Tag Archives: Fritz

City Finish In Style

Time: 3pm, May 27th, 2012

Venue: Bai Ling Bridge Riverside Park

By Michael Christie

Were the celebrations following Taipei City’s draw against Bulien premature? Had Taipei City clinched the title or was it going to be taken away at the last? Following Fritz’s victory over the Red Lions on Thursday evening, Taipei City needed a draw or win to win the BML title outright on points in the last round of the 2011-12 season, against Fritz. Determined not to have to rely on superior goal difference (and also, just in case Taipei City turned up with less than eight players, the rules stipulated that three points would be docked from City’s final points tally), some of the players went to extraordinary lengths, traveling from as far afield as Taichung, to play in this one. Sadly, for some of City’s finest this would be their final game in a City shirt (with the proviso that you are always welcome back any time).

The rain the previous evening had softened up the surface but luckily the ‘good’ pitch was available again. Most of the 2011-12 Taipei City players had said they would be available for this game, so Dan was faced with the right kind of managers’ problem – which eleven to start out of fourteen good players.  However, at 3pm Taipei City had only ten men. Karim’s motorcycle had broken down so he had to get a taxi, while Dale could only make it for 3.30pm. So the starting team was Matt Wharton in goal, Spencer Pangborn, making a welcome return, at right back, Tom Clarke and Paul Brown (another City player making a come-back) at centre back, and Luis Mayorga at left back; in midfield, Alex Ramirez was in right midfield, Michael Christie and Karim Cham were in the middle, and Omar Malcolm was on the left; and up front were Neo King and Dan Calvert.

Watch the highlights here:

Possibly seeing that an 8-0 victory was beyond them, Fritz played at a pedestrian pace and allowed City to push up field and put them under pressure. The first City goal came courtesy of a fine move down the right. Alex released Neo down the right flank and his low cross was received by Dan, whose touch, turn and shot in the six yard box beat everybody. For the rest of the first half City put pressure on Fritz and while Fritz occasionally broke out they posed no threat to the City defence. Spencer, Tom, Paul and Luis were all in fine form. Unluckily, in the last ten minutes a Fritz breakaway move reached the penalty box and City conceded a penalty. The penalty was tucked away and so City and Fritz went in level at half-time.

By now, Dale Neal, Brian McGuinness, Ricardo Abrego and Brian Fitzpatrick had arrived and were itching to get on. At half-time Luis and Paul came off, Dale came in between the posts allowing Matt Wharton to move to left-back and Brian to go in central defence.

The second half began with City parrying some decent moves by Fritz and creating some chances of their own. With ten minutes gone, Christie made way for Fitzy, who took up the left midfield position. This meant Ramirez came into central midfield to partner Karim, while Malcolm moved to right midfield. The new midfield kept a tight formation and gained a stranglehold on the game which they never relinquished.

Now the goals came flying in fast. First, after some good work by Neo on the left, Karim belted a shot in off the underside of the bar. Next, Neo found enough space to shoot from outside the box, and the ball flew past the keeper’s outstretched fingers. Not to be outdone, Dan claimed the next two goals, both consummate finishes to win his hat-trick. While the goals were going in, Spencer came off, having played an excellent game. for Ricardo. And, last of all, Neo bagged another goal to make the final score 6-1. Was this flattering to City?

At 3-1 down and with twenty minutes to go, Fritz possibly lost a little heart. Nevertheless, City pushed up well and got the ball to Ramirez and Fitzpatrick on the flanks. Their service was good so City could actually have had more than six.

At the final whistle, City came away with four trophies. Two individual accolades went to Dan Calvert – best coach and golden boot – while defence legend Tom Clarke won the league MVP.  And, of course, Taipei City lifted the BML trophy.

Taipei City FC 6 – 1 Fritz

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.

Old Grey Fritz Just Aint What They Used to be…

Time: 5pm, March 13th, 2011
Venue: Bai Ling Bridge Riverside Park

By Michael Christie

On a hot, dry Saturday afternoon, City gathered a squad of twelve to take on the once mighty Fritz. In previous seasons, facing Fritz with such a small squad would have been dicing with ignominious defeat, but Fritz are not what they were. (It seems like they’ve gone downhill a lot since last season, never mind from when they were at their peak.)

The pattern of the game was established quite early. City applied pressure high up the field, Fritz tried to clear or play themselves out of trouble but couldn’t and City invariably got back possession. The game wasn’t ten minutes old when Alex Ramirez struck on the edge of the box. With City dominating possession and Fritz making mistakes, City were forcing corners and looking to build on their lead. Next, Tom Clarke spotted a high ball and leapt clear of the Fritz keeper to glance a great header into the corner of the net. 2-0. After this, yet more chances came City’s way. However, owing to some good goalkeeping mostly, City failed to extend their lead. At the half-time team talk, Dan put it well: with the City forward line and midfield applying enough pressure, Fritz were reduced to launching long balls for their forwards but the city defence were winning everything in the air. At the restart, Fritz briefly looked liked threatening, but very soon Dan Calvert had made it 3-0 from a low cross by Ramirez.

After this, Fritz let themselves go. Their one dangerous forward, no.10, got himself sent off for a kick at Ramirez. Then, the fight went from the match and City were able to keep the ball at leisure. The last goal from City was from Lionel Gonzalez – his debut goal – a clinical finish from a narrow angle. Bualien awaits now and surely they will give City a much tougher match than Fritz did.

The Season So Far

By Michael Christie

After twelve games played, with ten victories, one draw and one defeat, Taipei City face into the penultimate game of the BML season in top spot. So, how has the season actually progressed for Taipei City so far…? Read on…

Game 1: An Easy Opener against JFC

Taipei City was lucky to have their easiest game of the season first. New to the BML, JFC strangely decided to field a weak team. Or maybe it was too early for some of their better players? Anyway, Dan, Dawda and company had a field day. The final score was 11-1 and that was a fair reflection of the match.
JFC improved later in the season, but after losing to the Red Lions on January 23rd missed out on a chance to claim sixth spot and with that a place in the top league for round 2.

Game 2: A Second Convincing Win against Feng Ching

Buoyed by the previous week, Taipei City struck again to inflict a big defeat on Feng Ching. Dan and Dawda led the scoring with goals galore! Some others chipped in with a few beauties, too!

(Feng Ching has done little to suggest they don’t deserve to be near the bottom of the league this season. They won’t need to worry about us again this season as they battle it out for seventh spot.)

Game 3: Mitsukoshi Give City their First Test

This was City’s first competitive game. Mitsukoshi have one of the meanest defenses in the league and City needed to work hard before Dawda or Dan delivered in the last few minutes before half-time. It was 1-0 but it had been a really even game in all areas. After the break, City again worked hard and played some fair football to make it 3-0 before Mitsukoshi scored a deserved consolation.

(Mitsukoshi have a really mean defense and keep the games tight to the very end. Nobody else has come close to beating Mitsukoshi 3-1. Dan and Dawda were in excellent form in this game. The results tell us Mitsukoshi beat Fritz 2-1 and drew 2-2 with Bulien. Apart from losing to City, Mitsukoshi were beaten 1-0 by Dentway. They also got a few 0-0 draws against lower-ranking teams. They are as hard to score against as Bulien and Fritz but less likely to score goals – only ten in eight games this season. Anyway, they are certainly capable of beating anybody in this league. With the acquisition of a really good striker, they might be giants!)

Game 4: City Stumble and Fall against Bulien

After four straight wins, Taipei City suffered a well-deserved defeat against the under-regarded Hong Min Bualien. Lateness and arrogance (thinking we could still perform against a football team just by making sure we turned up a few minutes before kick-off) were the undoing of City. Credit should not be taken away from Hong Min. They were clearly the better side and deserved the 3 points on the day. Every Taipei Citizen who came to the game was justifiably upset and disappointed with himself. This was a low point for everybody connected to Taipei City FC.

(Hong Min have a disciplined and settled formation, work hard and absorb pressure. They are good at getting an early goal and then being patient. How good are they? Well, they are always solid and are a team who simply cannot be underestimated. They will give us a very stern test.)

Game 5: City Return to Winning Ways

Without player-coaches Ross and Dan, the Taipei City players were determined to redeem themselves after the loss against Hong Min. Alex Ramirez and Dawda ably managed this week’s incarnation of Taipei City to a hard-working 5-0 win. This was another potential banana skin for City, as Dentway have had a good season. (Indeed, after beating Mitsukoshi 1-0 on January 23rd they are neck and neck with Fritz on seventeen points!) This was a hard game until City put away some difficult chances with good finishing late in the game. City really had to work hard for the win, and the late goals were the result of some great finishing, which doesn’t always happen late in a game but is great when it does.

(Dentway are obviously a better side than this result suggests. A dominant performance by the City defense, in particular Tom on this occasion, nullified their attack. Dentway will be determined to beat us and should be ear-marked as potential champions. They will definitely give us a hard game.)

Game 6: City Bring it Home to Rogue

In City’s first “expat derby” Rogue seriously wanted to dent some pride. However, City just didn’t allow Rogue to get any foothold in the game. Rogue defended stoutly but couldn’t keep out Alex Ramirez’s sweet left-foot volley before half-time. In the second half further goals from Christie and two others sealed a 4-0 win!

(Rogue just haven’t had a good BML season. This was the one and only BML game we’ll play against them this campaign. Rogue will have to try to redeem themselves by grabbing seventh spot if they can.)

Game 7: City Bring it Home to the Lions, Too

This was City’s second “expat derby” in as many weeks, but like Rogue the week before, the Red Lions failed to give City much trouble. The Lions had assembled a good group of players for this game, including the excellent Mike O’Gorman, City’s Player of the Year last season, but collectively didn’t play their best on the day. The Red Lions went down to a Dawda strike and a Dan header and one more goal from Oumar.

(The Lions look like they will make it to sixth spot, in which case we will play them again. Don’t be fooled that they played anywhere near their best in this January 16th game. If they can improve in a few areas they will mount a challenge. They also have a new forward, an American who by all accounts has the ability to challenge Dan and Dawda for the title of best foreign striker in Taiwan.)

Game 8: City Spank the Boys

Poor, old Sanchung, firmly rooted to bottom spot. Poor, old Sanchung? Poor, young Sanchung, more like. Despite having a good coach, bags of running and great potential, the new-look high school team is simply too raw at this stage to compete against fully-grown men. Two goals from Dan, two from Dawda (including a penalty he won following an amazingly cheeky dribble around two teenagers very close to the goal) and more from Brian McGuinness and Alex Ramirez put paid to Sanchung. City had a good work-out in this game. Will they be ready to forgo the “Thank You, Coach” next year?

(When they learn to get stuck in they will be a good team. Let’s give them time. This season is a learning experience for them. They are still a little too nice and like all young people, don’t know who their real friends are. Hopefully, playing against Rogue will bring out the anger that is no doubt welling up inside their adolescent minds but needs an adequate outlet. Let’s hope they kick out against the Rogue!)

Game 9: Fritz have no Answer to the Pressure of City living

There was a time when Fritz was feared for their clinical sharpness and ability to keep the ball. They would make the opposition run all day. This time, even bolstered by a few new players in different positions, they struggled to compete on even terms. City pegged them back for most of the game and restricted them to breakaways. Against most defences they would have been dangerous, but with Tom Clarke and Yunusa Njie marshalling at the back they hardly got a shot on target. City played one of their best games of the season to win 3-0.

[Round 2] At this stage the league is split into two sections with the top 6 teams remaining in the top division and the bottom 4 teams relegated to the second division.

Game 10: City narrowly escape from Hungry Lions in a Fierce Encounter

The Red Lions gave City a much stiffer game this time. With some new players and new ideas, the Lions never gave City enough time to settle on the ball, and so the spectators were treated to an old-fashioned end to end game, in which anything might happen next. Thanks to some good forward play near the end of the game, particularly a good finish from Alex Ramirez to make the score 2-1, City still had enough class to edge this encounter, but it was always too close for comfort. Dale and his defence played well to keep the Lions to a single goal. The Lions hit the post twice thanks to their new forward, who impressed everybody. City were certainly lucky the Lions didn’t have a few more performers of the same calibre as him (the new forward) and Mike O’ Gorman, City’s Player of the Season last season. That’s probably why, in spite of playing poorly, City did enough to earn a 3-1 win come the final whistle.

 

Game 11: No Sale at Mitsukoshi on a Sloppy Saturday Night

On one of the wettest days in years, City was obliged to field a team to play a game of football on a swamp, which was a pond in places. The referee, seeing that City was ready to play, tried to cancel five minutes before kick-off at six, but Ross insisted on playing. It was the right decision because the only thing worse than being asked to play in those conditions would have been being asked to postpone when everybody was kitted up and ready to play. The game? It was not football. City went 2-0 up in the first half courtesy of two fine long range strikes from Michael Christie but conceded before half-time from a well executed free kick. Then, Mitsukoshi hit long balls in hope and eventually, near the end, somehow fluked an equalizer.

Game 12: City strikers dread trip to the dentist.

On the form they displayed in this game, Dentway are surely not capable of getting results against the best teams in the BML. Actually, they have a dangerous forward, so they relied on defending in depth and the break-away. City gifted the Dentway forward a goal in the first ten minutes and then, even with most of the possession, struggled to make any effective inroads in the Dentway penalty area. Just before half-time, Dawda managed to snaffle a goal at the end of one of the few meaningful City attacks, but the evening was looking bleaker and bleaker the longer City couldn’t put the ball in the net. With the second half, City brought on Ebu and Paco. There was more fluency in possession from City in the second half, but Dentway still held out. In the end, when nerves were really being fried, only a daisy-cutter from Dan separated City from a night of real embarrassment. 2-1 to City.

So with two games left to play Taipei City find themselves one point ahead of their 3-0 defeaters from earlier in the season, Hong Min Bualien.  The two remaining ties couldn’t be tougher with old rivals and 7 times BML champions Fritz this weekend and a final day show down with the aforementioned Bualien. It’s games like these that make the difference between good teams and champions.

Taipei City wrap up BML season in style with win

By John Phillips
Taipei Times
Tuesday, Mar 30th, 2010

Taipei City FC wrapped up a successful Businessman’s League (BML) campaign with a narrow 2-1 victory over last season’s champions Fritz FC at Shilin’s Bailing Bridge on Sunday. With City having already made their second BML championship mathematically secure last week, both teams went into the season’s final game with little to play for but pride.

The multinational expat side opened the scoring early in the first half with a fine solo effort from Alex Ramirez, the Mexican outpacing the Fritz defense to slide a neat finish past the ’keeper.

Ramirez’s goal seemed to act as a wake-up call for Fritz, who were soon back on level terms when a deflected shot from outside the box squirmed past Alex Moga in the City goal. But with the half-time interval approaching, Ed Cartee put City back on top with a moment of individual brilliance.

After gaining possession near the left wing, Cartee skipped past a couple of defenders before unleashing an unstoppable strike into the far corner, underlining just why a top Argentine club have agreed to give the 22-year-old American a one-month trial with a view to a professional contract.

In the second half, Fritz dominated possession as they went in search of an equalizer, but it was City who were guilty of profligacy at the other end, spurning numerous chances to put the game away.

In the end neither team could add to the goals tally and City held on for a deserved, if narrow, victory.

The win capped a triumphant season for City, who finished 10 points ahead of runners up Hong Min FC. Over the course of their 18 games, City dropped points on only three occasions, suffering just one loss in the competition that brings together some of the best local and expat soccer talent in the Taipei area.

City also scooped all three of the individual awards, with the MVP going to Tim Murphy, Coach of the Year to Ross Conlon, and Dan Calvert bagging the Golden Boot with a tally of 19 goals.

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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.

Threadbare Blues have enough for Bulien

Time: 10am, January 17th, 2010
Venue: Bai Ling Bridge Riverside Park

By John Phillips

An understrength Taipei City side overcame a spirited performance by Bulien to maintain their challenge for a second BML crown. In the end the scoreline flattered Bulien who scored their second goal with the final kick of the game and never looked likely to upset a well-drilled City side.

Missing regular starters Calvert, Ramirez, Christie, Conlon, the Njie trio and both goalkeepers through a mixture of injury, suspension and other commitments, City shuffled their pack but still had enough firepower to see off a Bulien team that worked hard but rarely threatened from open play. With defender Wharton taking responsibility between the sticks, City brought in Mamadi Colley to fill in at left back in a new look four-man defence, while Oliver Harley returned for a rare outing in midfield.

City dominated the opening exchanges but had to wait until after the half hour to open the scoring. Good work by Denser sent wing back Cartee through on goal and the American kept his composure to slot the ball neatly past the keeper.

Following the goal, City continued to create chances, but the game’s moment of controversy came at the other end. A speculative ball by the Bulien midfield appeared to find their striker a meter or so offside, but the linesman’s flag stayed down as the striker bore down on goal. The decision was immaterial as the striker fluffed the chance but City’s players and management were incensed and made vocal remonstrations.

Leading 1-0 at the break, Daly made way for Pangborn in defence leaving City with no cover on the bench. Bulien brought on Wang to strengthen their forward line, and the rotund striker showed some good touches in the opening exchanges. But it was City who doubled their lead on 50 minutes with Dawda Fatty popping up with a poacher’s goal from inside the penalty box.

And by the 55th minute City extended their lead to three goals with a finely worked goal. O’Gorman’s through ball found Denser in an offside position but the young German smartly let the ball run through to Cartee who had advanced down the left wing. He swung in a pinpoint cross to the far post for Steve Reymond to nod home a rare headed goal.

The game swung decisively in City’s favour when a seemingly innocuous challenge on Pangborn resulted in a straight red card for a Bulien midfielder. But the red card seemed to galvanise Bulien, as the ten men upped their game in search of a consolation. They were duly rewarded when a corner was played in low to the top of the box. Bulien reacted quickest and in the resulting melee, the ball was poked home past a helpless Wharton.

Any hopes of a comeback were quickly dashed when Dawda Fatty got his second of the game with a tidy finish to make it 4-1. And with the clock running down and the victory safe, all that was left was for Bulien to grab a consolation from a scrappy corner, but it was too little too late and City got the win that keeps their title challenge on track.

Taipei City 4, Bulien 2

City beat Fritz to go Top

Time: 7pm, January 9th, 2010
Venue: Bai Ling Bridge Riverside Park

By Alice Davis and Michael Christie

With lashings of rain for a week beforehand, some doubted if the game would go ahead. But the skies cleared on Friday afternoon, so it was surprisingly warm and dry when the top two teams of the BML took to the field at 7pm on Saturday evening. The preparations were good by all the City players, Dan and Ross gave a serious team talk before the game which was just what everybody needed. The starting line-up was Dale Neal in goal; a back four of John Philips, Tim Murphy, Yunusa Njie and Matt Wharton; Ed Cartee and Ross Conlon on the left and right flanks, with Mike O’Gorman and Ebrima Njie in centre midfield; and, Dan Calvert and Dawda Fatty up front. The new, experimental formation wasn’t really tested last weekend. Nevertheless, the management stuck to their strategy of providing more cover in defensive positions and nicking a goal at the other end rather than being drawn into a straight shootout with Fritz.

From the moment the game kicked off it was evident that both sides meant business, as did the referee who had awarded Ebrima a yellow card for a crunching tackle on the opposition before the first 60 seconds were up. Fritz looked commanding at first, but City didn’t lose spirit. Early shots from Dawda and Calvert helped the Blues reinforce a confidence they needn’t feel guilty of showing, and they had taken the reins from the champions by the end of the first ten minutes. Fritz, however, are not easy to tame, and the sides settled into a lively game at tempo, both looking for the attacking advantage.

Fritz took the first corner of the game, which was well-handled by City’s defence, but they kept possession and Fritz’s 18 tried his luck as he shot just over the bar. City persistently worked away at the opposition as Fritz tried to build up momentum. Their persistence prevented Fritz from taking the initiative and, apart from an edgy moment when a Fritz free kick went close at the 20-minute mark, City can be proud they looked like a strong, calm, organized team even under pressure.

The result of this was a string of chances, with almost everyone on the City side being able to have a go at goal. Dawda and Calvert kept up the pressure, and a long, low shot from Cartee skimmed the woodwork. But with nothing yet to show for their perseverance, frustrations were becoming visible as halftime grew nearer. As Calvert and Conlon tried to keep City from losing their calm, a couple of great saves from Dale ensured City hadn’t conceded as they walked off the pitch at 45 minutes. But they hadn’t scored, either.

At halftime, Alex Ramirez replaced Conlon on the left wing, but the game re-started mirroring the first half, this time with a Fritz player notching up a yellow card for a tackle on Ebrima in the first minute. City kept looking to score, and though the second half saw fewer shots than the first, play remained organized and the defence and midfield kept working hard to create the canvas for a goal.

An interesting piece of refereeing saw a Fritz player booked for shirt-tugging incident, but then, as if to balance out the punishment, the free kick was awarded to Fritz. As the referee grew more myopic the game became more heated. A foul near the City goal was so blatant everyone looked to the ref for the whistle. The whistle failed to sound though, and Dale was lucky Fritz did not manage to capitalize on his lull in concentration. He soon made up for the error as he was forced into making a couple of saves. At this stage Michael Christie replaced Ebrima who had worked tirelessly covering ground in the midfield all day.

At around 20 minutes, City finally reaped the rewards they had been working so hard for with a goal. The prolific Calvert guided a fine header into the Fritz net from a long speculative cross. Ten minutes later, Dawda and Calvert went close, but it was Ramirez who knocked in Fritz’s third failed attempt to clear the box to sew up what was certainly a deserved victory. Mamadi Colley replaced Calvert in the final minutes giving the Fritz defence more fresh legs to worry about. Solid teamwork was the backbone of this display, and all City’s players ought to congratulate themselves on a motivated, confident performance that had plenty of moments magic. A well-earned three points puts City two points ahead of their skilled opponents.

The defence held strong and the midfield always provided the cover to stifle the Fritz forwards. The spaces were unusually restricted so both teams had to be precise with their passing in all areas of the park. Eventually, Taipei City showed more dynamism and had more of the element of surprise going forward. Taipei City were the better team on the night. With a performance like that, some people were asking how we lost to Rogue earlier in the season. The answer is Rogue were the better team on the day, a lesson in preparation that City need to take into every game they play.

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!

Dentway Gets a Drilling

Time: 3pm, December 6th, 2009
Venue: Bai Ling Bridge Riverside Park

By Michael Christie

On a warm and sunny day, Taipei City easily overcame the resistance offered by Dentway but only came away with five goals. The first clean sheet of the season was possibly more important than the margin of victory, if City can build on this performance.

The first half started with Alex Moga in goal; a back three of Matt Wharton, Tim Murphy and John Phillips; a five-man midfield of Spencer Pangborn and Stevey Reymond on the right and left flanks, and Oliver Harley, Michael Christie and Ebrima Njie in the middle; and, a forward pairing of Dawda Fatty and Dan Calvert.

In the first ten minutes City were ragged but working hard to impose themselves on the game. Dentway were pushed back inside their own half. Thereafter, Dentway were determined in defence but lacked the confidence to attack with any conviction. Apart from their forwards, Dentway seemed happy to spend the game playing in their own half of the pitch. So, the first half fell into a familiar pattern of Taipei City keeping possession and sometimes directly, sometimes indirectly probing for openings.

The passing was sometimes slow and sluggish from City but there was always a lot of space. The ball was played into feet quite often so with the class of the City forward pairing it was not long before City scored. Receiving the ball ten yards from the penalty box, Dawda turned, beat two men and weighted a perfect pass for Calvert to run on to and finish with aplomb. The second goal started with Oliver playing a one-two with Ebrima, receiving the return and surging into the opposition penalty box. He drew a number of defenders before sliding another perfectly weighted pass to Calvert, who this time from a tightening angle finished with force.

The second half started with Badou Njie on for Oliver. A little later, Nicklas Denser came on for Stevey, and later still Ramirez and Daly replaced Dawda and Matt. Moving and jumping for the ball, Spencer scored a superb header from a corner. Then, Dan’s cross found Badou who volleyed the ball into the far corner of the net – a spectacular finish! It was in the second half that City enjoyed their best spell of football with Ebrima especially impressing. The passing was sharp and quick and there was more movement and zip in the build-up play. Near the end of the game, Dan claimed a fifth for City and a hat-trick for himself.

In conclusion, this was not the hardest opposition, but on the day Taipei City did a good job.