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.

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