September 4th – Shanghai Marlins 2-0 Japan

It hadn’t felt that long since the end of last season until you realised that during the same period…

> Lionel Messi retired then returned to International football.

> England stuck to tradition by prematurely leaving an international tournament, this time losing to a supermarket chain endorsed by 2001’s mum of the year, Kerry Katona.

> Brexit happened…kind of, which saw David Cameron replaced by scary sounding lady with ‘T’ and ‘M’ in her initials. Reeeeemind you of anybody?

> Donald Trump continued his pursuit of the US Presidency with a flurry of insulting, contradictive, sexist, incestuous, hypocritical and racist remarks. He’s still in the race.

> And the equivalent of Djibouti’s GDP for 2015 (over a billion pounds) was spent on transfers by Premier League clubs during the summer.

So after a nice rest – unless you’re Jamie Gerrard who insists on doing daily decathlons for a holiday – the Shanghai Marlins and a few new recruits rolled up to Jinqiao to take on age deceiving Japan.

Andreij Petrescu, James Moss, Carl Edwards and Dragon Steven (Fong) made their debuts for Steve Fishwick’s side on what was another hot and sunny day in Shanghai.

Marlins’ eight-strong Academy was also out in full force to provide a welcome distraction from the irrelevant football.

The opening stages of the match saw Shanghai Marlins control most of the possession but fail with the final delivery. Jamie Lally headed over while Moss shot just wide.

Japan’s agile keeper parried a couple of efforts out for corners following decent strikes by both Moss and Wilson Scott.

Around the half hour mark, the Marlins found the breakthrough their dominance deserved. The Bearded Magician (Scott) curled in a teasing cross that forced Gerrard into the kind of dive often associated with Michael Phelps. The ball ended up at the feet of Gui Leclerq whose strike was somehow cleared off the line. The rebound fell to Mike McGirr who managed to drag his shot wide enough to hit the grounded keeper before ending up in the back of the net. One-nil to the Marlins and very much an own goal!

Within ten minutes, the lead was doubled when Gerrard headed an out swinging corner back across goal. McGirr then did his best David Platt impression with a fine overhead kick, leaving no disputes over the scorer this time.

Half-time arrived along with a much needed water break.

Fishwick had one of his biggest and strongest squads to rotate so fresh legs weren’t an issue against a side that refuses to give up or stop running.

Early into the second half, McGirr had a chance to put clear daylight between both sides but his chipped effort came back off the crossbar and was cleared to safety.

A sluggish second half livened up when Gerrard and Ash Reid put in a couple of tasty challenges. It certainly got Edwards riled up as he went all Rick Flair on us with a couple of encouraging woos!

Despite a couple of scares, Dale Johnson rarely looked troubled in the Shanghai Marlins’ goal. The charismatic man-child produced some fine distribution throughout, earning him a share of the man of the match award with new arrival and PA, Moss.

Gentle Geordie, Dave Watson returned from a summer of meditation to put in a typically solid performance. His cultured lug down field nearly put Lally through on goal but the Japanese defender did just enough.

With less than ten minutes remaining, Pete Rosselli was teed up by Scott’s lay-off but the beanpole forward dragged his shot well wide when taking a touch would have been a better choice/attempt at goal.

The final whistle was blown and Shanghai Marlins claimed a steady three-points to get their season underway.

Next week will be the official season opener with a small-sided tournament and ceremony. The Marlins will be hoping for more success having won the last three tournaments held by the Shanghai Premier League.