Aaron Mooy marked his 30th birthday and new surroundings in style on Tuesday by scoring the decisive goal on his debut as Shanghai SIPG defeated Wuhan Zali 2-1 in the Chinese Super League.
Mooy came off the bench at the start of the second half and helped Shanghai’s former English Premier League contingent move into gear.
Former West Ham United striker Marko Arnautovic headed home a corner from ex-Chelsea midfielder Oscar on the hour to give Shanghai the lead.
With 20 minutes remaining, Oscar found Mooy on the edge of the area and the Socceroo, who joined the 2018 Chinese champions at the end of August in a surprise move from Brighton & Hove Albion, fired a low shot home and then celebrated with his new team-mates.
Eddy Gnahore netted for Wuhan to set up a tense finish 10 minutes from time to set up a tense finish but Shanghai held out for the win.
The day before the game, Shanghai coach Vitor Pereira had told reporters that Mooy, who had only finished two weeks of quarantine after arriving from England and just started training with the team, was unlikely to start but he was fit enough to make a difference when he came on.
“I have only just arrived so my physical condition is not what it could be,” Mooy told Chinese television after the game.
“The coach asked me before kick-off if I could play some part in the game and of course I was happy to do so.”
Mooy told fans that his best was yet to come: “I am not yet familiar with the Chinese Super League though when I played in Australia, I watched a lot of Asian football and that helps. I still need more time to adapt.”
Coach Periera was happy with the new addition to the team.
“Mooy is a very good player,” the Portuguese boss said. “He was a top player in the Premier League but he physically wasn’t ready to play a full 90 minutes.
“We have to be a little careful with his physical condition and take it slowly, but he did very well in this game and I am very satisfied with his performance.”
The win keeps Shanghai on top of Group B in the league, which has been divided into two groups of eight, and the team are next in action against Chongqing Lifan on Saturday.