In their first game in four weeks, Shanghai Marlins took on title rivals Lions for the second time this season.
To compensate for the inevitable rustiness and lack of match fitness, the Marlins had a squad of 18 to call upon which was a refreshing change to more recent matches.
Not only was there a big squad but also big support with visiting season very much underway in Shanghai as friends, family and partners came along to enjoy the sunny weather in Jinqiao.
Looking to maintain their advantage at the top, the Marlins almost got off to a flyer as Pete Rosselli played James Moss in behind the Lions backline. The midfielder was thwarted by a good save as the keeper came out to narrow the angle on Mossy’s first-time effort.
As usual, the Marlins looked dangerous on every corner but failed to make the most of Wilson Scott’s and Mossy’s great deliveries. The league leaders nearly scored when a shot rebounded off the keeper and fell to Harry Swain. Unfortunately, the bouncing ball was on his left-foot and his momentum prevented the Donny Bus Eater from keeping his effort on target.
At the other end, the Lions nearly found an opener in what was a chaotic start to the game.
Having been denied by some great saves by Max Baier, the Lions managed to find a breakthrough when a back-pass led to an indirect freekick from just inside the area. It wasn’t the cleanest of strikes which probably made the difference as the Marlins prepared themselves for a firm hit in a crowded penalty box.
Knowing there would still be chances to get back into the game, Shanghai Marlins didn’t let their heads drop.
They continued to probe for an equaliser and after a few more near misses, were rewarded for their persistence as Steve Fong found space down the right and his deflected cross was seized upon by Rosselli who rounded the keeper and poked home from a tight angle.
For the remainder of the half, the Marlins were the more dangerous side and had legitimate claims for a penalty as new recruit, Fafa, danced his way through the defence. There were also efforts from Gary Saunders, Fong and Fafa that were blocked or saved as the Lions survived a couple of goalmouth scrambles.
At half-time, gaffer Carl Edwards reminded the team to keep their heads, particularly as Swainy had a faceoff with DJ Gloves in Spring earlier in the half which saw the referee grab some popcorn to see how it would all pan out.
The start of the second period saw the Boys in Blue continue to seek a second goal as captain Jamie Lally was denied a great goal following a brilliant ball out wide by Scott. Fong was also inches away from scoring a header as the Lions sat deeper looking to play counter-attacking football.
With around 20 minutes remaining, they brought on a couple of young attacking players and the long diagonal balls over the Marlins defence became their only route to goal. That approach proved pivotal when Rosselli gave away possession cheaply trying to play Mossy through and an early ball over the top saw Jon Heaney in a race against the Lions attacker. Having got to the bouncing ball first and then colliding with the player afterwards, the referee decided it was a penalty while other officials from other countries may be less forthcoming. #conspiracy
The Lions forward dusted himself down and converted the penalty to give his side an all-important lead heading into the latter stages of the game.
Shanghai Marlins were beginning to show fatigue as they committed more men forwards in search of the equaliser. The gaps between the lines proved too big as they were caught out by another counter-attack which saw the Lions all but seal victory with a third.
The full-time whistle arrived with disappointment and frustration etched on all faces associated with the Marlins.
Man of the Match: Ash Smith won the vote as he displayed his versatility by performing consistently on both sides of the pitch.
Not to be too downhearted by the performance and result, the Marlins regrouped at their sponsor’s restaurant to enjoy the pre-arranged BBQ with the supporting friends and family.
Besides the quality on the pitch, what separates this team from the others is the comradery off it. In victory or defeat, the team will always enjoy some food and drinks together knowing it will serve them in good stead further down the line. It certainly isn’t short-term thinking.
Adam Christy provided a rousing speech to ensure that all in attendance would put the game behind them and enjoy the celebrations and perks that come with being part of the Marlins family.
To get the Sunday Funday ball rolling, a number of Long Islands were dished out for man of the match (Smith), recently married (Dave Watson), recently pregnant (Lally), a couple of debutants (Fafa and Dragos Olaru) and a Champions League quarter-final defeat (Mossy).
Olaru was able to persuade his partner to down his Long Island, while Mossy’s Mam, sister and girlfriend got to witness first-hand what happens to their precious little prick 20-minutes after the consumption of what looked like water from the nearby river.
Fuelled only by beer and the title of Marlins’ best boxer (bite Gerrard, bite), Dale Johnson was back on the Sunday Funday scene and determined to make up for lost time/show off in front of his plus one. “Oooh look at me be funny and loud and stuff.”
Distracted by the novelty of beer from a mobile tap, Johnson spotted an opportunity that he would instigate from a comfortable vantage point. An adaptation of the dentist chair involving a bar stool, Fong’s increasing strength with every sip of alcohol and the beer tap allowed Johnson to peer pressure anyone he wanted – except himself – for what can only be described as ‘Beer-boarding’.
Fafa was immediately regretting his decision to join the Marlins and it wasn’t the first time Heaney had persuaded a ‘friend’ to do something against their will.
That started a trend and before you knew it, every Marlin and their mam was entrusting Fong to tilt them and Johnson to feed them.
When it came to Fong’s turn, instead of showing initial reluctance followed by inevitable conversion like everyone else before him, he went all Frat party shouting “I’m f**king thirsty! Get me in that chair!”
Once everyone had a go and was drenched in poorly placed beer, those leaving were forced to do another round, ending in Fong catapulting them out of the chair.
During a lot of this commotion, Jack Sanders wisely escorted his plus one to the nearby metro station before returning with his Tory Bastard cape ready to drink himself into a nodding David Brent coma.
Mossy danced around like some sort of tipsy chimp with a speaker in hand/on head and the other set of knuckles scraping the floor. He continued to dazzle those watching with his speed of footwork and love for controlled kick outs, something rarely seen on the pitch.
Swainy the janitor was clearing up any broken glasses or plates while Heaney became infatuated by the idea of wrestling with any willing challenger in the children’s trampoline.
Having already beaten Swainy in a lost and found bike off, “I’m winning. Mum I’m winning!”, Heaney decided to take on the Tory Bastard in the ‘North-South Divide’. Like a tax dodging honey badger, Sanders was persistent and determined but Heaney’s bizarre love for a 1,2,3 count ensured he eventually reigned supreme as the watching audience grew increasingly uncomfortable at watching two grown men aggressively hug in a children’s play area.
Mossy’s girlfriend was pulled in for a different sort of contest which involved removing your opponents’ shoes and throwing them out of the cage. Heaney couldn’t resist making Sanders smell his own foot odour before dismissing the looted kicks as Leander pretended she had broken her nose so Mossy could jump/climb/stumble over the top to ‘save’ her…or end up losing his shoes as well. Two peas in a pod them two.
Rosselli’s younger brother proved that the family isn’t full of complete squares as he happily got involved in the drinking and even had a bet with Swainy that he could land a somersault in the trampoline cage. He didn’t, which was a shame as it would have been nice to watch Swainy be cultural and down half a bottle of wine. Saying that, he’d have to fight Heaney to get the bottle off him first.
As Mossy’s mam watched her children display the kind of love and dancing moves no mum can be completely proud of, the evening began to die down.
Eventually, the Marlins would go home to find Man City confirmed as champions and wonder whether they would produce an embarrassing celebratory video on the 3rd June like Pep’s men. Based on the videos made following a defeat, that shouldn’t be a problem.
What a wonderful team of wrong-ins!