Time to say “Goodbye 2020”

goodbye 2020It’s time to say “goodbye 2020”. This year will go into the history books as the year of the covid-19 pandemic. Before January 2020, all was fine and we were doing good in all the leagues (especially the SPL U18-U16). However, disaster struck during the Chinese New Year leading China in a high state of alert. All the schools got closed and any kind of sports activities became forbidden… meaning no more training and no more matches. In the end, only the legends have been able to finish the 2020/2021 veteran league. For the record, Japan FC took the title with a blasting finish.

As for the new season 2020/2021:

  • For the senior team, we did make a change over the summer as we decided to rejoin the SIFL league. The concept is simple… combine our experienced seniors with youth players who are the closest becoming “men”. The icing on the cake, playing on Saturday in SIFL will no longer conflict with Sunday league for the legends. On the management side, we are pleased Fehd recently joining the team. Football-wise, we have experienced mixed results in the league. This is completely normal as it takes time to find the right formation and balance.
  • For the youth academy (13 to 18 yo), we organized several friendly against other youth teams. As usual, Patrick and Nick are leading the training every Thursday. Last but not least we started a Lions U9 team which is probably the most positive news of the year. They are trained by our own older youth players Jason & YU Xuan (now both playing in the first team).U9 league matches are on Sunday mornings at Qi Yi. It is a joy to watch them play and they are doing very well.

Honestly, it is good to see that the Lions are having a great future going forward in the years to come. Now, we are working towards the next step which is to create a Lions U13 team. If we can achieve this, we will have a complete football club from the youngest (6 yo) to the oldest (over 60 yo)… All of them playing under the Shanghai Lions FC banner!

As every year, we lost players who had to leave China for family or work reasons. Because of covid-19, we also lost players who left China for the CNY holiday but couldn’t come back still… Incredible and it’s really time to say “goodbye 2020”! Luckily, we found new players willing to join us. Looking at the talent of our youth players, our future is looking good.

We’d like to wish everybody a Merry Christmas. Happy, Healthy, and Safe 2021. Last but not the least, “goodbye 2020”!!!

Freek
Shanghai Lions President on behalf of the Lions’ management team

Lions end year 2020 with a win

It was our last match of the year 2020. A difficult year for everyone due to Covid 19. We wanted the win badly, especially because we wanted to enjoy our yearly Christmas party scheduled later that same night. For this game, our seniors were against Pure FC although the weather was not ideal with a pollution level over 250 PMI 🙁

In the first half, we tried to get control of the match but were too slow and lost many battles against the solid Japanese defenders of Pures. The strategy was to focus on corners and free-kicks in order to score. Although we got plenty of them, we failed to convert any of them. We did take the lead but saw our goal overruled by the linesman who had seen the ball cross the last line and gave a goal kick instead. We were lucky when suddenly Patrick found himself in an awkward position when he was the last man and super fast Japanese striker went on the run to our goalie. Patrick fell over him and was lucky not to be sent-off.

It was 0-0 after 45mn. The talk during half-time was not so nice pointing out the lack of will to win and to score. There was no way we could go to the Christmas dinner without the win and in the second half, we played much better. Especially Hao Nan on the wings was a constant threat and he had a great strike hitting the crossbar. Finally, our reward came when Tiger was set up thru the middle and he kept his calm to make it 1-0 for us. Our confidence got better and we started to play well. However, when we were about to score the second one we lost the ball upfront and the Japanese made a trademark counter. We didn’t react fast enough and they equalized with a great strike from outside the box hitting the left post in.

It was now or never for us and a superb strike from George gave us back the lead. Now, we knew we would not give it away anymore. Instead, Samba scored our third goal and Philipp almost made it four. The final whistle marked the end of the year 2020 with a 3-1 victory for the Lions.

[ SIFL ] Shanghai Lions FC 3-1 Pures

The bus ride back to the Shanghai Town and Country Club was a pleasure with plenty of beers and good music. It was the start of a great evening out. We will have a short break now and we will be back on January 5th for our training. Our first match will be on January 9th, 2021.

Cheers
Happy Freek

First team lose against Azzurri

AzzurriLast Saturday, our first team had a late kick-off against last year’s SIFL champion Azzurri. No need for extra motivation for this kind of big game and started the match well. Our objective was not to give away anything and try to find space on the wings. We opted to start with more experienced players and let our youngster come in at a later stage in the match.

On a side note, the referee was annoying and disturbed the match blowing his whistle every 5 seconds… It’s hard to play football in this kind of condition. He had one bizarre call for an unintentional back pass from Pat to our goalkeeper Marcel within the box… Luckily their free-kick shot went wide. On our side, we got a free-kick on the edge of the box but Pat’s effort was saved by Azzurri’s keeper.

It was a slip up in concentration and communication that changed the game. On a cross from the side, 2 players were looking at each other asking who would clear the ball. Azzuri punished that second of hesitation and took a 1-0 lead. We brought Jason to get some speed forward but he was very unlucky twisting his shoulder after only 5mn… Game over for him. We didn’t have many upfront options left with Kyle and Jason both were injured. We tried to get into halftime 1-0 down but with 2mn to go, we gifted them another early Xmas gift… Instead of clearing the ball away quickly enough, Azzurri’s striker got a favorable counter block into our central defender’s feet… One on one versus Marcel and 2-0 lead for Azzurri.

In the second half we didn’t give up and kept trying but hardly came into the box of the Azzurri. We lost FL with an injury and put Dan up in the last 15 minutes but nothing changed for us. The Azzurri scored in the last 5 minutes a goal that smelled offside. Unfortunately, we didn’t protest enough to make the lineman raise his flag… This is called experience!

[ SIFL ] Shanghai Lions FC 0-3 Azzurri FC

The difference between us and the Azzurri was the experience. Azzurri team has a squad of fully experienced players whereas we are working with youngsters. It’s all about learning and training hard to improve yourself and to improve the play as a team. Next time we will do better Lions! This coming Saturday, we will play the Pures. This is another Japanese team and only a win will do for us.

Cheers
Freek

Lions took 3rd place in the Santa Cup 2020

Santa Cup 2020While the Lions had won the previous edition for the 1st time ever, it was quite frustrating to see so many Lions’ players not being able to play in the Santa Cup 2020 for various reasons. A pity as this tournament has become a real tradition… 10 years now that we play with the Santa hats in Shanghai in a super fun and friendly mood. A perfect way to celebrate the arrival of Christmas and the end of the year.

With 15 minutes before the tournament kick-off, we had only 5 players… Luckily, we managed to take the Japan FC captain on loan for the tournament. For our first match, we were playing Super 48. We got a few opportunities to score but found it hard to hit the target… On their side, they had one counter but their effort was saved. It stayed at 0-0.

In the second game against PF united, we had Fabi on the team. We played him on top and he did well setting up other players to score. It was Nikko who after two earlier efforts gave us a 1-0 lead. Unfortunately, we dropped a bit our focus. At the end of the game, we didn’t clear a ball in our box and scored an own goal… 1-1 as the final score 🙁

In the third game, we were up against Wellington. We played much better but couldn’t convert so it stayed 0-0.

In the fourth game, we were up against the Bulls who were eager to win the tournament. Both teams defended well. Not so many scoring opportunities… another 0-0.

In the last group stage game, we played Scotland. Everything worked out well for the Lions with fluent football style. Fabi gave us the lead after a penalty. Soon he scored the 2-0 on a fast counter with a great thru ball from Julia. After a superb save from our Japanese goalie, we went on flying scoring another 2 goals! 4-0 victory over Scotland in just 15 minutes.

In our last match, we were up against the strong Chinese team and we showed our character. After 8 minutes, our opponent changed its whole team bringing another 7 fresh players on. We stayed focused in the back trying to launch Fabi with two players on him all the time. It worked well as Fabi finally scored the well deserved 1-0 lead… No way we would let the lead go! After the final whistle, we were happy with the 3rd place result out of 12 teams.

This 3rd place in the Santa Cup 2020 edition was achieved with a very thin squad who shown great spirit during the whole tournament. Well done Julia, Matze, Manu, Yang, Mehdi, Fabi, Nikko, and our Japanese goalie friend. Last but not the least, let me share a small video of the event we organized the day before for the SPL Youth. All is said when you watch the smile on their face.

Cheers
Freek

Legends shown character vs. Wellington Champs

Wellington ChampsLast Sunday, our legends were up against Wellington Champs to relaunch the machine after the defeat versus Japan FC the game before. For this game, we were missing a few players… Among others, our goalkeeper Clement was missing… He had a good excuse as he had been trapped the night before for his bachelor party. Luckily, this was anticipated and a few seniors came to complete the squad.

In the 1st quarter, we were organized in 4-4-2 with Sylvain & Julia in the middle. We combined very well in the 1st 15 minutes and could have scored 2 or 3 goals… Unfortunately, the finishing was not there and we got punished on Wellington’s only opportunity with a free-kick on the far 2nd post. It landed on an opponent who crucified the keeper on a close shot. A wake-up call for the legends who reacted immediately with a goal from newbie Tiger.

At the break, the coach’s speech was pretty positive. Oddly, the machine got stuck in the 2nd quarter… We lost our fast short passing style and started to throw long balls upfront. It didn’t work with the same punishment… An easy pass ended up in Wellington’s striker feet while we had an easy ball in defense. As a consequence, he finished us off while our keeper FL didn’t know if he shall move forward or keep on its line. 2-1 for Wellington Champs at half-time.

Nothing special to be mentioned about the 3rd quarter with a lot of approximations on both sides. To be honest, it was not very pretty to watch.

In the last quarter, our objective was to score a minimum of 2 goals in order to keep a minimum hope for the title race… Easy to say but not always easy to do! So, we started to play higher on the pitch and press our opponents. It proved to work with the attack being able to create several opportunities. After 10 minutes, Tiger scored his second goal quickly followed by a third. 1st hattrick for his 1st game for the legends… well done! 3-2 for the legends and final score 🙂 

[ SPL V ] Shanghai Lions FC 3-2 Wellington Champs

Cheers
FL

Important victory vs. Shanghai Vikings

Shanghai VikingsAfter our last minute disaster last week against Reunited, our goal was to get the three points and turn around our misfortune. For this game, our first team was up against the Shanghai Vikings… a mature team but not the fittest of the SIFL league. Therefore, we knew we had a chance to get the win. While Juliano is still injured, we were happy to have Marcel, a new German goalkeeper to help us out.

We started well not giving anything away and tried to play on the counters. The Shanghai Vikings opted for long balls only but didn’t have many players going forward. One of their best players was unlucky and got injured after 10 minutes. We took the lead after a free-kick which Philipp took well and put the ball at the low left corner. We did get opportunities to extend the lead but we were not sharp and focused enough to kill the game.

In the second half, we tried to score the second goal quickly but instead, we almost let them score… A wake-up call for the Lions! Within 15mn to go, we got our reward with a good combination between George & Jason. It saw George’s header hit the crossbar but Kyle was alert and scored what we thought was the winner. However, a small defensive error put them back into the game. Therefore, we had another 10mn of nerve-wracking game time before the referee decides to whistle the end game.

[ SIFL ] Vikings 1-2 Shanghai Lions FC

Our players getting injured in the last moment of the match and the coaches trying to fix the problems… It was hard at the end of the game and we shouldn’t get ourselves into this position in the first place… Still, we got our three points and that’s what counts at this stage.

Next up will be a hard match against the Azzurri who won the league last season. We have nothing to lose but and will give them a hard time! See you all on Tuesday.

Cheers
Freek

Friendly vs. Juventus Academy Shanghai

Juventus Academy ShanghaiLast Sunday, our youth team was up against Juventus Academy Shanghai for a friendly game. And it was the kind of response we were expecting from the team after the last poor Thursday training. Our prematch speech was very simple “Stop always arguing and let your feet do the talking!”

Against Juventus, it is always a difficult game as they do have a couple of skillful players. However, in the first 30 minutes, we probably played our best football this year.

  1. A solid backline who played simple and took care of the Juventus forwards.
  2. Our midfield running the show with fast combinations and a lot of movement
  3. Our fast forwards Kyle & Jason being a constant threat to Juventus’ defense line

The good thing is that older players took their responsibilities. They lead the team but also helped younger players to catch up. As a result, we managed to outplay the defense of Juventus Academy Shanghai many times resulting in a 4-0 lead.

Football is a mind game and when you get older and get more experience you will be more prepared to deal with it. We surely got opportunities to make it 5-0 or 6-0 but we drop a bit our focus and missed those chances… On the other side, we conceded two goals by our own mistakes and we gave them a lifeline to come back in the match.

At halftime, we told our players to be careful and to defend our lead as if Juventus would score another one it will change the game completely as we would feel down and their spirit would be up. So It is exactly what happened within only 5 minutes in the second half… As they got their early goal, it was only uphill and we kind of collapsed for a while.

After being 5-4 down, we did get our composure back, created good chances, and almost leveled the match. As for highlights, a great strike from Daniel and a super run and cross-in combo from JP should have turned into goals.

Let’s all come to training on Thursday and we make it one of the best sessions of the season.

Cheers
Patrick, Nick & Freek

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