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Chinese media impressed with hat-trick hero Mooy ahead of new season

Aaron Mooy in action for Shanghai Port Source: Getty Images

The Shanghai Youth Daily said "Aaron Mooy is on fire and looks key to Shanghai’s title ambitions" after the Australian midfielder scored a hat-trick in Shanghai Port’s 5-0 pre-season thrashing of Shandong Taishan at the weekend.

It was an imperious performance from Mooy against the Chinese FA Cup winners from last season - no lower league minnows, even if stars such as Marouane Fellaini were missing.

With a goal in the first half and two in quick succession in the second, Mooy, playing further up the field, was everywhere for the team formerly known as SIPG.

Internet giant Sohu was impressed: "Mooy looks to be in extremely good form and showed the kind of fighting performance that coach Ivan Leko has called for."

Shandong fans were left lamenting the inability of their players to track Mooy’s runs and match his energy.

In contrast, Shanghai supporters are looking forward to the new season more than they expected and wonder if the Australian can step up to be a leader and replace, in part at least, the departed Hulk.

There is talk of how this was the midfielder they expected when Mooy suddenly signed for the club in August from Brighton and Hove Albion.

Arriving in the middle of a Chinese Super League season that was unlike any other, with the clubs split into two groups of eight in Dalian and Suzhou, players had to stay in hotel rooms and emerged only for food, training and games.

Going from England to China is a cultural jump at the best of times but this was something else and it was no surprise that it took Mooy time to settle.

If going to China was especially tough last season, then Shanghai also presented problems.

The 2018 champions lost out to Jiangsu Suning but long before the season officially ended, there were reports of a split between coach Vitor Pereira and star striker Hulk which cast a cloud over everything.

Both have since departed. Everyone knew the Portuguese boss was not going to be offered a new contract, just like everyone knew Hulk was not going to stay after his four years came to an end.

The Brazilian was the model import and after starring for Shanghai, fans were sorry to see him go.

Mooy is starting to suggest that he may be stepping up to provide some of the leadership needed after Hulk’s departure.

The Australian’s first full season could be the one where he helps lead Shanghai to their second title.

It was noted that all five goals were scored by foreigners and while Shanghai may have lost Hulk, they still have Oscar, Marko Arnautovic and Ricardo Lopes - the best foreign contingent in a league that has seen some talented players leave in recent times.

New coach Leko, the former Croatian international who led Club Brugge to the 2017-18 Belgian Pro League title, has promised a more attacking and ambitious attitude.

“I hope we can take some risks and play with rhythm and intensity this season,” he said.

“This is the philosophy that we have begun to instil in the team and we hope to create a more united and integrated team, I believe that everyone can prepare for each game through training and I am confident, looking forward to the new season.”

The Chinese Football Association had hoped to kick off the new season in April but the situation is still unclear.

When it does start, if Mooy and Shanghai can reproduce their latest performance, then the title will not be far away.