Taipei Red Lions win Taiwan Premier League promotion/relegation playoff


The first-ever promotion/relegation playoff took place in Taiwanese football, as the seventh-placed side in the Taiwan Premier League - Taipei Red Lions, played off against the runner up in the Second Division - Inter Taoyuan, with the winner taking the spot in the Premier League next season.

Going into the match

Both teams were in pretty good form going into this match, despite Taipei Red Lions being seventh (second bottom) they had been performing well during the final games of the regular season, but it looked a foregone conclusion that they would still end up in the promotion/playoff having not picked up enough points earlier in the season. 

The Red Lions picked up four points in their last seven games, drawing with Hang Yuen, and beating Mingchuan University. Considering that Red Lions only picked up nine points all season, this was a clear example of them getting to grips with top-level football in Taiwan at maybe a moment too late. 

Which meant that they best make sure that they won't be relegated so that they could build on a good end of the season (in relative terms) compared to the start they had. 

Inter Taoyuan on the other hand had done well all season, in the newly formed Second Division. Only losing 3 matches all season, including the final one against Saturday Football International when it was inconsequential if they won or lost. That saw them finish second, behind heavily funded CPFC, who had strongly been tipped to romp home with the title.

That you would think would make Inter Taoyuan the form team going into the promotion/relegation playoff, but the lower level competition they had been facing week in, week out, could work as a hindrance, not a help. Then the Lions, on the other hand, seem like they are the team who have performed worse, but at the same time, the effort they have had to put in to earn those nine points in a higher level could have put them at an advantage, not a disadvantage. 

Onto the match, and what a bore!

It seemed like the occasion had got to both teams, as neither looked like they wanted to be the first side to ever lose this match, with so much at stake. None of them would want to be the first side to lose this first historical match in Taiwanese football. 

During the first half, there weren't many chances as the game was scrappy throughout, with the chances that did present themselves. Both sides were guilty of missing guilt edged chances when they did present themselves, but chances were at a premium and both sides were unable to keep their cool to slot home and win. 

The game went to extra time and penalties, as both sides could have played until next Sunday, and I don't think either side would have scored. In fact, they could have played until the whole world has had their COVID-19 injections, and still they would not have scored. 

Onto penalties, and Red Lions won 4-2, taking the much better penalties in the shootout. Each of the Lions four penalties that went in, left the Taoyuan keeper with no chance at all. The same could not be said of Taoyuan's penalties, which looked to be shots of tired players.

So the side who finished second bottom in the Taiwan Premier League, Taipei Red Lions, get another season to have a stab at the Taiwan Premier League. It seems extremely harsh on Inter Taoyuan after they won so many games last season, but they will find themselves back in a league that they coasted past for most of their season. 

This time they will have Mingchaun University to compete against instead of CPFC FC, and no doubt they will be striving to take the top spot this time around, in order to avoid another promotion/relegation playoff. 

It seems like this playoff, has replaced the previous version, where 1st played 2nd to decide the league champion, and 3rd vs 4th played each other to decide 3rd and 4th place. The new playoff is more exciting because there is a lot more riding on the game, so even if it is dull, one side still has to miss out on the grand prize. Then eventually, the winner of the league over the course of a season is as it says on the tin. The winner of the league.

Well done to Taipei Red Lions for coming through the playoff with the win, and commiserations to Inter Taoyuan, who will have to face another season in the second tier of Taiwanese football.

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