Sunday, 6th of March, 2016 - Barbarians A 3:2 Forbidden City
Goals. Excitement. Controversy. Poor Paul Gascoine impersonations. Saturday's game had everything a fan could want. Except pizza.
As the temperature plunged at Tiger Field the Barbarians turned up the heat in the title chase, vanquishing their traditional rivals Forbidden City and capitalising on ground lost by Afrika Utd who dropped two points in a 5-5 sizzler against FC Kozo Japan in the day's early kick off.
For the second week in a row the Barbarians A team welcomed two debutants to the side with Eddie Martinez and Dani Fernandez stepping in at extremely short notice to cover for the three players who dropped out dangerously close to game time.
The game was close from start to finish, with Forbidden coming at the Barbarians from the first, attempting to exploit space down either side and playing their typically fast, physical brand of football.
The Barbars, though, managed to resist the initial onslaught and find themselves a foothold in the game. Encouraged by the stolid defending of Murchik (who upped his game because his girlfriend was watching) and endeavour down the right from the outstanding Colum Curtis the Barbars grew in confidence, and quick thinking and smart interplay between these two led to the game's opening goal, around twenty minutes in. A quick corner from Colum and a smart turn from Murchik gave the latter space to fire a low ball into the box. As Bradbury opened his mouth to berate the right-sided brothers of destruction for taking a short corner, the ball ricocheted to Sham, just outside the six yard box, and he pounded home a smart left-footed finish before a word could pass defensive stalwart Bradbury's lips.
Around five minutes later, City found their way back into the game. Having spurned a chance from an indirect free kick awarded (in their eyes inexplicably, in Barbarian eyes entirely justly) inside the box for Murchik looking at one of their players funny, City won a throw in deep on the Barbarians' left flank. The Barbarians momentarily lost concentration and a one-two from the throw in outfoxed the left back (who is avoiding naming himself as Alastair Dawson here, in order to save face) allowing Forbidden's right winger to play a cross which slipped from Muniz's grasp (or was punched unconvincingly) into the striker's path: 1-1.
With renewed urgency the Barbarians pushed forward before half time in search of a second goal, and in due course it arrived. More magic down the right from Colum was followed by a precise cutback to Super Gideon who used his superhuman strength to slam a shot straight at the City keeper with such force that the best he could do was to parry the ball straight to Alyas, who did the rest. Or so everybody except the referee thought.
The whistle blew, and the ref raised his hand for offside. After a tense half minute and a consultation with the linesman, however, the goal was allowed to stand, a decision met with delight from the Barbarians and their cohort on the sidelines (except Ian- he was still preoccupied with thoughts of the pizza he'd come for) and derision from the City players. 2-1.
The second half began in much the same vein as the first- every ball fiercely contested and played at a high tempo, and with the pollution visible under the lights contributing to the Big Game feel that this encounter had taken on.
There was the sense that the next goal would be the one to decide the game and to swing momentum, and fortunately it fell to the Barbarians through a moment of brilliance from Dias, who netted for the second consecutive game. Receiving the ball inside the final third, on the far left hand side of the pitch, the Steppe's answer to Rihad Mahrez produced an explosive burst of pace to beat two men before powering on into the area and stroking the ball home assuredly.
The rest of the match was not without incident as Forbidden did manage to give the Barbarians a late scare by pulling one back. Still seething from the potentially-arm-breaking death lock he suffered at the hands of Russia's strikeforce the previous week, Mark Blackburn decided that 3-1 up and with fifteen minutes to play was the apposite moment to bring his own wrestling moves out of the locker. One top-drawer chokeslam outside the box and a yellow card later, and Forbidden had the free kick from which their smartly-headed second came, in off the left upright and placed with such precision that Carlos, nor Jeff, nor Ethan, nor perhaps all three at once, could have done anything about it.
As the clock ran out, the Barbarians had a number of chances to add security to their lead but unfortunately none of these came to fruition; the pick of the bunch was when an inspired burst of inspired interplay between Sham and Colum concluded with the Ulsterman firing a whisker wide of the top right corner.
Scenes of jubilation followed the final whistle, with every Barbarian present ecstatic, and relieved to have secured the 3 points from another tough encounter. All of the Barbarians except Ian, that is, who was dismayed to learn that there would be no trip to Pie Squared for pizza and that he'd been brought to Shunyi under false pretences. Oh, and Nick Beswick who was probably (definitely) moaning about something or other.
Next up for the Barbarians, another tough encounter:
@LiDo vs Sexy FC - Saturday March 19th- 2pm Kick off
Let's Smash 'Em
- Man of the Match: Colum Curtis
- Honourable Mentions: Dani Fernandez (industry up front), Eddie (composure and distribution), everyone who played injured, Murchik (being awesome), Murchik's girlfriend (for the way her presence positively affected his performance)
- Donkey of the Week: Keith Bradbury, inventor of football
- Shampagne Moment: Dias' devastating dribble for the third goal
- Phrase of the Week (Colum Curtis' Lingo Bingo): "He's as slow as two in the morning"
- Fan of the week: Ian Gabrielson (he came for the pizza but ended up watching the game, pizzaless. Poor chap)
The Numbers Game
- Balls provided by the IFFC: 0
Pints of ketchup spilt on Carlos Muniz (intentionally or otherwise) this week: 0
Number of points Forbidden City have taken from the Barbarians this season: 0
Number of Kevin Broadys: there's only one Kevin Broady*
Games of football played by KP on Saturday: 1
Barbarian player visible from space during the game: 1 (Dani Fernandez wearing the whitest trousers in history)
Heroes stepping up to the plate to replace late Saturday dropouts: 2
Votes which clinched the prestigious Donkey award for Sir Keith Bradbury: 2.25
Number of 'alleged' taxi thieves who mysteriously arrived at the IV at precisely the same time as one another: 4
Barbarians who started the game carrying injuries: 4
Number of hours Ethan had to wait for his plane to land so that he could find out the score: 7 It's rumoured that he considered faking a medical emergency to force a diversion and an earlier landing. Upon realising the only medical problem he could think of was priapism and that this wouldn't be deemed life-threatening enough, he thought better of it and endured the wait...
Goals Alyas will score next week against Sexy in his final Barbarians appearance. He promised: 9
Taxi drivers murdered by Gideon this week: 14(confirmed)
Height in feet of the fence scaled by Buzz and Ian to retrieve the match ball (and the ball that they lodged up there trying to dislodge the match ball) after the game: 27
Circumference, in inches, of the giant fist incorporated in the Barbaric post-game celebrations. Formidable: 32.5
Times Nick Beswick was heard whining about something during and after the game: 41
Minutes late (team total): 107