Author Archives: spangaroo

City Pipped at the Post

Time: 6pm, March 19th, 2011
Venue: Bai Ling Bridge Riverside Park

By Michael Christie

With everything to play for, both Taipei City and Hong Ming Bualien lined up to contest the game of the season – the BML final in all but name. Taipei City started with a 4-4-2 formation: Dale Neal in goal, Yunusa Njie at right-back, Ross Conlon at left-back, Brian McGuinness and Tom Clarke in central defense, Carlos Mayorga at right-midfield, Alex Ramirez at left-midfield, Ebrima Njie and Badou Njie in central midfield, and Dawda Fatty and Dan Calvert up front, Dawda in the hole and Dan as the target man. City also had a strong bench, with Kareem Cham, Paul Hsueh, Lionel Gonzalez, Ricardo Abrego, Mamadi Colley, Michael Christie, Luis Mayorga and Oumar Senoussi all ready and waiting.

The opening fifteen minutes were cagey, as both sides sought to establish a viable pattern of play. Taipei City and Hong Ming Bualien both had plenty of possession, and both teams put pressure on the other when without. There were no clear cut chances, though, because neither team was able to dominate in any area of the field.

Hong Ming Bualien, a highly experienced group of players and disciplined team, adopted a flexible formation. Sometimes it was 4-4-2, sometimes 3-5-2 and sometimes 3-6-1. When sitting deep and absorbing pressure, it was either 3-5-2 or 3-6-1. They were able to close down space very quickly in the middle of the park and in their own half. In possession, HMB were crisp and unhurried in their passing, which with their intelligent support play, forced City to work hard doing a lot of running. Still, City was holding their own.

Some rustiness getting into the game from City was noticeable in the first fifteen to twenty minutes. Neither side was able to carve out a really good chance until twenty minutes into the game when a speculative through-ball from HMB was easily read and covered by the City defense. The HMB forward, however, barged McGuinness from the back, and then took advantage of some City honesty – our man didn’t go down – to wriggle past the off-balance defender. The finish was the only credit-worthy thing about the performance. HMB was 1-0 up.

With a lead established, HMB policed the rest of the half. There were some good plays from City but nothing to really test the HMB defense. City simply couldn’t find a way through the mass of bodies HMB had assembled.

Taipei City made one change for the second half. Yunusa came off, Carlos dropped back to right-back and Luis slotted in at right-midfield.  Fiveteen minutes into the second half, Ross made way for Mamadi. Later on, Paul came on for Carlos, Christie came on for Badou and Omar came on for Dawda. Unluckily, Alex was sent off for a second bookable offence. Well, City worked hard but there was still no way through. HMB didn’t threaten very much, but just soaked up pressure and looked to break.

City maintained good pressure until the end, but had to be content with the “might have beens.” There was a lovely run and shot from Dawda, which the keeper just got a finger to. He’d beaten two men and his shot was sailing into the top corner. The keeper had to make a top-class save to keep it out. Then, there was a great penalty box tackle from Oumar. With a little bit more luck that would have been a goal. There was a great shot on the volley from Carlos. He beat the keeper but was inches the wrong side of the post. There were scrambles in the penalty box that HMB only just managed to clear…

Sometimes them’s the breaks.

This was the last game together for many of the players. Yunusa, Dawda, Ebu and Badou, brilliant players who always gave great performances for City, made their bow. You guys will leave a massive void. Ricardo, also, who never had a good chance to shine in a City shirt, and Carlos, who proved a fine addition to the team this year will also graduate in June, so won’t be around next season. Hopefully his brother Luis can stick around and some other players on the fringes this season can step in and help City to regain their title next season. With such a talented squad and a winning ethos, we will always manage to rebuild. Let’s all get together before graduation in June. Actually, there’s a tasty university game involving many of the City players that really shouldn’t be missed. It would be good to cheer on all participants in that one.

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.

A Flood of Goals on a Wettish Day

Time: 10am, November 7th, 2010
Venue: Bai Ling Bridge Riverside Park

By Michael Christie

There was a nice, slick surface, if a little wet and slippery in places, at Bai Ling for when Taipei City kicked off their BML campaign against JFC on Sunday morning at 9am. The slick surface meant that the ball skidded quickly over longer distances than usual, so everything was set up for a good game between two teams that like to pass.

The full squad of JFC players duly assembled at 6am, four hours before kick-off, while Taipei City were saved from taking the field with ten men by the arrival of Paul five minutes before kick-off. Taipei started with Andy Weston in goal, Taka Koizumi at right-back, Mamadi Colley at left-back, Tom Clarke and Paul Hsueh in central defence, Carlos Mayorga in right-midfield, Ross Conlon in left-midfield, Brian McGuinness and Michael Christie in central midfield, Dawda Fatty in “the hole” and Dan Calvert as “the target man.”

The first half opened with Taipei City establishing control, which they never relinquished. City pressed up possibly too much, in that Dawda and Dan didn’t have much space to work their magic in the first ten minutes. City had four or five corners in quick succession, the last of which produced the opening goal. JFC attempted a clearance but the ball fell to Mamadi just inside the box. Drilled hard and low into the corner through a crowd of players, this was a finish of classy assurance.

Next came “The Big Dan Show.” Not content with scoring the opener, Mamadi laid on an excellent cross for Dan to finish with his head. Dan’s second and City’s third scored with the boot from Dawda’s assist  followed soon after. Then near the end of the first half Dan got another header from an excellent Taka cross. The first half was marked by good possession football – clever passing and good movement.

There were no changes at half-time, though with the arrival of Matt Wharton there was now more strength in depth. Matt came on for Carlos after fifteen minutes. Taka moved up to right-midfield and Matt played at right-back. Meanwhile, Mamadi scored with a long-range pile-driver to make it 5-0. JFC had a rare attack and managed to score next. They celebrated wildly, but quite soon Mamadi had forced another ball into the net, this time a deflected header from a corner. At 6-1 to cap a great game from the connoisseur’s point of view, Dawda scored two rapier-quality goals. Ross emulated Dawda with two top-drawer bottom-corner finishes to make it 10-1 (He passed up the opportunity of a hat-trick out of modesty.)  Unburdened with humility Dan had a volley from five yards out which he slammed home to take his tally to 4 on the day, not counting the 5th wrongly chalked off for offside.



So that was the first BML game. Much easier than expected, City were comfortable and played with a lot of composure. JFC tired badly but credit should be given them for trying, not giving up and getting a goal. On the day, City can give themselves a pat on the back for doing a good job. Of course, there are harder games to come.

FIFA Futsal International City Cup Taipei

By Michael Christie
Aug 7-9th, 2010

Before I begin the report proper, let me just say why I think we were invited to the tournament. I believe we were brought in to play the role of whipping boys. We were paraded as the International Union of Brothers, but with only a couple of weeks notice we could hardly be expected to play as a well-oiled Futsal team, especially against high-level specialists in the game. The fact that we actually played some good Futsal speaks volumes for everybody involved.

After finding the venue late, borrowing some socks and some frantic negotiations concerning shirts and team colours, the International Union of Brothers were ready to take on Taipei City in the tournament curtain-raiser. Led out by Dede Costa to a fanfare of delirious excitement from the Taiwanese girls in the stands who’d come to see the handsome foreigners, the IUB meant business. The starting five comprised Dale in goal, Ricardo and Yunusa in defence, and Ebou and Dede up front. On the bench, Dawda, Karim, Onur, Ross, Christian and Christie proved the IUB had strength in depth. That said, Taipei City had at least ten substitutes to IUB’s five. This was obviously not going to be an easy game.

Straight after the whistle, the experienced Futsallers looked to keep the ball and work some openings. Taipei City must have had some of the best Taiwanese Futsal talent in their ranks, so they were able to control the first few minutes. The IUB defended doggedly, though, so City was getting a trifle frustrated. (Remember, in this report the Taiwanese team are City.) City managed to get a lucky goal on about five minutes, which calmed their nerves, but there was to be no capitulation from the IUB. Although clearly dominant, City had to defend well against enterprising forward play at times from Onur, Dede, Dawda, Ebou, Christian, Yunusa, Karim and Ross. Ricardo and Christie were more defensive and did some good support work. The Taiwanese played some excellent futsal but only managed two more goals before half-time. These were good, well-deserved goals, it has to be admitted. Ironically, just before the half-time whistle the defensive Christie was put through on goal after an excellent passing move (from… sorry, I’ve forgotten!) and he put a toe to nudge the ball slowly past the City keeper. 3-1 down at half-time, the IUB had put up a really good fight and proved themselves not just an ordinarily talented group of expat players.

The second half was again an uphill struggle for the IUB. Dale sustained an injured finger making a great save, and later he sprained his ankle rushing out quickly to deny City an otherwise certain goal. The IUB had some good shots on target again, but facing the fresher legs of City’s numerous substitutes, began to tire. Dede shot into the top corner to score a brilliant goal halfway through the second half to make the score 6-2. Unfortunately, fatigue was a factor in the last ten minutes, so City were able to rattle in some more goals. The final score was something like 10-2 to the Taiwanese.

The next game of the day saw the flamboyantly outfitted professional team from Malaysia, Figos Juniors, take on Yung An, from mainland China. This was a dreadfully one-sided encounter which saw the Malaysians demolish an obviously shell-shocked Yung An. The question was: were the Malaysians really good, or was Yung An City really poor?

At lunch-time, just before their game with the Thai team, the popular IUB players posed for photographs with some of the local Taiwanese girls who’d come to watch and give them their support. This was just as well, because the Thai team brought a large contingent of screaming fans themselves! Though less mobile and less skilled than Taipei City, the Thais nevertheless obviously had a good amount of futsal experience. Slow to warm up, the IUB fell behind quite early, and then conceded another. After finding their feet, as it were, the IUB started to threaten. Great goals from Dede, Dawda, Ebu and Karim, I think, were only the natural reward for good passing play. The game was delicately poised at 4-4 and in truth IUB were showing they were the better footballers, but the Thais, buoyed by their supporters, managed to score seven goals altogether. Final score 7-4. This was a game that if we had to play with a little bit more Futsal experience I’ve no doubt we would win.

Late in the game, Dede suffered a nasty gash to the eye after he was sent crashing to the ground by a sliding tackle. This was a great injustice for our best player on the day, and meant that after a good, long time in Taiwan, Dede had to take an injury home. He was unable to play any further part in the tournament and was greatly missed. (Personally, I feel Dede is the best all-round player I have played with or against in my time in Taiwan. Good luck, Dede. We know you will keep playing football.)

There was one more game on Saturday, I think, and there was a game or two on Sunday morning, but what these were I don’t know! (I seem to remember Figos Juniors giving the Thais a futsal lesson, but I can’t remember when this was. Let me tell you old age catches up with everybody!) At 1pm on Sunday, the IUB reconvened for action against Yung An. Both teams were looking to taste victory. This was a slightly different squad from Saturday’s players. Without Ricardo, Onur and Dede, City now had Brian McGuinness, Tom Clarke and Gassey (apologies if I’ve spelt your name wrong) from Nicaragua. Mindful of Christie’s advanced age, Ross handed him the captaincy for the day. Christie tried to look the part but arguably lacked Dede’s gravitas.

The IUB started slowly against Yung An and again conceded first, but then sheer ability asserted itself and the IUB fairly took Yung An to the cleaners. Yunusa, Ebu, Dawda, Brian and Tom were excellent in this game, and Christie, Karim, Gassey and Ross all made valuable contributions, too. The IUB were able to play quick passing football to the wide positions, from where the ball was regularly bulleted to the the far post. This tactic had been effective the day before against the Thais, but now it was looking much slicker. There was a hat-trick for Tom and he scored the same goal each time: Yunusa or Brian to Ebu, Ebu to Dawda on the right, and Dawda to Tom at the far post on the left. There were other great goals from Ebu, Dawda, Brian and Yunusa. With just a few minutes left on the clock, the IUB were 8-4 up but then Yung An staged an admirable come-back. With only one minute to go they’d got back to 8-6, and then, with just seventeen seconds remaining, 8-7. Ross called a time-out to settle some nerves and agree some tactics to see us through the game safely, and so eventually Yung-An were denied. It had been a highly enjoyable game for everybody in the arena.

The next game was between the Thais and Taipei City. The Thais were no match for the Taiwanese in this game. For what it’s worth, the Taiwanese scored more against the Thais than against the IUB, if my memory serves me correctly. (But that’s hardly guaranteed!) The watching IUB players argued amongst themselves good-humoredly about which team was better, Taipei City or Figos Juniors. We were about to play the Juniors in our last game.

Most of the IUB players had already played a full ninety minutes of eleven-a-side earlier in the day as well as the game against Yung An, so were not fresh coming into an extremely demanding contest. Indeed, all the outfield IUB starters had played a full match. Still, this was not evident from the first fifteen minutes. Dale (an unsung hero and solid presence all weekend), Yunusa, Tom, Ebu and Brian fully matched the professionals from Malaysia. The expressions on the faces of the Malaysians betrayed uneasiness for the first five minutes, as they found themselves 1-0 down to the amateurs and being held at bay. They managed to squeeze in a goal after six or seven minutes but they still looked disbelieving that they weren’t able to score more.  The Malaysians looked seriously flustered.

With ten minutes gone, the score was 1-1 and the IUB still looked solid. The Malaysians tried everything, but it was all in vain as they were continually frustrated by last-ditch tackles and great saves from Dale. The nods of approbation from the Taiwanese coaches was gratifying as the IUB played precisely in both defence and attack. The Malaysians finally posted a goal on fifteen minutes, by which time they’d used at least three or four substitutes. Now Ross decided to rotate some of the IUB players, with the result that IUB conceded three more goals before the half-time whistle!

The second half saw some more great performances from Dale, Yunusa, Tom, Ebu, Brian, Dawda, Karim, Ross, Christie and the just arrived Gassey, but the IUB couldn’t quite get a break-through. We came close a few times, though, with Dawda and Gassey in particular. Eventually, the futsal fitness, experience and expertise of the Malaysians told as they scored four more goals. 9-1 was the final score and while you have to say the Malaysians had greater resources (including more substitutes and fresher legs) the performances of the IUB players, Dale, Yunusa, Tom, Brian, Ebu and Dawda in particular, deserved only praise. What a weekend!

The final between Taipei City and Figos RSA FC was held on the Monday. Dale, Gassey, Ross, Ebu, Yunusa and Dawda were all in attendance to watch a real top class game of Futsal. It ended 2-2 which meant the Malaysia league champions for the past two years Figos RSA FC won the tournament on goal difference.

The five star dinner on the Monday night in the Grand Formosa was attended by all the Taipei Futsal Association, the teams and their fans, dignitaries from the Taiwanese government and members of the press. The IUB boys were bombarded by kids wanting to take their picture with them, it might even take a few hard games in the BML to get everybody grounded again. Much to all our surprise we were awarded the tournament Fair Play award for our endeavors, the announcement was met by a rapturous cheer from the attending crowd, all in all a fantastic end to a memorable weekend, if you can overlook the irony of the sight of Ross collecting a fair play award!

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.

San Chong Raise Their Level But City Overcomes

Time: 1pm, March 14th, 2010
Venue: Bai Ling Bridge Riverside Park

By Ed Cartee

With 3 games left in the season, City knew that 2 wins would clinch the BML title; but the way to that goal lay first through the San Chong boys, one of the more impressive possession-oriented sides in the rest of the league, so City had to be fully focused and honed in on the 90 minutes before them.  Game-time conditions were very hot, and the Bai Ling fields are starting to show the accumulated wear-and-tear of the season, so both teams wondered if the passing game would be affected by the bobbly ground.  City lined up with Dale Neal in goal, Tim Murphy sweeping and Hans Rempel patrolling in front of him, Mamadi Colley at left back, Matt Wharton at right back, Mike O’Gorman and Ebou Njie in the center of midfield, Ross Conlon at left mid, Ed Cartee at right mid, and Badou Njie and Dan Calvert up top.  The strategy on offense was to increase the speed of play from the standard in the past couple matches, and the strategy on defense was to apply aggressive pressure on San Chong in their own half.  In the first 15 minutes City was executing the game plan pretty well, but to San Chong’s credit, rather than folding under the higher pressure, they responded and matched the intensity and tempo which City were setting.  Nevertheless, San Chong’s only chances of the half were two shots from distance which were both safely wide.  Dawda Fatty came on for Conlon at left mid partway into the half.  When they could, the San Chong defenders were holding a high line, but City almost made them pay for this on a few occasions, as Calvert got behind them several times off of early balls from the flanks which bent behind San Chong’s backs.  When City established a rhythm of possession, San Chong compacted the center of the field and made it difficult for City to combine in small spaces and break through to shoot. O’Gorman once found Cartee open at the top of the box, but Cartee passed it off instead of testing the San Chong keeper from second distance.  The game had evolved into a midfield duel, a hard-fought battle “between the boxes”, and going into half-time with the score locked at 0-0, it looked like the 2nd half would be a war of attrition pitting City’s resources against San Chong’s youth and fitness.

At half-time the management team of Conlon and Calvert  switched City’s outside midfielders, moving Cartee to the left and Dawda to the right, and everyone did their best to hydrate so as to avoid cramping as the game wore on.

The 2nd half picked up where the 1st half left off in terms of intensity, but the game began to be more spread out; when San Chong had the ball they stretched the field with an expansive attacking shape, and City began using the counterattack more effectively to quickly pass San Chong’s midfielders out of the play and force their back line to deal with players running at them.  As both teams tired, neither team was able to pressure the ball as effectively and disrupt the other team’s rhythm of possession, and more chances were created at both ends.  Both teams’ instincts were heightened to sense the opportunities and dangers resulting from every slight momentum shift in the contest.  But it was City who broke through, recognizing when the game tilted their way after a few dangerous attacking sequences in succession, and capitalizing on the narrow window of opportunity before it was lost.  The City attackers created some confusion in the box for the San Chong defenders, and Dawda swept the ball across and Calvert finished – yet another clutch goal from him.  1-0 City.

San Chong came back at City relentlessly.  The combination of their pace and the heat was pushing City’s defenders to the limit, but City’s back line showed their mental toughness, with determination being the key factor as they stayed sharp to intercept passes, use their physicality to body the San Chong kids off the ball, and come up with a few clutch tackles.  San Chong had their best chance of the game when a midfielder struck a great shot from outside the box, low and hard and destined to tuck inside the far post, but Neal made a tremendous diving play to push the ball wide, saving a certain goal which would have radically changed the game.

Calvert came off and Dawda went up top when Michael Christie came on at right mid, though he and Cartee switched sides a couple times.  Though he roved a bit, Christie’s hustle gave City a lift, and soon after his entry, he was a difference-maker.  Getting on the end of a long ball, he initiated a neat wall-pass which played him into space for an unopposed service into the box.  City had talked before the game about high crosses to capitalize on their height advantage over San Chong, and though Christie’s cross floated a bit beyond the far post, Dawda accelerated and got on the end of it; Dawda headed the ball back across the face of goal, past a helpless keeper to a waiting Badou, who tapped in to give City the 2-0 advantage.

Though San Chong kept their composure and maintained their offensive pressure, City knew what they were playing for, and they weren’t about to let the San Chong kids steal the game back.  The final score was 2-0, making City’s record 14-1-1 and bringing them within one victory of a league championship.  Though so close to the objective, City will have to remember that it’s still up to them to take care of business, with 2 more opponents eagerly awaiting their last chance to spoil City’s season.

Amateur Soccer Leagues set for Thrilling Finales

By John Phillips
Taipei Times
Saturday, Mar 13, 2010

At least one of Taipei’s amateur soccer leagues will be decided tomorrow as Da-an face the Red Lions needing to win by at least three clear goals to snatch the Carnegies Premier League (CPL) title at 1pm at Taipei’s Dajia Riverside Park.

Across the city at Shilin’s Bai­ling Bridge at 4pm, expat team Taipei City can take a huge step toward clinching their second Businessman’s League (BML) trophy when they take on Sanchung High School.

In a bittersweet twist that is sure to leave many players questioning their loyalties, however, it turns out that the Taipei City squad is composed almost entirely of players who also play for Da-an and the Animals — the very team that Da-an will need to finish above if they’re to steal the CPL crown.

Da-an captain Alex Ramirez — who is also a City player — says the competition has always been good-natured and that “the rivalry is completely forgotten about once we don the Taipei City kit.”

The rivalry does have its downside though. Both leagues play on Sundays, which means players sometimes have to play two full games in a single day.

Ross Conlon, who manages Taipei City and plays for the Animals, says having the players competing against each other in the CPL has made it harder for City to be competitive.

“Toward the end of the season, both sets of players have been going all-out to win the CPL, so by the time they turn up to play for City they are already tired,” he said.
If Da-an do snatch the title, it will be an outcome few would have predicted. They have yet to occupy pole position. The current leaders, the Animals, have been on top since last summer, but the loss of some key players and a dip in form have left the door ajar for Da-an to win by the slightest of margins.

With the Animals having already completed all their games for the season, Da-an go into tomorrow’s game knowing that a victory by three goals would put them level on points and goal difference, but would see them crowned champions for their superior tally of goals scored.

In the BML, Taipei City face Sanchung High School knowing that three points would leave second-placed Fritz needing snookers to retain their title. City returned to action after the Chinese New Year break with 11-3 and 2-0 wins against the bottom two clubs Southeasterly and Dentway respectively.  Now with three games to go, City are nine points ahead of Fritz, who have a game in hand, and City’s goal difference is eight better, so a victory would mean they just need to avoid defeat in one of their last two games. Defeat could mean a big finish, with City and Fritz meeting on the final day.

City Get the Last Laugh

Time: 5.30pm, February 8th, 2010
Venue: Bai Ling Bridge Riverside Park

By Michael Christie

Agreeing to put the start of the match back to 5.30, the match referee wasn’t very sympathetic to the eight City players kitted up at 5.25 when asked to delay it further. Still, within seconds of a 4-3-0 formation taking the field, Dawda, Tim, Mamadi, Ebou and Yunusa arrived. Niklas also showed up, but he’d lost the keys to his rooms so he didn’t have a kit and had to watch from the sidelines.

The starting line-up was Matt Wharton in goal; John Phillips, Tim Murphy, Mamadi Colley, and Yunusa Njie at the back; Spencer Pangborn, Oliver Harley, Ebrima Njie, and Ed Cartee in midfield; and, Stevey Reymond and Dawda Fatty up front. The Lions started the game with hard running. City kept the ball a lot but the passing was slow and often predictable, so the game was even for the first twenty minutes. Worryingly, Onur Dogan was in good form and looked threatening every time he had the ball. He was an effective outlet for the Lions, carrying the ball into the penalty box. One time he outpaced everybody and only a memorable tackle from Murphy stopped him.

The City attack created some openings in the first twenty minutes but rarely tested the Lions keeper. The wide players were not used enough, and the Lions were content to soak up pressure through the centre. With about twenty-five minutes gone, Onur Durgan was through again and this time he got a hard shot off which Wharton palmed away. The ball bounced back to the Lions ten yards from the box, where City conceded a free-kick. Driving hard and low, the ball took a deflection off the wall and Volker Nagel was in the right place to poke it home past Wharton. This was a lucky goal for the Lions, but no more than they deserved.

City came back with conviction but made no new inroads after the goal. City kept the ball well, but were restricted to long shots and corners. Shortly before the half-time whistle, Dan Calvert came on for Spencer Pangborn.

Begining the second half, Michael Christie replaced Oliver Harley. There didn’t seem to be much happening when, without any great effort, the Lions threaded the ball through to Onur Durgan at the edge of the penalty box. His curling shot took a slight deflection off Murphy before it found the net. (Whether or not his shot would have beaten Dale Neal or Alex Moga is a moot point. Matt Wharton did everybody a favour by volunteering to keep goal in the absence of a regular keeper.) About five minutes later, Wharton’s goal-kick was uncharacteristically short and, unluckily, came straight to Onur Durgan who controlled and shot quickly. 0-3!  With the game seemingly beyond City’s reach the Lions begin to defend and soak up the pressure and see the match out. A moment of madness from Jan Meidinger cost the Lions a defender. Swearing aggressively at the referee for a questionable decision over a corner kick, there was no question of a card. Was it going to be yellow or red? When the referee was finally given enough room by Lions players to take out a card, sure enough it was red. At this juncture City saw fit to switch to an attacking 3-5-2 formation with Alex Ramirez replacing Mamadi Colley.

City refusing to accept defeat began to apply the pressure. The Lions obviously thought differently, though, because they took off their best player and concentrated on defence. As a result, City soon had the Lions on the back foot.
Still, the Lions didn’t look like conceding. The Lions keeper, Rob Fowler, held on to most of the City shots on target, and the Lions defenders put enough pressure on the City forwards to make shooting difficult. There was plenty of pressure but nothing to show for it until Alex Ramirez tried to cross the ball on the volley, but hit it higher and closer towards the goal than intended. The ball took one bounce in the no man’s land between the defenders and the keeper and then bounced higher than Fowler, expected – over his head and into the net. Now it was 1-3.

A quick check with the linesman confirmed there was twenty minutes remaining. Clearly unnerved, the Lions decided to camp in their own half. Newly encouraged, City pressed forward. With attacks down the flanks, City looked to get the ball behind the Lions defence. (Some of the central City players were even complaining they were not getting enough of the ball at this point.) Finally, a move involving Yunusa, Ebrima and Reymond finished with Dawda in space just inside the box. Dawda swung his right foot in a smooth arc to bend the ball past the flailing arms of Fowler, the Lions keeper, into the bottom-left corner of the net. 2-3.

There were only about fifteen minutes of the game remaining now, so how would the teams play out the game? The Lions had dug in their heels and now they had no choice, really, but to try and weather the pressure. But how much did City have left? Too much, in the end. Yunusa and Reymond were now running the show on the right flank, and Phillips and Cartee were almost equally superior on the left. A driving run down the right beating three players and a perfect pass from Reymond made it easy for Christie to finish from six yards. 3-3!

“How long?” was the question. “Eight minutes,” was the answer. Now feeling utterly deflated, the Lions did not know how to respond. With just a few minutes left, a quick pass from Cartee gave Ramirez the chance to flight a lovely cross to Calvert, who calmly swiveled and flicked the ball home. It happened so quickly nobody had time to enjoy it. 4-3. And, after a couple of minutes of keep ball, that was that. City Get the Last Laugh.

Taipei City 4, The Red Lions 3

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