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.