Tag Archives: taiwan soccer

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


City Fight to the Draw

Time: 3pm, May 20th, 2012

Venue: BaiLing Bridge Riverside Park

By Michael Christie

A single point would be enough to claim a third BML Championship, but against Bulien anything might happen and what a day for a football match! On a waterlogged pitch fit only for crabs, ducks and other wildlife, Taipei City took on an old bete noire in an ugly-tempered game. The weather, pitch and the football were all equally ugly. (The only thing uglier was the refereeing, but that was past ugly!) The first half was a drab affair of punts and high balls in the air. City had two goals disallowed. The first was probably an off-side, but the second, which came from a free-kick and got a headed deflection off a Bulien defender, and which was finished expertly by Luis Mayorga with a chest and volley, was probably not. Anyway, 0-0 at half-time was a fair assessment of the game.

Mamadi Colley came on for Matt Wharton at half-time. In the second half, with some new energy needed, Michael Christie, Luis Mayorga and Oscar Auguilera made way for Brian Fitzpatrick, Dan Calvert and Neo King. The rearranged team had new impetus but it was Bulien who got the benefit of the linesman’s doubt when their forward picked up on a high lob from deep over the City defence. It was very clearly off-side but City’s otherwise excellent defence made the mistake of not following him into the penalty area, where he took the ball down and knocked it past Dale. Is it true that a setback is needed to bring out one’s true character?

Watch Bulien’s goal here:

It was at 1-0 down that City finally showed their true mettle. The tackles were harder and the pressure was now on Bulien, who defended deep. City won corners and sent everybody up. What scrambles! It was from a corner that the ball came out to Tom Clarke about ten yards out. He hooked the ball into the six yard box where Calvert got a foot to it. Was this 1-1? No! The linesman’s flag was up and in spite of the arguments from City that Bulien had had two men on the post throughout the proceedings a goal it was not destined to be.

Have a look at the video evidence here and judge for yourself…

City showed real grit to pick themselves up and keep going for goal. The last twenty minutes were really replete with drama. Bulien nearly won a penalty when their winger was upended near the corner post. (The linesman needed to intercede for City on this one. The ref had already pointed to the spot.) And, Alex Ramirez again had an altercation with the tallest Bulien player. (And again Alex came away satisfied!) These were just a few of the many memorable incidents that City can look back on. At last,  from a Weir throw in, the ball was knocked on by Calvert to the back post where Clarke managed to get a toe to it. 1-1! And this time it was (allowed to stand as) a goal! The final whistle blew not long after and every City player tramped off the field with a mixture of righteous indignation and vindication. City deserved a victory for their storming last twenty minutes but a draw was enough to secure the BML Championship.

Watch Tom’s late goal here:

City Prevail in Weekend Double Header

Venue: Bai Ling Bridge Riverside Park

By Michael Christie

Two games in two days is not recommended for a footballer’s health or for his play, yet, with four games left to play and firmly seated in the driver’s seat with all eyes on the prize of the BML Title, that was what was required of Taipei City against the rookie boys of San Chung High School on Saturday, May 12th and against the redoubtable Red Lions on Sunday, May 13th.

Saturday’s Kids Test City– Raw

The teenagers of San Chung are maturing all the time and proved it by givingTaipeiCity a stiff test. For seventy minutes San Chung held City to 1-1. Indeed, the boys passed the ball effectively and made City run hard. The game seemed to be heading for a draw until, with twenty minutes to go, substitute Luis Mayorga came on and immediately stamped his presence on the game. With his trademark mixture of guile and speed he snaffled his first goal on eighty minutes and then decided one was not enough so scored again to make the final score a flattering 3-1 to City.

Sunday’s Lions Test City– Roar

The Lions had a few of their players unavailable but still came to win the game – if they could. The first half was a leaden display from both teams, with neither team really deserving to score. However, after some sloppy play in the middle of the park from City, the Lions fed the ball to their right winger. He attempted a cross but got a lucky slice and the ball looped over the stranded Dale into the net. City pulled one back later through Neo King. It was 1-1 at the break.

The second half started off as drearily as the first, but with half an hour gone Oscar Auguilera came on to make his long awaited debut for City – what a difference he made! His first touch and incisive running was enough to create several chances for his team-mates. City looked like a good team again. Through a combination of wasteful finishing and good keeping from the Lions’ Volker, however, City couldn’t score. With only five minutes left on the clock, though, Oscar fed Neo through the middle and with that finish parried by the keeper and rolling into touch for a corner, Oscar showed magical pace to slide – a two-second, three-yard slide – and jab the ball into the net from the tightest of angles. 2-1 to City!

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.

Cushty against Mitsukoshi

Time: 7pm, March 24th, 2012

Venue: Bai Ling Bridge Riverside Park

By Michael Christie

In unseasonably cold weather, Taipei City took on Mitsukoshi in the first game of the weekend double-header. Rightly concentrating on the here and now, Dan Calvert asked his squad before kick-off to forget about Fritz the next day and just do their best to beat Mitsukoshi, a team capable of surprises. Dan named a 4-4-2 formation of Dale Neal in goal; Ricardo Abrego, Brian McGuinness, Tom Clarke and ‘Dapper’ Danny Wilkinson at the back; Danny Weir, Ebu Njie, debutant Michael Crossley and Omar Malcolm in midfield; and, Brian Fitzpatrick and Dan Calvert up front. On the bench were Luis Mayorga, Oumar Senoussi, Karim Chan and Michael Christie.

The first twenty minutes belonged to City, with two quick goals. The first goal came courtesy of Danny Weir intercepting a wayward Mitsukoshi pass in midfield, and carrying and passing the ball at pace to Dan Calvert, who finished coolly running at high speed. The second goal came from Omar Malcolm after sustained pressure. Again Danny Weir caused problems for Mitsukoshi with incisive dribbling down the right flank. He crossed the ball inside to Dan Calvert, who shaped to turn and shoot but slipped. However, with his back to goal Dan Calvert spotted a through channel for Omar Malcolm and back-heeled smartly into the space, about seven yards from the bye-line and eight yards from the goal. Malcolm elected to drill the ball into the opposite corner.

The early 2-0 score-line was the result of an energetic and intelligent all-round display by the City team. In a free role behind perennial lynchpin Dan Calvert, Brian Fitzpatrick found space and orchestrated several attacks. Making his debut, Michael Crossley was composed and crisp, working well with Ebu, who showed with his zest in attack why Taipei City is always better when he’s around. On the flanks, Danny Weir and Omar Malcolm were both in great form. Needless to say, all the defenders joined in the flowing passing, when they weren’t walking around with the Mitsukoshi forwards in their pockets. (Actually, Mitsukoshi’s Johnson is always a threat, but with Taipei City having so much possession there wasn’t much he could do.)

In truth, City stepped off the accelerator in the last twenty-five minutes of the first half. This meant that Mitsukoshi were able to come forward and sometimes embarrass City a little, but even then City had the lion’s share of possession and Dale was never troubled. Just before half-time Dan Calvert found himself free in the penalty area on the left. In a position where a ball across the face of the goal would have been a better option had there been a City player in position, Dan shot and the ball wriggle between the keeper and the near post. 3-0 at half-time!

At half-time Dan made three straight changes. Off came Danny Weir, Brian Fitzpatrick and Ebu; and on came Luis Mayorga, Omar Senoussi and Karim Chan.

City started the second half with urgency and pressed forward on Mitsukoshi again. Mitsukoshi did not enjoy being pushed back, but without real breakaway chances they had to lump it. As in the first half they occasionally worked some good moves in midfield and created half-chances, but that was all. With about fifteen minutes gone, Brian McGuinness came off for Christie. Karim dropped back into central defence with Tom, so Christie could partner Michael Crossley in central midfield.

The last half-hour of the game was played at a fair if not breakneck pace. City kept control of the game for most of the time. A further goal came from Omar Senoussi, put through by Malcolm (is this right?). And, in the last ten minutes Dan Calvert shot powerfully from outside the box to claim his hat-trick. His shot had enough power to go through the keeper!

Except for an injury worry to Brian McGuinness, this has to go down as a good day for City. 5-0 against a decent Mitsukoshi team, and without any obvious overexertion ahead of the Fritz game the next day, City cannot complain.

Taipei Overcome Toughest Hurdle Yet

Time: 7pm, March 17th, 2012

Venue: Bai Ling Bridge Riverside Park

By Michael Christie

As usual against Hong Ming Bulien, Taipei City did not enjoy the best preparation in the critical hour leading up to the kick-off. Several players struggled to arrive in time, but Taipei City still had a good eleven ready to start, and of course an exceptionally strong bench. The 4-4-2 formation comprised Dale Neal in goal; a back line of Ricardo Abrego, Brian McGuinness, Tom Clarke and Mamadi Colley; a midfield quartet of Danny Weir, Oumar Senoussi, Michael Christie and Omar Malcolm; and a front pairing of Brian Fitzpatrick and Neo King. On the bench were Luis Mayorga, Alex Ramirez and Dan Calvert.

Hong Min Bulien started stronger, testing City with some quick cross-field moves. How would City’s full-backs cope? Luckily, Ricardo and Mamadi revealed themselves to be in excellent form. McGuinness and Clarke also made several important tackles and interceptions during this period. In goal, Dale made some good saves and needed to be sharp. That he didn’t need to make any critical saves was a measure of the defence’s strength under pressure.

The City midfield took some time to get into gear, but after ten minutes managed to start supplying balls to the wide men and forwards, who often troubled the Bulien defence. Neo was pressing for every loose ball and they simply didn’t know how to handle Brian Fitzpatrick, who was finding space at will. Malcolm and Danny Weir were always excellent outlets, and Oumar was always looking to get forward.

Just when the game was taking on the character of a 0-0, Neo closed down a defender, got a touch and chased the loose ball down on goal. His pace enabled him to take it round the goalkeeper’s flailing right arm and then, instead of shooting from a narrow angle, he coolly took the ball inside again and slotted home.

Surprised but possibly not too rattled because City at this point didn’t deserve to be ahead Bulien continued with their passing game. But with some steam in their sails, City now pushed up and put pressure on Bulien. With his back to goal and Bulien defence pushing out en masse, Brian Fitzpatrick hooked a great ball over his shoulder for Neo to run free with on the left flank. Neo got to the bye-line and crossed at the near post for Danny Weir. A last ditch tackle from a Bulien defender blocked his shot and the ball squirmed loose, spinning quickly but moving at a snail’s pace, for Fitzpatrick deservedly to push home from six yards.

Now sensing the urgency of the situation, Bulien tried to play with more pace and aggression. However,TaipeiCitycontained their threat with composure. That is, Dale often needed to make good saves, but Bulien didn’t manage to get any clear chances on goal. The first half, in truth, was an equal contest, soTaipeiCitywas happy to be 2-0 up but well aware that the score at this stage was meaningless.

Dan chose not to make any changes at half-time, but warned the players to be sharp starting the second half. Fortunately, the sharpest players for City in the opening stages of the second half were Dale and the defenders. Bulien somehow found renewed energy and peppered the City goal with shots. Dale pulled off at least two magical saves to deny Hong Min a life line.

With ten minutes of the second half gone, Dan started making changes. First, Brian Fitzpatrick, a candidate for man of the match, made way for Alex Ramirez. Ramirez went to left midfield and Malcolm went to “inside-forward.” Then, a little later, Oumar, after another outstanding game, came off for Luis Mayorga. Mayorga went to left midfield and Ramirez went into central midfield.

With about fifteen minutes gone, Bulien finally got the breakthrough they needed. Having won several corners, their big central defender finally bundled the ball into the net.

If the pressure was intense before, now Bulien turned the screw. For the next five minutes they were all over City. Only some heroics from Dale – a shot from the left wing he pushed onto the bar was particularly memorable – saved City.

When Bulien eased off, City began to create chances again. By now Alex Ramirez was finding openings and weaving between players in his trademark style. He was designated an enemy by Bulien and came in for some fouls but as usual just got more fired up and was more of a threat. Dan Calvert came on for Malcolm, who had been excellent, with twenty-five or so minutes left. Calvert had a great header from a Danny Weir cross saved on the line by Bulien’s able keeper.

The last quarter of the game was quite cagey, with some good chances at both ends. Bulien made several substitutions throughout the game but while on the day they had canniness and speed of thought, they didn’t quite have the speed of foot they needed. Still, they were always dangerous. With just minutes on the clock, a Bulien chip cut open the City defence and one of their very best players was one on one against Dale. Dale came off his line, so the Hong Min Bulian player tried a lob. Luckily, Dale extended his arms and stopped the ball. This was a make or break moment.

Just a few minutes later, Alex Ramirez and Neo worked some triangular passes and when the Bulien keeper saved from Neo, the loose ball fell for Luis who tucked it away.

Possibly this was not a glittering City performance, but it was another triumph for excellent defensive and goal-keeping, with some help from some hard-working and occasionally inspired midfield and forward play.

TaipeiCity FC 3 – 1 Hong Min Bulien

Watch the City goals here…………

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

City Tames Lions

Time: 10am, February 12th, 2012

Venue:BaiLing Bridge Riverside Park

By Michael Christie

Another hot weekend came around on the heels of a cold, grey week, and at 10am on Sunday morning the sun was shining bright for the long-awaited encounter between Taipei City and the Red Lions. Unlike in more temperate climes, if the sun is out in Taiwan it is already hot enough at 10am to stymie all but the fittest.

With twenty good players available, Coach Dan had to keep the squad size down to fifteen, so he decided on the usual guys, naming a starting line-up of Dale Neal in goal; a four-man defence comprising Matt Wharton at right-back, Tom Clarke and Brian McGuinness in the centre and Mamadi Colley at left-back; a four-man midfield of Danny Weir on the right, Alex Ramirez and Michael Christie in the middle and Luis Mayorga on the left; and a forward pairing of Oumar Senoussi providing for Dan Calvert’s poaching. The exceptionally strong bench had Brian Fitzpatrick, Omar Malcolm, Karim Cham, Neo King and ‘Dapper’ Danny Wilkinson sitting on it.

Now that the Red Lions are in possession of some formidable players, they are capable of getting results against anybody. Of course, everybody before the game was looking around and wondering whether this would be the day for an ‘upset’?

The first twenty minutes produced some good football, with some incisive passing from the Lions’, orchestrated by their classy midfield, and also some decent moves, mostly down the flanks, involving City. The Red Lions forced corners and fashioned a few decent chances, but managed only a few clear shots. Still, Dale had to be at his best to stop at least three shots in the first half destined for their target. The Red Lions edged the first twenty minutes, although City also had one or two chances early on which could have been better taken.

Having attacked with intent and pushed up on City, after their initial dominant period the Red Lions seemed to run out of steam. Perhaps this was a result of slightly better all-round fitness and preparation by the City players. Now City began to push up more and compress the play in the Lions’ own half. This was the pattern of play that persisted, with a few spells of Lions rampant, for the rest of the game.

To City’s credit, they did not give up putting pressure on the Lions. It was partly thanks to this kind of pressure that City got their first goal. Alex Ramirez and Oumar Senoussi both harried and the ball broke for Dan Calvert just inside the half-way line. Clear but still with a lot to do, Dan ran for twenty yards, with the pace and strength to keep a chasing Lion at bay, and took the ball round the keeper to finish with class.

At 1-0, City started playing with more composure. The Lions were still able to break sporadically but City looked more likely to score. The Lions often passed the ball out to a defender on goal-kicks , but this proved to be their undoing for the second goal, when Oumar isolated a defender and the ball bounced for the City forwards in the danger zone. In a matter of seconds, Danny Weir had lobbed the ball over the Lions’ keeper into the far corner of the net. It remained 2-0 at half-time.

In the interval, Luis made way for Omar Malcolm. Five minutes into the second half, Christie departed for Karim. The fresh legs of Malcolm and Karim immediately added renewed impetus to the slow-starting City line-up. The Lions still meant to make a game of it, and they mounted some forceful runs and clever moves in the opening stages of the second half, but again Dale saved excellently to deny the Lions sharp-shooting. At the other end, City continued to put pressure on the Lions defence. From a corner, Alex Ramirez sent a ball that squeezed through the cluster of players in the six-yard area, and after a melee the ball broke for Dan, who shot powerfully and got a deflection from Oumar Senoussi’s chest before hitting the net. Oumar deserved the goal!

A little later, Brian Fitzpatrick, Neo King and ‘Dapper’ Danny Wilkinson came on for Oumar Senoussi, Danny Weir and Matt Wharton. The new arrivals all helped make life harder for the Lions, and created more scoring chances. A lofted cross-field pass from Tom Clarke found Neo in space, who controlled precisely with his chest and turned – leaving his marker clutching at air – to slot the ball past the keeper into the net. 4-0! The Lions did not deserve to lose and City did not deserve to win this game 4-0 but while, as usual, the City defence and goal-keeping was excellent, the Lions were not as strong here as they have been in the past.

City gave a redoubtable performance without being brilliant, and was beholden to admirable defending. The City defenders had covered all the necessary space. The Lions were always dangerous in attack but just couldn’t find a way through. Dale saved three certain goals, which goes to show how different the game might have been without his class in goal.

The game was passionately contested but while the Red Lions had some good moves and their best players often won one-on-one challenges, Taipei City were able to spread the play and, without a noticeable weak link, overall had the better ball, especially as the game approached its end. On the day, Taipei City deserved the win.

City Overpower the San Chung Boys

Time: 3pm, January 15th, 2012


By Michael Christie

On a treacherous pitch inimical to the stylish kind of game Taipei City aspires to, the boys of San Chung Senior High were looking for an upset. In the end, though, while they showed clever footwork and some pace, they lacked strength. A solid if unspectacular performance from City was enough.

Dan started with a back line of Dale Neal in goal, Matt Wharton at right-back, Brian McGuinness and Tom Clarke in central defense, and Oumar Yassouf at left-back.  In midfield, Danny Weir, Ebrima Njie, Michael Christie and Alex Ramirez schemed to supply Neao King and Dan Calvert up front. On the bench, Brian Fitzpatrick, Danny “Dapper” Wilkinson, Omar Malcolm and Lionel Cassanova provided exceptional depth.

Looking a little short of match fitness and not quite at their sharpest, City pushed forward and put the boys under pressure in their own half. San Chung were not given the time to settle on the ball and so made a lot of mistakes. The conditions were not right for flowing football, though, so City also made their own fair share of mistakes. At least City kept the ball in San Chung’s half. Surprisingly, San Chung drew first blood when a long through-ball cleared the heads of the City defense and the San Chung forward calmly lobbed it over the advancing Dale.

City’s reply was not long in coming. Some good passing resulted in Ebu with a man to beat on the edge of the penalty box. Ebu cleverly crafted an opening and his shot had enough power to beat the keeper. At 1-1 City kept on working hard and their effort was rewarded when from the half-way line Matt Wharton in the right-back position sent a curving ball into the near post for Dan Calvert to run onto and hit on the bounce. About five minutes later, the third goal was almost identical. Perhaps it bounced a little higher this time? Anyway, Dan Calvert again lashed it into the far corner. City were coming forward now with more conviction. Danny Weir and Alex Ramirez on the flanks were both making inroads. City’s fourth goal came when Dan shot from the right and the San Chung keeper could only parry it and push it out for Ramirez to collect on the left. He fashioned an angle but his shot was pushed onto the bar by the keeper. Bouncing down quite hard and bouncing quite high, Ebu was able to get his head to the ball ahead of two chasing San Chung defenders. The score stayed at 4-1 until half-time.

At half-time, Neao made way for Omar Malcolm and Christie came off for Brian Fitzpatrick. Alex Ramirez went into centre midfield so Brian Fitzpatrick could take the left-sided berth. In truth, the second half was not so different from the first half. City still had most of the possession inside San Chung’s half. Within fifteen minutes, though, San Chung had managed to string together several passes in a good move starting from their own half. Dale didn’t have much chance in the one-on-one; again San Chung had snaffled a goal against the run of play. It was now 4-2.

Any fears that San Chung would mount a serious challenge as had International the previous week were allayed by City’s continuing dominance in midfield. The surface didn’t help but City managed to keep hold of a lot of the ball. San Chung hardly created another chance, while City could have had five or six more goals and should have had at least two or three, but a combination of wastefulness and some good keeping from San Chung’s diminutive keeper kept the score down. It has to be said that San Chung also defended energetically.

Perhaps the highlight of the second half was Danny Weir’s run across the face of the penalty area and left-footed shot. He beat at least three players before unleashing a shot good enough to beat the keeper but just a little too high to beat the bar.

There were two more substitutions to come in the second half. With about twenty-five minutes to play, “Dapper” Danny Wilkinson came on for Matt Wharton. Then, about five minutes later, Lionel came on for Danny Weir. The character of the game remained the same, with San Chung unable to break out from the City stranglehold. In that sense, City ground out the victory.

In conclusion, City deservedly won having done enough. Whether this will be good enough in the future against more testing teams remains to be seen. Every City player on the day will be feeling that there is room for improvement.

TaipeiCity FC 4 – 2 San Chung

International Boys Test City

Time: 7pm, January 8th, 2012
Venue: Bai Ling Bridge Riverside Park

By Michael Christie

Rescheduled to 7pm for arcane reasons unknown, the Bai Ling pitch had slightly longer to recover from the rain but it was still a wet, stodgy surface. Covered in sand, there were no puddles and it was not too slippery, but the bobbles made for some unpredictable bounces in a competitive match.

Without Ross Conlon’s customary input – his focus and enthusiasm was missed – it was left to Dan Calvert to give the pre-match team talk. He decided on a traditional 4-4-2 formation, with a back line of Dale Neal in goal, Matt Wharton at right-back, Brian McGuinness and Tom Clarke a central defensive pairing and Mamadi Colley at left-back. In midfield, Luis Mayorga was on the right, Alex Ramirez and Michael Christie were in the middle and Brian Fitzpatrick was on the left. Neao King and Dan Calvert were united up front.

The opposition mostly consisted of some obviously not fully mature but still well-fed schoolboys, bolstered by no less than two one-time City players, Jamaican Oliver Harley and New Zealander Richard Fisher.

The first ten minutes were a little tentative from both sides. Still, City pushed up more solidly and so had the better of this crucial period. City worked hard to close down space, while International had not yet found their confidence or their range.

Some good build-up play from City released Luis down the right flank. Having got behind the line, he crossed on the ground for Dan to run onto at the near post. Dan managed to push the ball and go outside the outstretched foot of the defender at the near post but the foot was stretched out quite long and Dan went to ground with a thud. In spite of complaints from the International defence, the referee was sure it was a penalty and so up stepped Brian McGuinness. His firmly struck kick beat the keeper and City was 1-0 up. A few minutes later City came forward again, though this time the keeper gathered the ball safely in his arms. Ah! The ball is never safe. While his defence was still pushing up out of the penalty box, with their eyes fixed somewhere up the field, he decided to throw the ball out to one of them. Unluckily, it hit the back heel of an unwitting defender and bounced back towards Dan who, alive to the opportunity, beat everybody else to the ball and clinically clipped it past the keeper.

International was a little shell-shocked to be 2-0 down with only twenty minutes gone. They were unlucky but didn’t give up playing football. Deciding to take the game to City, they were beginning to look dangerous. It was uncomfortable for City at times in midfield, though with Matt, Brian McGuinness, Tom and Mamadi composed at the back, International only managed a few threatening moves and no clear-cut chances. The offside trap worked well for City. Going forward, City had some good spells in possession, with Brian Fitzpatrick on the left, Alex Ramirez in the middle and Luis on the right all instrumental in some good link up play with Neao King and Dan Calvert up front. City’s third goal came when Dan latched onto a through ball in the inside right position and passed the ball inside to Neao, who had the speed to take the ball outside the defender and the composure to finish from a tight angle. While City was good going forward, International was able to find space for breakaway attacks. The youngsters were also becoming more confident in their skills, and while they sometimes lost the ball by attempting too much they also embarrassed some City players somewhat. As half-time approached, the game took on an ‘end to end’ character. Luckily for City, there was another goal. Alex Ramirez in the inside left channel set up a perfectly weighted ball for Neao to run onto on the edge of the box. Neao took one touch and again sped outside the oncoming defender to finish from another tight angle. The ball found the same spot just inside the far post for Neao both times!

4-0 up at half-time was not an accurate reflection of the balance of play, perhaps, but City had clearly won the contests in the areas of the pitch that mattered. A pleasant surprise was in store forTaipeiCityat half-time. After four years away and just two days after Ross had left the country, a veteran of Taipei City FC’s inaugural BML title-winning season, Omar Malcolm was back!

One change was made at half-time, with Oumar Yassouf coming on for Brian Fitzpatrick. The first ten minutes of the second half were subdued from International, and City looked to press forward. Possibly one of the best City moves of the season involved only Luis Mayorga and Dan Calvert interchanging passes all the way up the right flank, culminating in a left footed effort from Dan only just going the wrong side of the post. However, International gradually began to pick up more momentum. City took off the tiring Christie and the sterling Wharton for Daniel Wilkinson and Stoyan Todorov ten minutes into the second half. Stoyan was a straight swap for Matt at right-back, while Danny came into central defense allowing Brian McGuinness to go into the vacated central midfield position. City enjoyed some good football but with nothing to lose Continental were pressing forward now with gusto and making life difficult. They missed a few decent chances including one point-blank tap in, before they got a breakthrough goal. The crucial difference was that they were now finding space and getting behind the City defence. Sensing blood, they were more adventurous in their attacks, launching more balls behind the City defence. Only some brilliant last-ditch defending by Tom saved City at two particularly chary moments. Dale also distinguished himself with a brilliant save from a long-distance free-kick. International were not to be denied a second goal, though, which came through sustained pressure. Malcolm came on for Luis at around this time, with twenty or so minutes to play. At 4-2, City was not sure whether to attack or defend while International was only attacking. A hopeful punt from distance was enough to give International another goal. The last ten minutes were going to be tense for City. In the end, though, an excellent corner kick from Alex was met by the head of Tom, who ensured a final 5-3 victory.

In conclusion, this was a hard game for City. International will surely take points off good teams so City can be thankful for making the most of their chances when they had them.

TaipeiCity FC 5 – 3 International