Category Archives: vs. Peacocks

City Take the Shine Off the Peacocks

Time: 2pm, March 4th, 2012

Venue: Yingfeng Riverside Park

By Michael Christie

On a bright, hot day at Da Jia Yingfeng Riverside Park, the Taipei City players gathered in readiness for the match against the Taipei Peacocks – on their home turf. The surface was dry and smooth in spite of the damp weather since Chinese New Year. The wind affected the flight of the ball during the game! This was the first day of BML competition in March, and the fixtures are not yet half completed. (That’s seven matches, including this one, played so far out of a scheduled fifteen.)

All the squad had taken the trouble to arrive in good time, so there was a long warm-up before kick-off. The starting eleven was Dale Neal in goal; Matt Wharton at right-back; Brian McGuinness and Tom Clarke in central defence; Mamadi Colley at left-back; Danny Weir at right-midfield; Michael Christie and Alex Ramirez in central midfield; Omar Malcolm at left-midfield; Oumar Senoussi at inside-forward; and, Neao King at centre-forward. “Dapper” Danny Wilkinson, Brian Fitzpatrick, Luis Mayorga and manager Dan Calvert were on the bench.

The first twenty minutes were played at a quick pace, with some clever close passing and skilful individual play from the Peacocks. Playing with confidence, the Peacocks obliged City to make tackles, which were usually successful but not always. The Peacocks were adept at threading play from the back and through the midfield. There were some scares but the City defence was immaculate, so while the Peacocks had considerable skill and pace, Dale was not unduly troubled in goal. There was no doubt that City had a real game on their hands, though.

As the half progressed, City began to come forward with more conviction. This was basically an evenly-matched contest. It has to be admitted that the Peacocks were more often first to the fifty-fifty ball; but City were dogged without the ball and also cagey when in possession. This meant that City sometimes put the Peacocks on the back foot. Proving that he is a gifted performer in all areas, Brian McGuinness often orchestrated passing moves through the middle, and twice narrowly shot wide from just outside the box. Alex Ramirez was also a proverbial thorn in the Peacocks side, regularly shooting on sight. Oumar Senoussi was a handful and Neao King always threatened to get clear. Sensibly, the Peacocks opted to defend deep. Possibly City could have pushed the ball out wide quicker to Omar Malcolm on the left and Danny Weir on the right. Both were on excellent form and both, indeed, hit the side netting, as did Neao King.

For their part, the Peacocks always looked impressive going forward. Still, such was the staunch defending from Matt, Brian, Tom and Mamadi that Dale didn’t need to make a flying save. Dale was noticeably quick and alert coming off his line to snuff out the through ball whenever the Peacocks launched it from deep. He acted decisively a few times, with excellent judgment.

On about thirty minutes, the referee decided to award a penalty to the Peacocks. The decision was marginal, but the referee was certain if nobody else was. Fortunately, Dale looked composed on the line and the Peacock penalty-taker tried to be too precise, with the result that the ball shaved the outside of the post.

There was more end-to-end action to round out the first half but no goals. Both teams went in at half-time knowing that the match could be anybody’s. Dan Calvert addressed the need to get the ball wide quicker, but otherwise commended the team’s efforts and decided on an unchanged eleven to start the second half.

The Peacocks had the kick-off and began the second half with an impudent attempt to beat Dale from the half-way line, straight off. Dale was having none of it, of course. In spite of the heat and pace, both teams kept up a good tempo for the first ten minutes of the second half. With both teams sitting deep when defending, though, it was beginning to look like stalemate.

Trying to inject some fresh legs, Dan had the difficult job of taking off first-rate performers. Dan decided on a series of direct (position for position) substitutions. Firstly, Luis Mayorga came on for Oumar Senoussi. Next, Brian Fitzpatrick filled in for Omar Malcolm. And finally, ‘Dapper’ Danny Wilkinson and Dan Calvert replaced Matt Wharton and Neao King in a double substitution.

The fresh players undoubtedly caused problems for the Peacocks. Luis was nimble and quick, always dangerous, and Fitzpatrick was notably influential in the way he linked up the play. ‘Dapper’ was equally strong in defence and coming forward; his delivery and crossing was first-rate. Not to be outdone, Dan Calvert was a solid focal point in attack.

Alex Ramirez likes to put the cat amongst the pigeons when the opposition tries to play the ball out of defence, and his pressure finally told on the Peacocks when he anticipated and tackled. Wilkinson on the right crossed from deep and caused problems for the Peacocks but they seemed to have regained composure, but Ramirez’s challenge sent the ball loose and into the path of Fitzpatrick approaching from the left, who sent a delightful side-footed chip over the stranded keeper into the far corner of the net. 1-0!

There were now about twenty-five minutes left. In the next fifteen or so minutes, City weathered the storm but hung on. The Peacocks threatened to strike back, including one player who went on a mazy run beating a host of City players, but the City defenders prevented him from getting a clean strike at goal. City worked hard to contain the Peacocks’ attacks, and in the last ten minutes had the satisfaction of seeing the Peacocks noticeably tire. The game was won on a knife-edge. City was perhaps lucky as nobody could have grudged the Peacocks a draw, but… the Peacocks will be hungry for the return fixture.

Taipei City FC 1 – 0 Peacocks

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