It could be deemed a gentlemen’s game. Two sides unbeaten and eager to remain so, met up to press for the top. Familiar with each other off and on the pitch, the bon homie would be on ice until after the match. Spartans set unprecedented milestone by having 22 players turn up. This says more for the spirit and depth of the club than at any other time during the last 6 years and the mere fact that people ventured to Sheung Shui bodes well for the rest of the season and beyond.
The support form all the players could be what drives the team on this season. The match opened in likely fashion. Both teams matching the pacy start, with the Germans gradually taking hold of the game. Organised and direct, the Germans tried to get their tricky attack into the game and caused some early concern to the Spartans defence.
The Spartans, playing above their normal tempo, failed to keep the ball on the ground for sustained periods and in losing possession immediately gave advantage to the Germans whose long balls began to bear dividends. Spartans began to work the ball more effectively but found the midfield tight and after forward Alan Wong unselfishly run back to tackle a player on the halfway line, passed back after hearing a call and inadvertently put through the Germans forward who finished with aplomb.
Spartans picked themselves up and began to take the game to the opposition with Lionel Maung and Danny Tsang looking to work the flanks, but due to the running of the Germans midfield found themselves getting sucked in. With Lee Etherington and Paul Hoy holding the middle deep, the game took on a scrappy edge. It was from this situation that another mistake from an underhit back pass to the keeper allowed the Germans attack to capitalise. 2 Spartans through balls, 2 German goals. The Spartans "Help a Football Team" Christmas Charity had began early. The rest of the half saw Spartans push with no luck as John Southgate and Alan Wong tried to find the break they needed, but to no avail. At HT Russell Pang opted for an attacking option with the unfortunate Alan Shum giving way to Rick Man and Paul Hoy for Jason Lee.
The second half was a different story. Spartans looked revitalised and more confident and began wave after wave of attacks on the Germans defence.
Jason Lee added some pace and power , whilst Rick Man kept the ball moving to the flanks.
Capt. Bobby Tsang raised his game to combat the Germans attacking threat which culminated in a precision tackle when the alternate outcome would surely have been a German through on goal.
Rick Ogden was solid and commanding and never missed a header for the entire game and was well deserving of his MOM.
The Germans, however, still remained dangerous on the break and could have added to their total but for a foot save from Steve Wong and profligate finishing from their forwards. It was then the break came, a beautiful fluid move from back to front where Steve Wong quickly released Maung, now in the right-back slot, who in turn found Alan Wong on the right wing, a pin point pass to Jason Lee allowed him to run at the heart of the Germans defence who opened up as John Southgate dragged the defenders away and Jason Lee powered the ball into the top of the net from a tight angle.
Spartans with new belief continued to move forward as Simon Fung replaced a tired Danny Tsang and linked well on the left with Tony Choi. Simon Fung had 2 half chances and John Southgate, who ran Rick Ogden close for MOM with his tireless effort and running, also had 2. But it was from a corner that the controversial moment turned the match. A good delivery by Etherington found a cluster of Germans and Spartans and the ball was bustled into the net. The jubilation turned to woe as the referee ruled of contact on the keeper. Despite protests from the player adjudged to have "fouled" the keeper, Jason Lee, the decision stood. Could this be the first time a "gwei-lo" team has got the benefit of the doubt ?? Spartans dismayed but not broken lay siege to the Germans who stood tall and strong.
Full time. Overall a hard, fair fought match which Spartans will have felt unlucky to have got something from. However, this is taking nothing away from the Germans who caused problems in attack and defended resolutely to prove they are more than worth their position at the top.
For Spartans the positives to take away is that missed chances and basic mistakes cost at this level, but the display of passion, belief and football in the second half should prove to themselves that they can more than match any team in this division and that someone, someday, somewhere is going to be on the end of a Spartans thrashing.