As far as comebacks are concerned, this is very much a heart-warming one. When the Covid-19 pandemic struck, former Everton and Manchester United midfield ace Marouane Fellaini became a victim. The Belgian schemer tested positive for the coronavirus earlier this year after switching to Shandong Luneng in February.
Fellaini, instantly recognisable during his time in the English Premier League for his mass of hair, had to spend most of March in isolation at Jinan hospital (it specialises in infectious diseases) following a return to China after spending time in Dubai when the outbreak occurred.
But the agony of his stay in hospital and the debilitating effects of Covid-19 must have been all but a distant memory when he bagged an astonishing hat-trick of headed goals in just eight minutes to earn his side an amazing comeback win over a disbelieving Dalian Pro in the first match of the new Chinese Super League campaign.
Fellaini, who is still aged only 32 (Premier League managers in need of a dynamic midfielder take note), nodded in the first of his trio in the 79th minute, then struck once more in the 83rd minute — and he was on hand to complete his remarkable hat-trick three minutes later to give Shandong Luneng a 3-2 triumph on the road.
Former Liverpool and Newcastle United manager Rafael Benitez, now the head coach at Dalian Pro, looked on in disbelief. It had all seemed an unlikely outcome after ex-West Bromwich Albion and Magpies goal-getter Salomon Rondon had nodded the home side into a 57th-minute advantage. Marcus Danielson added a second with the game almost complete but there was not enough time for the Spanish coach to steer his side to a point.
Simon Redman, an observer and sometime pundit on the Chinese Super League, said that Fellaini’s hat-trick was the talk of the opening day round of encounters. He added:
“It’s a great story, certainly for Fellaini and Shandong Luneng but not so much for poor old Rafa Benitez or Dalian Pro, of course. But Fellaini had a day he will remember for quite some time.
“Obviously, he would have expected to be a bit sluggish given that he actually had the virus and spent time in hospital because of it. But to play such a pivotal role in claiming the victory is testimony to his athleticism, desire and professional capability.
“He had a lot of special days during his time in England but you have to wonder of any of his feats with Everton or United match this one. I suspect not!”
The win means they are fourth in the table. They are next in action on Friday when they are on the road again to face to Jiangsu Suning.