All posts by steve.fishwick@astrazeneca.com

May 8th – Shanghai Marlins 2-1 Gremio

 

The Marlins aimed to return to winning ways following their narrow defeat to Century Park. In their way stood a Gremio side with some shinpadless players and a general sense of unfamiliarity as they delayed kick-off and pre-match rituals trying to establish who played where.

Prior to the game, Pete Rosselli and Simon Moore requested to use the club’s toilet facilities and lose some weight in the process. They were advised to make use of the often broken and paper-free portaloos instead of the normal toilets they were standing next to.

After initially dismissing the offer, they came across a female worker at the club who spoke enough English to explain that the toilets are for club members only. Despite the team having access to the pitch, they are unable to have access to anything else, so Moore’s first offer was to leave his personal mark on the pitch. That was ignored.

He then protested the clear stupidity of it all and asked the woman if she thought it was ok to not let them use the normal toilets? She nodded and said, “Yes.” “You’re a terrible person,” replied Moore, whose finger pointed directly at the socially inept woman to ensure she knew he meant her.

The perplexed duo made their way to the local hut and its holes in the floor before preparing loosely for a game with as much significance as a Ligue 1 match.

Once the game got underway, Shanghai Marlins in their white parachute tops, took control of proceedings. A series of openings were created but thwarted by a combination of good goalkeeping, poor finishing and/or terrible officiating. Like, really terrible.

Trying to explain the basic rules of football to both opponents and officials, some of the Marlins’ players were encouraged to remain calm and ignore the nonsense. Jamie Gerrard was accused of being uneducated in his evaluation while Rosselli was introduced to the versatility of the word ‘fuck’ by being called as such as he requested the opponent to not ask for cards like a slimy, Mediterranean twat.

Fabio Gillue was unable to fill that quota in the Marlins’ side as he was nursing a back and hip problem that has plagued his performances both on the pitch and in the bedroom for years.

After constant plugging away (ala Gillue), Shanghai Marlins took the lead thanks to a towering, uncompromising, bullet of a header by Moore. That is of course, if he knew anything about it. A great delivery by stand-in captain, Wilson Scott, pulled the keeper into no-man’s land, otherwise known as ‘the club’s facilities’, and Moore was there to nod/face the ball into an empty net.

Dave Watson put the shame of Newcastle’s attempts to win at Villa Park to one side by producing “a great touch.” But Alejandro Ossandon’s opinion of Watson’s work on his beaten balls is his and his alone. Watson also controlled the ball really well at one particular point.

Half-time came with the Marlins’ holding a convincing one-goal lead. Manager, Steve Fishwick, wanted more patience on the ball and his side to stop missing so everyone could relax a bit more.

The second half was much the same as Jamie Lally, Scott and Rosselli all came close to doubling Shanghai Marlins’ advantage. The Gremio tactic of shouting when a player was about to shoot seemed to sit better with the referee than the Marlins. This led to Watson performing some sort of carking sound and arms flapping by his side prior to the Gremio keeper’s goal-kick.

Gremio equalised against the run of play and bird impressions, when a player (they probably didn’t know his name either) toe-punted his shot in at the near post.

This was a game the Marlins could not lose given their dominance and they retook the lead when a Gremio player labeled ‘Precious’ by Gerrard hauled the Middlesbrough fan to the ground. That’s Middlesbrough of the Premier League now, Dave.

The Bearded Magician, Scott, stepped up to score his second penalty in as many matches.

Further chances and opportunities were squandered but the win never looked in doubt, unless you’re Steve who fails to be remotely calm during any football match given his experiences with Man City.

Full-time did arrive and the Marlins deservedly claimed all three-points in what was a fairly turgid affair with little enjoyment for the spectators. Think any Adam Sandler film in the last 10 years.

Dan Griffiths and Dave Watson shared the man of the match award thanks to their solid defending, ball tampering, unpunished fouls and attempts of distraction.

Dale Johnson played in goal. Scott has two sacks.

April 24th – Shanghai Marlins 1-2 Century Park

 

Shanghai Marlins had the pleasure of playing at Century Park, which of course meant a very limited warm-up and the joy of getting changed on the wrong side of the fence amongst puddles and mud.

Anticipating the same frosty welcome as usual (no bikes or happiness allowed), Pete Rosselli had the first laugh as he left the remains of his gut in the toilet. It’s not his fault there was no running water, nor the fact he had a bad reaction to some fat-burning pills…

The Marlins tried to instigate a delay to kick-off so they could warm-up properly and Dale Johnson could say, “Don’t move (insert name),” several times during the passing exercise. The absence of linesmen seemed a safe bet to request more time but referee Kevin was working against the clock and had to start without. A possible improvement some (many) would say.

Century Park are competing for the title for the first time in their short, expensive and overstaffed history (think Chelsea). The regular training sessions and youthful squad often result in an organised, energetic and fast-paced performance, particularly on the large pitch. This game started no different with Shanghai Marlins only having a squad of 13 to call upon.

Despite Century Park enjoying the majority of the possession, it was the Marlins who looked most dangerous in attack.

Wilson Scott had pre-empted before kick-off that he would try to lob the keeper (I witnessed this) and he very nearly did from 40-yards. His big-kick effort sailed just wide of the goal with the keeper scampering back.

Ash Reid played a trademark deep corner (James Milner take note), which was headed back into the mix by Scott but Tony was unable to reach the ball before it bounced. His attempt subsequently went over but Century Park were looking vulnerable on set-pieces.

With ten minutes to go before half-time, Century Park took the lead following a turnover of possession in Marlins’ half. The finish was composed and their first effort of real note. That was largely due to the impressive defending of Dan Griffiths and Dave Watson.

Just after the goal, Scott found himself in space just outside the area. His curling shot went narrowly wide of the far-post.

Moments later it was two-nil following a quick attack, resulting in a simple tap-in from close range. It was a good move and goal, most likely something they worked on at training or during their half an hour warm-ups with cones and stuff.

At half-time, manager Steve encouraged his side to try and enjoy the game more regardless of whether their job is to attack or defend. The linesmen also arrived although Kevin had done suitably well until then given the circumstances.

The second half saw Century Park continue to try and break the offside trap and on the few occasions they did, indecisiveness or brilliant goalkeeping by Johnson ensured their advantage wasn’t extended.

In fact, the Marlins had more bodies in support when attacking and began to ask more questions of the opposition. But once Scott confirmed that he is the English teacher of an opponent’s little brother, everyone was able to carry on playing football.

Rosselli saw a right-foot swinger just miss the top corner, while Reid was busy making friends with a defender who was prone to the occasional teenage tantrum. A box of Kleenex or an old sock should sort him out.

The pressure started to mount and nearly told when half-time substitute, PJ (new recruit), whipped in a brilliant cross from the right flank. Rosselli rose highest from 12-yards but saw his header come back off the crossbar.

Scott then picked up the loose ball on the edge of the area and clipped a great pass to Rosselli whose chest and volley was too central, allowing the keeper to palm it wide before his defender bought a foul when under pressure on the rebound.

It was a let off for Century Park but moments later; Rosselli flicked the ball onto the raised hand of the defender to earn Shanghai Marlins a penalty. Scott stepped up and drilled it home, wrong-footing the young goalie in the process.

The Marlins were back in the match and Century Park were wobbling with less than 20-minutes remaining. A freekick in a dangerous position led to another corner, which again saw a goalmouth scramble.

Rodolfo Ossandon then thought he had won another penalty for the boys in blue only to be told the foul was committed on the edge of the box and not inside it.

Time ran out for Shanghai Marlins who felt let down by their first half performance, much like the corresponding fixture.

Dan Griffiths won man of the match following his solid display while there were a few quotes of note:

  • On Johnson’s consistently good distribution, Watson said, “Stop it, Johnson!” Dale thought he meant his latest relationship.
  • Scott encouraged Johnson to take a punt by saying, “Back yourself.” Wise words from the Bearded Magician, who did try a rainbow flick on the shortest full-back…didn’t quite work.
  • Reid provided words of support for young PJ before stating, “It’s like looking in a mirror.” Meaning he thinks he looks like a teenager with blonde hair…

April 10th – Shanghai Marlins 5-1Krauts

A rather depleted Marlins’ squad looked to avenge March’s three-two defeat at the hands of the Krauts.

Due to family commitments, stag-dos, injuries and a two-year-olds’ birthday brunch piss-up, there were only 11 players at manager, Steve Fishwick’s disposal for kick-off. That made team selection like a Louis Van Gaal Man Utd side with many players playing out of position. But unlike Louis Van Gaal, this team comfortably sealed victory. Zing.

There were two welcome new additions to the squad in the shape of forward, Steve, and defender, Etienne. Both put in competent displays with Etienne intent on doing a Pique and joining attack from time to time.

A scrappy opening was expected as both teams had some new players starting. Adjusting to one another meant possession was regularly lost, but it was the Marlins who looked most threatening.

The deadlock was broken when Ignacio Farias finished off a move that involved Pete Rosselli and new recruit, Steve. Playing on the left, Farias found plenty of space as he often made diagonal runs to leave his marker stranded.

Everyone had foolishly assumed that Tony doubled the lead when he tapped in Steve’s mishit cross which came off the crossbar. But the saying, ‘never assume because you make an ass out of you and me’, seemed particularly relevant with Sunday’s officials. A man carrying a flag posed as a linesman throughout the game, presumably on the basis that the original was busy getting tipsy with two-year-olds. He seemed intent on frequently waving to his mate on the other side and unfortunately for Tony and the Marlins, using the hand that was carrying the flag. Despite bewilderment by all involved, the referee backed his newfound colleague and ruled the goal out for offside.

The boys in blue created further chances with Rosselli missing the best of the lot. Failing to get his foot over the ball, the beanpole striker volleyed over with the goal at his mercy when a diving header/leaping header for Wilson Scott would have been the better option. Or anything but what he actually did.

Half-time came with Farias and Rosselli suffering from some unorthodox tackling by the Krauts’ right-back. Farias had a bruised boob, while Rosselli was carrying a bruised knee.

Despite the stagnated performance, Shanghai Marlins looked comfortable and just needed to put the game to bed given that only the late arrival of Jamie Gerrard ensured they had any substitutes at all.

It was two-nil early in the second-half when Etienne drilled home from a goalmouth scramble after Farias’ header was saved.

The Marlins switched off for a brief moment to allow the Krauts back in the game as they scored on the break, a tactic they were trying throughout the match.

But Fishwick’s men responded quickly as Gerrard kept the ball alive in the box and Farias – avoiding a kick from Rosselli – took the loose ball and fired it into the bottom corner to restore their two-goal lead.

Scott then danced his way past a couple of defenders before opening his body and curling into the right corner. His Ali G celebration was immediately questioned by the Bearded Magician himself before anyone else could.

A lack of quality in the final third meant the Marlins failed to take advantage of their openings. But a fifth did arrive when Tony picked up the rebound from Farias’ shot after he hit the inside of the near-post. With players lining up, the American took aim with the outside of his foot and saw his deflected effort go beyond the Krauts keeper – who was more Brad Guzan than the Oliver Kahn from the corresponding fixture.

That was where the scoring ended and the Marlins now have three wins on the bounce. It wasn’t as pretty or convincing a performance as the Japan game but they’ll be hoping to get back to those levels with players returning against Super48.

Man of the match: Ignacio Farias

Kick of the match: Dale Johnson in his nice green boots

April 3rd – Shanghai Marlins 6-2 Japan

Shanghai Marlins took on Japan in a match that was rearranged as other teams had lost too many players to the national holiday weekend.

Both sides were treated to great playing conditions at Century Park as the rain made a very good pitch even better.

The Marlins were without several players who had travelled to Thailand to compete in a tournament with the affiliated team from Saturday’s league, Shanghai Shooters. So as Simon Le Bon Moore was getting his pasty pins out in the sun, his teammates were busy getting dressed under the shelter of the nearby stand before ‘warming-up’ on the wrong side of the Century Park fence. Cheers Karl, you egg.

Due to the numbers and personnel available, Shanghai Marlins reverted to a formation that was regularly used a few seasons ago. The performance that followed suggested it could be making a comeback.

Keen to utilise the space and conditions, the Marlins retained possession and maneuvered the ball like the reigning champions they are. Composed passing with players frequently moving into space saw the boys in blue gain a strong foothold on the game.

There were plenty of flowing moves that deserved better finishing touches. Eventually, one did arrive thanks to captain Jon Banks drilling his effort from the edge of the box into the bottom corner following an assist by Ash Reid.

Against the run of play, Japan equalised with one of their first meaningful attempts on goal. The team that doesn’t stop running or trying, caught the Marlins cold with a quickly taken set-piece leading to a cross stood up to the far post. Their striker – as he often does – headed in to leave Dale Johnson with as much chance as Leicester City winning the Premier Lea…

Despite the setback, Johnson maintained a smile on the face we’d all like to hit and the Marlins responded with arguably the goal of the game.

The ball first found its way across to Dave Watson on the left. His pass down the line (intended for McGoo who was probably on the floor) saw Jamie Lally latch on to it and play a low cross into the box. Pete Rosselli held the ball up before back heeling to Banks. Banks then laid the ball to Lally who had made a run from the left across the area. The Scouser took one touch before slotting into the far corner with aplomb.

Five minutes later, it was three-one when Lally twisted and turned his defender down the right before dribbling along the byline. Rosselli – who looked to make amends for some hesitant and rash finishing – poked in from close range like ladies man Johnson on a Saturday night.

Manager Steve Fishwick was encouraged by the performance and wanted more of the same. The only negative was that his side wasn’t further ahead. However, the manner in which the openings were created was of great delight for all involved.

The second half started much the same with Marlins controlling possession and creating further opportunities.

The fourth arrived when Wilson Scott received the ball just inside the area. Jinking from side to side, the Bearded Magician curled home with his left, wrong footing the keeper in the process.

Japan got another goal back when their captain and midfielder picked up the ball near the Marlins box. With time to look up, he produced a great chip to reduce the deficit.

Marlins’ three-goal lead was restored when Scott scored his second as Emmet O’Brien slipped him in down the right. Hull’s greatest export since Nick Barmby drilled into the far corner in the 80th minute as his goalscoring run continues with five in the last two.

With the clock ticking and Johnson desperate for a piss, Irishman (if you hadn’t guessed it) O’Brien ran at the Japanese defence before cutting onto his right and stroking the ball into the far corner.

Before Johnson could relieve himself, he did find Scott with a dropkick. Of course, he couldn’t keep quiet about it so naturally he made a point of saying, “Don’t move, Wilson.” It was a refreshing change from the hospital balls he was regularly giving Jamie Gerrard.

Full-time arrived, Johnson legged it to the toilets and the Marlins took all three-points in what was one of their best performances of the season.

It could have been double figures but for striking the woodwork on three occasions, some good goalkeeping, blocks by defenders – who must be Ken dolls given where it struck them and their lack of reaction afterwards, and some wayward finishing, particularly from range.

Shanghai Marlins will be hoping to take this form into their next encounter against the Krauts who snuck a three-two win in the corresponding fixture. Sounds like they owe them one, especially Le Bon, who could come up against his mate who wanted to f**king kill him last time.

March 27th – Shanghai Marlins 6-1 Cowboys

 

Three weeks on from the difficult defeat against the Krauts, Shanghai Marlins took on Jekyll and Hyde side, Cowboys.

Cowboys, have a tendency to turn up with a variety of strong, indifferent and weak teams. In the corresponding fixture, the game ended 3-3 with a few too many tracksuit trousers being worn.

Those weren’t needed – but tights and no shorts were apparently – as Shanghai served up a pleasant Sunday Funday, which saw a squad of 15 arrive for Gaffer Steve to pick from.

Looking to get back to winning ways, the Marlins came out ready and raring to go. Cowboys meanwhile, were busy working out how many players are allowed to start a game of football and who everyone was.

It seemed pretty clear that for once, their team name would be pretty accurate.

So with Dale Johnson proving that a beer before the game can make you quite the jovial tit, the boys in blue lined up trying to avoid the complacency that cost them so dearly against the Krauts.

Right from the off it was clear there would only be one winner, but to win you must score and that took longer than anticipated.

Chances were squandered, clearances were made and there were murmurings of, “it’s going to be one of those days.” Doubts arose first when captain Jon Banks saw his penalty saved and subsequently missed the rebound after fellow Scouser and frequent own-name shouter, Jamie Lally, had been brought down in the box.

Five minutes later, the captain received a pass from Pete Rosselli, before stumbling then weaving his way past several players. His low effort managed to hit both posts before coming out.

Lally then saw an effort of his own saved after holding off the defender’s challenge following Rosselli’s through ball.

Rosselli then found himself on the byline having rounded the goalkeeper. His ball across the box was a yard behind the returning Jonny Dicken who ended up like a fish in the net.

Eventually, and after 25 minutes, the deadlock was broken as Ash Reid teed up Wilson Scott to volley home from six yards. It was a well-taken and controlled finish which saw calm restored amongst the side.

Steve made a quick change and moments later it was two.

Lally found himself down the left channel and his low cross saw Scott knick in at the near-post to double his and the Marlins’ tally.

Dicken then crossed for Lally to get the Marlins’ third as his header looped over the bewildered keeper.

That’s how it stayed until the break with little to be said at half-time.

The second half didn’t quite start as anticipated with some players struggling to motivate themselves for the contest. That all changed however, when Cowboys grabbed a surprise consolation.

It all became a little scrappy for the following ten minutes until Rodolfo Ossandon beat the Chinese keeper at his exposed near-post to regain the three-goal lead. The move down the left saw Dicken tee the ball up for the Chilean to strike home.

Banks was desperate to make amends for his earlier miss as he tried to score from a freekick, 35-yards out. Johnson in the Marlins goal wasted no time in shouting, “If you can’t score from 12-yards, you won’t score from there!” Ever the supportive teammate.

Four-one became five-one when man of the match, Scott, completed his hat-trick. The same combination as the opening goal saw Reid find Scott in the middle of Cowboys’ half. The Bearded Magician displayed a great touch before taking on his opponent, shifting the ball to his left and curling in from just outside the area.

With 15 minutes remaining, a couple more subs were made and Tony Trump (it’s a guess) scored his maiden goal. How he scored it is still a mystery, but it’s probably best described as a knee-shin-toe (apt given where we are playing). This was following a scramble in the box from Ossandon’s corner.

The game petered out with Rosselli determined not to score against the keeper and his unorthodox yet effective positioning.

Up next for Shanghai Marlins is Galacticos. With Lions looking about as convincing against Japan as Dave Watson as a teetotal, the season may not be over just yet.

Special mentions:

  • Congratulations to Ash Reid on the birth of his daughter. Next goal = Bebeto celebration.
  • Congratulations to Jamie Gerrard for beating a stocky and overweight dwarf called Alan during his latest boxing match.
  • Congratulations to Dale Johnson for purchasing a nerf gun.
  • Best wishes to Jonny Dicken as he returns to America to continue studying why their people struggle to develop likeable personalities and how did we end up with Adam Christy? LOL.

March 6th – Shanghai Marlins 2-3 Krauts

 

Following a great win against the league leaders, Lions, last week (alliteration-check), Shanghai Marlins took on the Krauts who are largely made up of German players.

A depleted squad required a couple of new additions in the shape of Neil (GK) and Tony (R/LW). Their arrivals, coupled with Adam finally putting his beer down and boots on, allowed Steve to pick his starting line-up from a squad of 15.

The game was a little scrappy in the first few minutes with inaccurate and short passes seeing both teams frequently relinquish possession. But a moment of magic from the Bearded Magician (Wilson Scott) raised the standard of the fixture and broke the deadlock.

Scott picked up the ball in a pocket of space on the halfway line. He saw Pete Rosselli between centre backs and played an inch-perfect, 40-yard pass over the top. Rosselli had the simple task of lobbing the stranded keeper nonchalantly with his first touch to give the Marlins the lead.

However, failing to build on the early goal, the Krauts managed to draw level with a route one attack – a common tactic throughout – as Stas provided the clinical finish.

Despite suffering the setback of conceding an equaliser, the Marlins continued to probe and attack in search of a second goal. The enthusiasm to do so saw Simon Moore concede what can only be described as a ‘common foul’ during a game of football. Unfortunately, the angry German version of Phil Mitchell felt otherwise as he sat on the floor groaning with ‘pain’ and informing Moore that he is going to “f**kin’ get/kill him.” Moore’s response was, “Come on then, you can’t even walk.” (Zing!) Moore stood motionless, cold in expression and rigid in stance. Here’s a guy who goes to the gym and drinks protein shakes like they’re water. He wasn’t going to budge and Felix Mitchell continued to moan.

Such was the commotion – enhanced by the referee’s inconsistencies with yellow cards and failing to acknowledge that Felix really wanted Moore’s frozen blood – that no one took advantage of the situation by impersonating Basil Fawlty to calm things down. “Don’t mention the war. I mentioned it once, but I think I got away with it!”

After the hullabaloo, the game continued and the Marlins were awarded a clear penalty. Clear in that the little Spanish flea (great pre-match tune) gained a power boost via Ash Reid’s shoulders. His disappointment and bemusement at the obvious decision was apparent when he started to walk off the pitch in a tiff. At first, some thought he had been incredibly harshly sent off. Then they realised that he was just being a joke and throwing his toys out the pram. A fellow Spanish teammate said, “cojones”, which GCSE Spanish taught me means, ‘balls’.

Not to be distracted by the impersonation of his own son, Captain Banksy, placed the ball 15 yards from goal…on ‘purpose’ before being encouraged to stop being so bloody arrogant and put it on the penalty spot instead. Taking his time, he stepped up and side-footed home with the keeper diving over and nearly sitting on it. Two-one to the Marlins and normality resumed.

The sulking Spaniard returned to the pitch for kick-off after being convinced by his teammates that he really isn’t a prick…otherwise known as, ‘a white lie’.

Clearly the manner of the goal and behaviour of his teammates riled up the Krauts captain. After misplacing a simple pass, he chose to shout his striker’s name at the top of his voice with the sort of anger you would only see displayed by a German if their towel on a sunbed had been ignored as a mark of territory. It was all getting a little bit odd to be honest.

Half-time came to allow the Marlins a water break, the ref to tally up his yellows – of which he seemed intent on only dishing out to the Krauts once a player has committed five of the same fouls – and the Germans to call their wives and shout at them really really loudly.

Steve made a change to freshen up his side with the intentions of building a cushion to put the game out of sight.

The start of the second half was similar to the first with the boys in blue creating good openings only to be thwarted by some excellent saves by Oliver Kahn. Scott hit the near post – the second time the Marlins had done so during the game – while the Pisco brothers (Alejandro and Rodolfo) both saw good headers very well saved.

Against the run of the play, the angry German captain capitalized on some good fortune as the ball ricocheted into his path for a simple side-foot finish.

After a couple more opportunities squandered, the Krauts counter-attacked and earned a penalty following a desperate, last-ditch lunge by Fabio Gillue. The German captain stepped up and unsurprisingly kicked the ball really hard like a right-footed Jorg Albertz (nostalgia) to put his side into the lead for the first time.

Shocked by the score line, Shanghai Marlins continued to press for an equaliser but simply couldn’t find a way past Kahn.

The final whistle came and even the Krauts’ defenders acknowledged that it was a bit of a smash and grab…probably the same way some of them found their partners.

Wilson Scott was rightfully awarded man of the match. The Banksy pen and Rosselli combo failed to win the three-points this time around but they will be looking to make amends in the next match. Waiting for the Marlins is Japan and they really need to start enjoying themselves when they play. It’s the day of rest after all and next time someone can impersonate Basil Fawlty, bloody do it!

Special mentions:

  • Adam Christy informed us all of his love of cheese.
  • Loic Chudy is off on a business trip to burn his derriere in India.
  • Ash didn’t cry (he laughed) despite the flurry of decisions that went against him.
  • Tony and Neil both made respectable debuts.
  • Simon later got stamped on by Felix Mitchell, still showed no emotion.

February 28th – Shanghai Marlins 2-1 Lions

The game that was cancelled prior to the Chinese New Year break due to -9 degree temperatures took place at Jinqiao on what was initially a scorching day.

Having averaged a game once a month since the start of the season – one more than Abou Diaby – the Marlins were keen to finally discover some sort of rhythm against the league leaders.

The Lions benefitted from having already played a game post Chinese New Year with a comfortable victory against the Marlins’ previous opponents, the Cowboys. Unsurprisingly, it was a different Cowboys side that turned up that week.

With Gui filming ‘One Man and a Little Lady’ and some unfortunate injuries, Gaffer Steve only had 14 players at his disposal.

Like any Donald Trump supporter, Adam and Dave arrived with beers in hand talking nonsense and/or American…should there be any difference. Meanwhile, Pete Rosselli’s brother turned up to prove that there is a nicer version of him in the world.

The game kicked off and so did the wind. A strong gust, which only got stronger, provided a clear advantage to one team over the other. It was just like playing at Stoke, and with the Lions putting out one of their strongest teams, which included Azz and Danny, it posed the question, could they do it on a windy day at Jinqiao?

The French side opted to play with themselves and then the wind in the first half. The game lacked any real pattern and became progressively scrappy but for some moments of neat interchanges down the flanks by the Marlins. The Lions relied on controlled possession, which often broke down when they reached the Marlins’ resolute defence.

The deadlock was broken when Azz got beyond the backline and pulled the ball back for Danny to side foot into the top corner, leaving Dale Johnson with no chance.

Shanghai Marlins struggled to have any meaningful efforts on goal due to the added challenge of Mother Nature. But despite their effort and discipline, they nearly and should have found themselves two behind just before half-time.

Johnson made an initial point blank save which fell kindly to Azz. Showing great awareness, he squared the ball to his teammate who was in a better position for an open goal. But like Steve Stone against QPR or Ronnie Rosenthal against Aston Villa, this Lion shot too high and left the Lions in disbelief…and Johnson chuckling to himself.

Half-time came and Steve was far from upset with the situation. He commended his side on only being a goal down and asked for a bit more belief for the second half. Especially as the wind had picked up to the point that Ash – who along with Banksy put in a great performance – was envied for turning up in a coat as it suddenly became rather chilly on the old Tom, Dick and Harry (willy).

A more imposing start in the second half by the Marlins suggested there was still life in this fixture and with half an hour to play, referee Kevin made sure of it. Jamie Gerrard had been running up and down the right wing in true Gerrard style (i.e. stubbornly aggressive) all game. He found himself latching on to a through ball, which saw him collide with the left-back and earn a debatable penalty. Awarded either out of loyalty to his client and Marlins Captain Banksy or fear of Gerrard, Kevin pointed to the spot like John Travolta in Saturday Night Fever…I wish.

Like all penalty takers, Banksy had to walk 30 yards behind the goal to collect the ball, which gave the Lions plenty of time to shout French obscenities towards the ref. Captain Scouse took a day and an age to place the ball on the spot as he convinced himself Uri Geller was trying to move it (see McAllister’s penalty for Scotland vs England at Euro 96). Eventually, Banksy stepped up and sent the keeper the wrong way to draw his side level.

With that, Steve made a couple of changes and the momentum was suddenly with the boys in blue.

Seventy minutes had gone when Ash Reid floated in a corner to the far post which Wilson ‘The Bearded Magician’ Scott kept alive with a looping header back towards goal. The French keeper (Bernard Lama, I think) flapped and needed one of his centre backs to clear it off the line. Unfortunately for the Lions, the clearance only went as far as Rosselli’s right foot, five yards from goal. Side footing home, Pete continued his tradition of scoring really wanky goals safe in the knowledge that they count just the same as Tony Yeboah’s. But it would be so cool to score one of those one day.

Taking the lead brought the Marlins back to the form of last season where they dug deep, threw everything in the way of anything and refused to lose a winning position. This was proven during a couple of goalmouth scrambles that appeared to include a belly flop or two.

Shanghai Marlins knew it was going to be their day when Dale Johnson was quicker off his line than his namesake and famous career chucking, idiot googling, Saville wannabe, Adam Johnson is to a playground.

The reigning champions held on for a vital victory and maintain hope of catching the Lions with over half a season still to play. Next up is the Krauts, who the Marlins came back from 3-1 down to win 4-3 in one of the most pivotal games of last season.

Man Of The Match: Honours were shared between Dan Griffiths and Wilson Scott who both put in great performances in their respective positions. It’s always a good sign when there’s more than one man of the match and fingers crossed for more of the same this Sunday!

PLEASE NOTE: Dale Johnson only shares his surname with Adam Johnson and nothing else.

January 17th – Shanghai Marlins 3-3 Cowboys

 

Another long break between games following that annual and merry celebration known as Christmas meant the Marlins were playing their first match since the end of November. Although, the hardcore Marlins who hadn’t gone back home to enjoy mummy’s cooking did attend the Santa Cup 8-a-side tournament on 7th December and subsequently won it with eight players. That’s four wins out of the last four competitions on offer, making Steve Fishwick (and sidekick Marlin) a genuine candidate for any of the top Premier League jobs.

Providing the opposition this week were Cowboys who when it comes to team selection are about as predictable as the aforementioned Premier League. The previous week saw them comfortably defeated 8-3 by a weakened ERS side. But true to form, when facing the Marlins and reigning champions, they bring a younger, more athletic squad of players. Fortunately that often suits the Marlins as those who don the blue shirts enjoy a competitive and physical game.

Despite the Cowboys’ fancy boots and hairbands, it was the number of tracksuit wearing players that caught most of the attention prior to kick-off. One player in fact resorted to a hoody under his shirt because apparently he grew up on the sun. Suffice to say, there should be a complaint lodged as it doesn’t do much for the league’s reputation when one team turn up wearing team tracksuit tops and polo’s, then the compulsory socks, shorts and shirts that match their teammates for the game, while the other team are dressed like they’re about to attend a lifeguard exam with Dave at the local swimming pool.

Shanghai Marlins had a squad of 15 to choose from despite a few absentees due to injury and work.

Looking to get off to a fast start, the Marlins took the game to their Chinese opponents and threatened to exploit the gaps in their defence on a number of occasions. The Cowboys’ tactic appeared to be over-playing it in the middle before a long diagonal ball behind the fullbacks.

It was the Marlins however, who broke the deadlock as Gui played in Jamie Lally. His initial effort was saved by the rather tall keeper but Jamie Gerrard like a bull in a…picked up the rebound and drove through the defence before squeezing his shot past the keeper.

Cowboys rarely threatened and were resorting to ambitious and sometimes very well executed attempts on goal from distance.

The Marlins had a very good chance to double their lead following great work by Pete Roberts down the left hand side. The Welshman dug out an inviting cross to the back post that Pete Rosselli only managed to volley towards the roof of the net, which suited this particular keeper.

Eventually, the pressure told when Ashley Reid floated in a great cross for an unchallenged Gui Leclerq to head home at the back stick. It was a deserved goal as the Marlins were creating by far the better chances. They were unfortunate to have an earlier one-on-one opportunity cut short by the referee’s whistle for what he deemed a foul, known in England as a tackle.

Half time came and the Marlins were looking comfortable and playing fairly well considering the long break, which subsequently led to several impressions of Tom Hanks from Castaway.

The start of the second half saw more of an attacking intent from Cowboys but the Marlins rarely looked troubled. As a result, there appeared to be more gaps down the channels but the boys in blue weren’t able to exploit them as well as they should.

With a little over half an hour to play, Cowboys won a freekick on the right touchline just inside the Marlins’ half. With Dave Watson berating the hopping Chinese winger who was escorted off the pitch for some magic water treatment, their centre-back stepped up and took aim from all of 45 yards. If Sir Alex Ferguson thinks that Charlie Adam’s left foot alone is worth £15m then this lads wouldn’t be too far behind. It was a very well struck effort that left Dale Johnson no chance in goal.

Whilst some of the Marlins were debating whether the referee had blown his whistle or not, the quality of the goal had to be appreciated and it seemed to shake Shanghai Marlins a little.

Less than ten minutes later and the game was turned on its head as the Cowboys equalised with a dipping volley from outside the area. It was another fine strike but a lack of consistency in terms of ‘high boots’ led to protests by some of the aggrieved Marlins.

The game now was very much in the balance but the Marlins showed great character to regain the lead via another great delivery by Reid. His freekick found Jonny White who was left with the simple task of nodding home from close range.

A little over ten minutes remained for the Marlins to hold on to a lead, which over the course of the game they very much deserved.

Unfortunately, the Cowboys had other ideas as they won a very contentious free kick to the left of the Marlins’ penalty area. As the players were arguing the decision, they lost concentration and the Chinese side capitalized with a low flick on towards the far post. It was a very soft goal that you’d normally only associate with Liverpool.

There wasn’t enough time to take the lead again and so the points were shared. At times it got a little heated but it was generally a good competitive game.

Shanghai Marlins have paid the price for lacking discipline and concentration on a few occasions this season. As a result, they’ve been unable to take all three points from games against Gremio, ERS and Cowboys, which those performances had merited. They need to realise that no one is going to hand them the win and that the opportunity to do so is always within their hands. Of course, a few moments of bad luck or poor officiating might make it harder but that’s all it does.

Next up is another tough match against arguably the most in-form side this season, the Lions. Another long break for Chinese New Year after this means the Marlins need to get back to winning ways to ensure their right in the thick of it for the second half of the season.

November 11th – Shanghai Marlins 3-4 Gremio

After one game in the last seven weeks – enough time for Leeds to change manager three times, Jesse Lingard to ‘earn’ an England call-up and Daniel Sturridge to have six injuries – the Marlins took on regular rivals Gremio at Jinqiao.

Having won three of their four fixtures so far this season – a season that started in August – the Marlins were keen to get more points on the board ahead of what stops England from winning any tournament…the winter break.

Gremio are as consistent in their style of play as they are in punctuality. Having ten players available for the first 15 minutes provided them an opportunity to start on the back foot and look for the long ball over the top whether it was from fullback or central midfield.

Shanghai Marlins meanwhile had a depleted squad due to work and family commitments or being dressed as a pigeon firmly under the thumb of someone in Taiwan…McGoo!

Despite the lack of players, practice and match fitness, the Marlins started the game with the sort of attacking intent only matched by Dale at an open bar.

The early pressure didn’t result in an opening goal but there were gaps to exploit once the final ball was mastered.

With Gremio now able to field 11 players, the Marlins stopped being charitable and leaned towards clinical. Gui Leclerq was a persistent threat on the last man and as Wilson Scott played him in down the left channel, the Frenchman cut inside the right back before unleashing an unstoppable shot into the far top corner. It was postage stamp stuff and a deserved lead for the boys in blue.

Gremio coincidentally grew into the game as their squad increased. They threatened on a number of occasions as their striker was in a one-on-one battle with Dale Johnson in the Marlins’ goal. The English keeper was foiling his opponent with the help of some desperate defending and the woodwork. But that barrier was eventually broken when Gremio capitalized on a fortuitous decision.

The Marlins had a freekick in a dangerous position, which nearly resulted in a second goal, only for a Gremio thigh diverting a goal bound effort wide. Expecting a corner, the referee opted to go with his better (clearly worse) judgment and award a goal kick. Gremio quickly broke down the right before squaring it for a tap-in. One-one with around 15 minutes left of the first half.

Little else happened and half time arrived. Gaffer Steve emphasised the need to retain possession better and not rush passes so often. There were periods of good football, but a combination of poor decision-making and execution in the final third was costing the side victory. Perhaps the more technical and classy players were struggling with a Jinqiao pitch, which needed as much trimming as a 55-year old free-spirited, feminist Ayi in Zhejiang.

The second half kicked off, once the officials had their exact 15 minutes break. Shanghai Marlins came out with renewed energy and focus, taking the game to their opponents. They pressed higher up the pitch, kept possession longer and looked the more threatening. But Gremio still had their long-ball tactic and target man looking to capitalize on any mistakes or lapses of concentration.

Shanghai Marlins retook the lead following some good interchange between Wilson and Ale Ossandon down the left hand side. The bearded magician weaved his way through the defence before opening up his body and passing into the far corner. The Marlins were now 2-1 up.

Within ten minutes, Gremio had leveled. A miss-hit pass kindly landed at the feet of the lone striker who turned and slotted the ball home. It was a deflating way to concede and a real test of the Marlins’ character, especially as they were threatening to get that all-important two-goal advantage.

Instantly, the reigning champions replied. Gui found Wilson on the left from kick-off. Wilson then carried the ball towards a back pedaling defender before returning the ball to Gui. The Frenchman took aim from all of 25 yards, rifling a shot towards goal. It looked destined for the net as the keeper dived at full stretch. It cannoned off the inside of the post, heading towards the left side of the area. Wilson was quickest to react and his well-struck first time effort was punched clear by the keeper. Pete Rosselli picked up the loose ball on the right side of the area, turned his marker and approached the next defender. His two-footed lunge, whilst winning the ball, was deemed dangerous play and the referee awarded the Marlins a penalty. Pete was relieved he didn’t need to leave his foot in to claim a foul as his lack of insurance could have left him up the creek without a paddle.

Gui took responsibility from 12-yards and made no mistake. Shanghai Marlins were leading for a third time.

However, once again, a miss-hit shot by a Gremio player bounced into the ground, deflected off a Marlins defender and landed on the chest of the lone striker. He controlled the ball before volleying past Dale to claim his hat-trick.

Shanghai Marlins tried to regroup and get a fourth goal as Gui saw a freekick deflect off a Gremio shoulder before striking the bar. He had another freekick in a more central position but apparently the wall no longer needs to stand ten yards from the ball. Instead, it should be ten baby steps as clearly demonstrated by the vertically challenged referee. It was seven yards according to Gui’s strides. It wasn’t the only curious display of officiating.

With around 15 minutes to go (magic time reference for this game), Gremio took the lead. Their winger cut in from the left and shot from outside of the area. His effort was too hard for Dale to get a firm hand onto and it found the bottom corner…and a hole in the net, which Kevin the ref would have given a corner for had it been two seasons ago. Still bitter about that.

Despite their best efforts, Shanghai Marlins couldn’t respond to another blow and salvage a point from the game. Gremio ran out winners on a frustrating and disappointing day for the Marlins.

It’s another three weeks until the ERS game, which will be the last before the Christmas holidays. To keep up with the other teams, the Marlins will have to put in a big performance against the side that narrowly missed out on the title last season.

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On a more important note, this game was played under a dark cloud of grief following the atrocities in Paris the previous Friday. Unfortunately, it’s a sad reality that it often takes a tragic event or circumstance to put our own situations in perspective. We are incredibly lucky to have the opportunity to play football with our friends in a safe environment and this should always be appreciated and never forgotten.

A minute’s silence was perfectly honoured out of respect to those who had their lives stolen and for a nation smarting from the inhumane and merciless actions of terrorists.

Shanghai Marlins is proud and privileged to have two of its brothers from France. Gui Leclerq and Loic Chudy are patriotic men who will naturally be suffering more than most during this difficult time for their families and people. As proven both on and off the field in the past, when one brother suffers, we all suffer. So on behalf of the Marlins, let it be known that we are here for support. Allez les Bleus!

October 18th – Shanghai Marlins 3 – 2 Super 48

Marlins back on track – just!
After the disappointment of the Century Park Result, Shanghai Marlins needed to get back to winning ways in defence of their title. On a beautiful sunny day at Lan’an Stadium, Marlins were close to full strength with a megasquad of 20, watched by their loyal fans and a good contingent of passers-by.
Marlins looked sharp from kick-off, and came close a couple of times before an in-swinging McGoo corner found the net courtesy of a deflection off an unfortunate Japanese defender. 1-0 and Marlins were cruising.
Given the size of the squad (and the heat) manager Fishwick looked to change things round a bit at the half hour mark, unfortunately with disastrous consequences. Following a particularly chaotic substitution, where Marlins had either 10 or 12 players on the pitch, Super 48 took advantage with a great through ball and their pacey striker equalized coolly past Dale, who up to this point had barely touched the ball. 1-1, and things got worse within minutes when the tiny Japanese striker (their only man in the box) rose unchallenged amongst a forest of giant Marlins to nod home a second. 1-2, half time and some serious soul searching. To make matters worse playmaker Wilson was withdrawn with a deadleg, and Marlins heads were dropping.
The second half settled into a disjointed pattern, with Marlins dominating possession and Super 48 looking to strike on the break. They nearly succeeded on a couple of occasions, but fortunately the returning Johnson (nearly 100%) was on fine form to keep them out.
Increasingly desperate, Fishwick chopped and changed looking for the formula to unpark the Japanese bus. New striker Johnny White was introduced (“the best striker in Beijing except for me” according to Gui) and he had an immediate impact with a deft touch near the sideline taking out 3 Sunday Brunches in Blue Frog. Welsh Pete brought some much needed energy to midfield, and finally with 15 minutes to go Gui bundled home the equalizer at the far post. Not pretty, but a poachers goal.
It was all Marlins now, and as the clock ticked down towards the final whistle they struck the decisive blow. After 85 minutes of gentle encouragement from Gui, Fabio finally got his crossing right and picked out Ironman Jamie G at the far post who made no mistake from 5 yards. 3-2. Still time for a couple of jittery moments but the Blues held on to take all 3 points. Next up are lIMG_0937ast season’s runners up ERS; we will need to be better.