Well after slipping in through the tradesman’s entrance due to the side with the swoosh not "just doing it", the Spartans embarked upon the first match of the season in the Second Division. It had been a long wait to get back, especially after falling and failing unceremoniously in successive seasons from top to bottom of the YYL. So the time had come. A test of our resolve, resolution and arriving in timely fashion (as turning up in-time to see the ref flick the coin, and Rick Man vomit is really a tad too late…)
The omens looked good from the start. Rick Man, the perennial "Johnny-come-lately" had arrived…dare I taunt the goods of time-keeping…early!! With a squad of 19 old and new for the virgin management team of Ming Lane and Russell Pang to play with (probably too many sexual innuendoes in one sentence there?)However, having weighed up all the player options open to our disposal, it soon became as apparent as Lionel Maung’s "reserved" sign on the right wing and no.10 jersey, that we were more than likely going to be a little defensive…what with 5 defenders and an extra keeper warming the bench. Looking across at our opponents …or rather looking UP at our opponents, the issue of height manifested itself; in particular our lack of it.
Never the less, off we started nervous with anticipation and excitement and exhibiting some of our good trademark passing football. The Swiss were strong and imposing and scored early. Sloppy defending by Spartans but a good finish by the Swiss. I could see the back page of the Tsing Yi Gazette…Turnip and Bak Choy heads for Ming and myself…fortunately through a free-kick by the new improved slim-line Lee Etherington and header by Rick man we scored. The surprise of us scoring from a set-piece situation was amazing, but a header as well, more shocking than Keith Lee buying a round whilst urinating on a barrel of electric eels. The game was ebbing and flowing, good passing and powerful, committed play by both sides. A couple of pointless and unnecessary yellows, a delay and confusion over a head injury and it was half time.
Lilliput 1 – Dolph Lungdren-lookee-likees 1.
Second half KO. The famous Spartans stamina was beginning to show. Would the deep bench of 6 be enough…there was concern. Some lively work by the diminutive Swiss forward, followed by a rasping shot that hit the keeper, the bar, a palm tree, a passing blind-folded child and a low flying satellite before being collected by Tony Chan in the Spartans Goal, was judged by Mr Ivan Chanskovoitch, the Russian-ish Ref’s assistant, to have crossed the line. 2-1 to the land of triangular chocolate! Before, that might have been the undoing of the Sparatns, but a gritty fight back bore dividends.
It was then that my whole belief system of everything, ever in the universe almost unravelled….a second header by "Monsiuer Utility" Lee Etherington and a second goal. Where had this aerial dynamism come from…had the wandering spirits of Joe Jordan and Bob Latchford overtaken our players…we hadn’t scored 2 headers in 2 seasons and 2 in 1 game was incredible.
L.Etherington looping header
The Swiss came back strong but it was then that a moment of sheer skill and control illuminated the game. Rick Man showed the kind of footwork that could burn up the catwalks from Shanghai to Scunthorpe. Nutmegging one player and then weaving, like a drunken clown on a unicycle, in and out of the heart of the Swiss defence leaving 2 on the ground before rifling a shot past the imposing keeper before turning round to a delirious bunch of teamates, was a moment to win any match.
R.Man winning goal
A few minutes later Alan Wong, who had run tirelessly for the entire game, doggedly worked a 1-on-1 against the Swiss Keeper only to watch his shot skip past the outside of the post. The Swiss came back strong and pushed for their goal. A speculative shot form their right midfield somehow found its way into the Spartans net. It seemed a legitimate and spawny goal, but thanks to the "Best Fall by a Supporting Keeper" it was not given. A stroke of luck, Karma from the second Swiss goal, vibrations from nearby crop-circles or poor refereeing…who can tell? Alas, after 3 injuries, 5 subs and 2 headers we, the Spartans, were rejoicing.
Overall a good committed game against a good side. A little luck, a MOM performance by Rick "Zoolander" Man, new players gelling well, a sublime match winning goal and, above all, supreme, impressive tactical assistant manager wizardry resulted in our first 3 points of the season.