Murphy Brace, City Bend But Don’t Break

Time: 3pm, January 31st, 2010
Venue: Bai Ling Bridge Riverside Park

By Ed Cartee

The win streak is still intact as Taipei City make a run for the BML title, despite City not being their usual selves on this day.  The weather was decently hot, especially in contrast to the cooler temperatures in recent weeks, and many of City’s players weren’t totally fresh since they had already played a full game earlier in the day for their CPL teams.  Furthermore, one of those CPL games was significantly delayed due to a severe injury to our own Alex Daly (whom we wish the best for a speedy recovery), so a few City players wouldn’t be able to arrive until the game was already underway.  With injuries and absences already having depleted City’s gameday roster, this meant that City would begin the game with only 10 men, including Ross who suited up despite being injured just to provide another warm body on the pitch for City at the start.  With Dale Neal in goal, at first the lineup was 4-4-1:  John Phillips and Matt Wharton in the center of the defense, Alex Ramirez at left back, Spencer Pangborn at right back, Ed Cartee at holding mid, Ebrima Njie in the center, Steve Reymond at left mid, Niklas Denser at right mid, and Ross Conlon up top.  After a while Tim Murphy and Mamadi Colley arrived, and City reshuffled the lineup to have Murphy sweeping, Phillips in front of him, Colley at left back, Wharton at right back,  at holding mid, Ebrima still in the center, Cartee at right mid, Reymond at left mid, and Denser and Ramirez as forwards.

The first half was mostly played in City’s own half of the field.  The Shin Kong boys applied a lot of pressure high up the field, and City struggled to find an outlet pass and advance the ball with possession.  Later in the half, City did manage a couple dangerous sequences:  one time Ramirez put Denser through down the right flank leading to a cross; and another time Cartee ran at the Shin Kong back line and pushed the ball past his defender just before being tackled, and the referee gave advantage as Denser ran onto the ball and slotted it near post, but then the linesman judged him offside so the goal was called back.  However, these chances were against the run of play.  Shin Kong dominated the first half, City were defending the majority of the time, and only some Shin Kong miscues and great City stops especially by the keeper Neal, kept the score 0-0 at the half.

At half-time Conlon exhorted the team to put the first 45 minutes behind us and concentrate on winning the second 45 and salvaging a result out of the game despite the poor performance thus far.  City managed to do just that, aided greatly by the arrival of Dawda fatty who made a big difference being a target and holding the ball up for City.  Although Shin Kong certainly kept City honest, the second half was much more even, with City generating more chances than before.  City went 1-0 up when Steve served a beautiful corner kick and Tim Murphy powered home a header.  It was Murphy again who made the score 2-0 by converting a penalty after a Shin Kong defender pulled a hard-working Denser down in the box.  There was action at both ends as City still had plenty of defending to do, but towards the end of the match City finally had a few moments where they managed to tease Shin Kong with a little bit of possession, although City still weren’t controlling the tempo of the game as firmly as they usually do.  In the waning moments Cartee and Dawda nearly combined for a third goal off a break, but the Shin Kong goalkeeper came out well to deny the chance, and the final whistle the score remained 2-0.

Overall, City will be glad to get 3 points out of the encounter despite not being on top of their game.  There is something to be said for the toughness and character proven by overcoming adversity and gutting out an “ugly win” in a hard game.  Nevertheless, this contest didn’t have to be as difficult for City as it turned out to be, and City will be eager to get back to classier footballing ways in their next outing.  Shin Kong deserves some credit for posing a stiff challenge; they pressured City aggressively on defense, and their forwards made a lot of slashing diagonal runs which were dangerous as the City defense sometimes was a step slow to track.  Having said that, the City defense is to be commended for their dogged attitude:  on a day when they had a lot to do, they held.  Neal also had a superb game in goal, coming up big on several occasions and keeping the clean sheet with determination.  Finally, although recovery runs and defensive hustle don’t make highlight reels, every player on the City roster dug deep and made those unsung plays that enabled the team to survive a tough game.  Winning is the bottom line, but City will want to get back in the rhythm of playing well the next time they take the pitch.

Taipei City 2, Shin Kong Mitsukoshi 0

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