On a very hot day in Tainan Sunday, and with temperatures hitting the early 30s, Hang Yuan scored a crucial 1-0 away win over Taiwan Steel to go top of the 2020 Taiwan Premier League.
The game started slowly, with a 4th minute effort by Taiwan Steel’s 25-year-old Benchy Estama sending the Hang Yuan keeper Huang Chiu-lin, down low to his left to keep the hosts at bay the first real chance of note.
And with Hang Yuan playing in their sky blue away strip, as they did last week in a 2-2 draw with Tatung, the team from Xinzhuang in New Taipei City spent much of the first half sitting back, soaking up the opposition pressure.
Currently one of the best defending teams in the league, Hang Yuan started Haitian duo Louis Emmanuel and Judelin Aveska in a pairing looking increasingly in-sync with each other at the center of the Hang Yuan defence.
Just ahead of the back two, the 36-year old American, Michael O’Gorman, former captain of the now defunct Royal Blues, was his usual active self, chasing down balls all over the middle of the park, and working to open up Taiwan Steel with a range of passes left and right.
The action on the pitch did suffer when the action moved to the corners on the now notorious Tainan pitch, however, with large areas still looking rough, and very dry and dusty.
A few lazy challenges went largely unpunished as the first half wore on before Aveska had cause for argument in the 38th minute when a clumsy tackle on the Steel number 7, Ko-Chi Yao was rewarded with a yellow card.
Yao, operating alongside Benchy Estama, a 25-year-old Haitian on the Steel front line was repeatedly kept at bay by a hard working Hang Yuan defence as the first half wore on, only adding to the evidence of earlier games that Taiwan Steel have yet to really prove themselves against teams in the top half of the league
The second half started as slow as the first half ended before a defence splitting pass left Taiwan Steel flat footed in the 47th minute, and Hang Yuan’s no.9 Ching-hsuan Chen slotted the ball past an out of place home keeper Wen-chieh Pan.
The goal gave the visitors a renowned sense of purpose with Hang Yuan spending much of the next 15 minutes launching attack after attack and Taiwan Steel offering very little in return as both teams started to suffer in the late afternoon heat of early summer.
The referee was having his own issues in keeping up with the action, and in the 54th minute Hang Yuan’s Honduran right back William Esquivel went in for a tackle with Steel’s Benchy, before Steel forward Yao came rushing in, aggressively pushing the Hang Yuan defender with his forehead and noticeably pulling his shirt.
Surprisingly no card was issued by the man in the middle.
Taiwan Steel continued to offer very little, and with Benchy struggling up front on his own for long periods, Yao by the hour mark playing with little effect on the right, the always dangerous Marco Fenelus was introduced to the mix in the 61st minute.
The referee continued to struggle in his control of discipline and in the 64th, Ho-han Liu of Taiwan Steel became the latest name to go into the book for kicking a Hang Yuan player already on the floor.
Players have been sent off for similar elsewhere in the world but Liu escaped with a yellow.
Hang Yuan started playing deeper as the game got increasingly testy with a series of rash challenges going in from both sides in the dying minutes, and Taiwan Steel tempers starting to fray.
Five minutes of injury time was of no use to the hosts as Hang Yuan held on to win, and with Taipower losing in a game they would have expected to win against NTUS elsewhere, the team from Xinzhuang went top of the league for the first time this season.