In the first tough test of the season, the Marlins fell disappointingly short but not as short as the result suggests.
Both teams headed into the match with 100% records, and the opening 15 minutes saw the Marlins take the initiative and control possession.
After a couple of half chances, the deadlock was broken when Lions playmaker, Azzedine, had time and space to find the far top corner with an audacious lob from a tight angle.
Ten minutes later, the Lions doubled their lead as their midfielder made a run from deep to beat the offside trap and toe-poke beyond Dale Johnson in Shanghai Marlins’ goal.
Keen to remain in the game, the Boys in Blue tried to get a goal back before the break. Pete Rosselli couldn’t find the far corner after new recruit Didier Njewel’s through ball, while Fafa’s fine cross wasn’t rewarded with a Marlins head. It summed up the first half as the Marlins were found wanting in the final third due to movement, creativity, composure and numbers.
At half-time, Gaffer Carl Edwards made some changes to try and ensure Rosselli was less isolated against the Lions defence. The adjustments had the desired impact in the opening stages of the half as the reigning champions gained a foothold in the game further up field.
Unfortunately, the territory and possession weren’t converted to goals as Azzedine delivered the killer blow with a long-rang lob we’ve been accustomed to seeing from James Moss. It was a fine strike as it sailed perfectly into the corner, leaving Johnson no chance.
Despite the blow, the Marlins did still conjure up what should have been a penalty when Njewel latched onto Rosselli’s ball down the right. Unfortunately, the referee – who struggled with the pace of the game – and linesman failed to spot the challenge was in the area.
With time and hope running out, a defensive mix up saw Lions presented with an easy tap-in, while the fifth and final goal was the outcome of sheer frustration.
It was nothing more than a humbling defeat for the Marlins who paid the price for a series of failures on and off the pitch. No player in blue came off the field with any pride in their performance and that is a particularly rare scenario for this team. Technical displays can vary but effort and commitment should never be an issue. Sadly, due to a number of late arrivals, the pre-match preparations were a great distance from the usual standards, and in this case, the standards of their opponents who undeniably deserved the win.
It’s a result that will sting but it also provides the opportunity for redemption. Shanghai Marlins were not represented properly on Sunday. Those wearing the shirts were a shadow of themselves. A lot of self and collective reflection is needed if they want to enjoy the same sort of success last season brought. If you felt down and low after the final whistle, then you should have shown the same sort of care before and during the game. Mistakes are made but they only remain as such if you fail to learn from them.
Next up is the opportunity to defend the Santa Cup before the Christmas break arrives.
Man of the Match:No vote carried out.
Harry Swain’s Hero(es) of the Day:Carl Edwards and Pete Rosselli
Recognising the below-par performance, the Marlins did what makes them the best team in Shanghai…got drunk and merry come rain or shine, win, lose or draw!
Whilst the turnout for Blue Marlin was a little disappointing, those who made it ensured that the team spirit was still very much alive and kicking. Most likely more so than some of the players’ movements come Monday morning.
An initially sombre mood at the start was quickly transformed by some chanting, drinking and welcomed honesty regarding the day’s events. A particular perk was Fafa’s brave/stupid move to bring his girlfriend to the restaurant for a quick and borderline sex-pest introduction. Wisely leaving soon after, the players were able to grill Fafa before Long Islands were consumed via nominations, acceptance of responsibilities and the finger game.
Pete Roberts was in fine form, until his Long Island really kicked in. The Welsh Caveman looked like he got dressed in the dark as he donned tights, shorts, scarf, woolly hat and a murse. Most of which he failed to take home with him after he and Toby delayed their driver for over an hour.
Following the transformation into a fine, open-planned restaurant, fellow diners were exposed to several too many viewings of derrières. Thankfully, there’s yet to be any complaints but Mossy did take exception to Roberts throwing some of Rosselli’s cake at him.
In a state of drunk panic, Roberts reached for a nearby notebook to provide a material for cleaning Mossy up, even though there were tissues sat on the table in front of him. Hopefully the pages of notes he ripped out weren’t of much importance!
David ‘Schhhhhhtein’ Spröer managed to arrive at Blue Marlin later in the evening after begrudgingly finishing work. He quickly did a Long Island because it was Sunday and he’s Schtein.
Whilst there were occasional references to the disappointing performance, there was also a reaffirmed realisation that what separates this team from any other in the league is the comradery, particularly in adversity. Last season we enjoyed a big BBQ despite losing our only game against the Lions, and whilst it’s likely most of their team went their separate ways after the game, the Marlins enjoyed each other’s company, shared a meal and too many sightings of Roberts’ arse.
Thankfully, this hasn’t put Njewel off from joining the team. However, he’s going to have to be more creative with hiding any future Long Islands!
Sunday was a shit day, but I wouldn’t have wanted to spend it with anyone else. Everything we do, we do as a team. Young Myles got a lesson in what not to do before and during a game, but we at least showed how a team should come together afterwards.
As many of you know, our trusty full-back (ala steady Steve Finnan), Ash Smith, is leaving Shanghai this month to head back home to the UK.
Ash only joined Shanghai Marlins two years ago but in a short space of time, established himself as one of the team’s key members on and off the pitch. Having such an impact in that period is a tribute to his character and he will be sorely missed.
He’s been nothing but committed to the Marlins since joining, never letting anyone down irrespective of his state following a Saturday with the Shooters. Being able to deliver on his word is a real quality that we should all aim to possess ourselves.
As a token of the club’s appreciation, a team shirt will be signed and handed to Ash to commemorate his time with the Marlins which included an SPL League, Cup and Santa Cup win.
He’ll always be a Marlin and hopefully our paths will cross again in the not-so-distant future!
Thank you, Ash, for all that you’ve done and provided over the last two years and best wishes for the next chapters in your life.