City at this stage, which with mistakes in technique and decision-making, foreshadowed a potential defeat. (The San Chong boys train up to four hours a day. Let’s be honest, they only lack the height and weight to be clear favorites to win the BML now.) To City’s credit, San Chong weren’t allowed an opening. Eventually, however, justice was done. San Chong were a little lucky but got the goal their dominance deserved.
Obviously disappointed, City had about ten minutes left in the first half to do something. With San Chong still pressing, a great breakaway move ended with Stevey Reymond’s precise curler into the top corner of the net. Somehow, Taipei City had finished the first half ahead 2-1!

Taipei City put Conlon on in place of Daly during the interval, so Matt shifted to the right side of defence.  The second half was to be more comfortable for City, partly because San Chong couldn’t sustain the movement they’d shown in the first half. Still, quite early on Dale had to react very quickly to tip a deflected shot over the bar. Dale was busy at other times, coming off his line or making more routine saves, too. And, City were still regularly conceding corners. Nevertheless, City were able to fashion more attacks and looked the stronger team in the second half. Ross and Ed combined well down the left, both contributing plenty of good crosses. San Chong defended deeper so there was less pressure on the midfield, meaning the other midfielders didn’t look so poor in comparison to Mike OG. Mike O’Gorman confirmed to everybody on Sunday that he is surely the best foreign player in Taiwan at the moment.

With better decision-making and more luck in the final third, City would have scored two or three goals against a tiring San Chong defence. As it was, the City cogs aren’t quite yet in alignment. Still, City forced the San Chong keeper to make some good saves and otherwise put the ball in some tricky places for San Chong, so could have…. Could have, but didn’t!

Taipei City showed impressive endurance and work-rate for eighty minutes of a hard game, but didn’t know when to ease back and that was the killer. Playing on very tired legs for the last ten minutes, some City players, notably Christie, persisted in pushing forward when the only sensible choice was to play deep and grind out the result. San Chong ably exploited the gaps in midfield and again justice was done when a speculative shot from an unmarked San Chong midfielder hit the back of the net! The game ended 2-2 and that was that!

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