The Champions Prove their Point

Time: 10am, March 21st, 2010
Venue: Bai Ling Bridge Riverside Park

By Michael Christie

On a warm morning, with a sandstorm blowing in from Mainland China, Taipei City faced Fritz Air in their penultimate game this season. Missing their influential contingent of Gambian students, City nevertheless assembled a strong eleven, albeit without regular goalkeeper, Dale (who turned up after the final whistle), obliging Spencer to put on the keeper’s jersey and gloves. Spencer did very well in goal, but Dale was undoubtedly missed. (Thank you, Spencer, for your generosity. In the event, we were missing a little bit of the teeth in the outfield which you usually provide.)

The starting eleven unchanged throughout the match was Spencer Pangborn in goal; John Phillips , Tim Murphy , Oliver Harley  and Ross Conlon in defence; Niklas Denser, Michael Christie, Mike O’Gorman and Ed Cartee in midfield; and Alex Ramirez and Dan Calvert up front. The first half saw City keep most of the possession. Fritz Air were content to sit back and wait for opportunities to counter-attack. City played with patience and put together some good moves, but rarely shifted gear. Possibly City showed too much composure on the ball. City played the safe balls and didn’t pass quickly enough, so there wasn’t really much pressure being put on Fritz Air.

There were not too many chances for City in the first half – there were even fewer for Fritz Air – so everybody was relieved when a shot by Conlon from a narrow angle broke the back of the net. For the record, this was not “the luck of the Irish” but a brilliantly executed trick. Fritz Air had their best players out and so were able to play some skilful football at close quarters, but they rarely got near threatening the goal. Cartee was involved in both of City’s brightest moments in this game. His dummy for O’Gorman and angled run created a chance he only narrowly missed. And, an extremely impudent pirouette on the ball started a dribble which saw him beat four men. Both O’Gorman and Denser sustained injuries near the end of the first half. They were playing with an intensity matched by few other City players. 1-0 at the end of the first half! While the City players were not thrillled with their performance, nobody was too worried either. In retrospect, this might have been our undoing.

The first ten minutes of the second half continued in the same vein as the first half. Both teams played neat if not always incisive football, and neither looked like running away with the game. During one spell of Fritz Air pressure, in clearing the ball Harley made contact with a Fritz Air player. The referee somewhat harshly decided this was a penalty and after this was duly converted, Fritz Air scented victory. With no substitutes available, City still looked solid but hardly imposing. Fritz Air used four substitutes and now often looked a little sharper than the opposition. They maintained a good tempo and kept the City defence on their toes. City had some good pressure of their own at times, but as Calvert said didn’t play the final ball quickly enough. With only seven or eight minutes to go, a hopeful punted free-kick from Fritz Air found a Taiwanese head and now it looked like City were heading for defeat! But with just four minutes to go, Ramirez yet again proved his worth by winning a penalty. Up stepped Murphy to put it away.

Taipei City 2, Fritz Air 2

In summary, City didn’t play anywhere near their best but still deserved at least a draw. Ed Cartee stood out on the day for his consistent speed of ideas. Everybody needs to be better if they are to do themselves justice against Fritz next week.

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