Our Asian football expert reflects on Socceroo Tim Cahill's eye-catching debut for Shanghai Greenland Shenhua as his new club smashed Shenxin in a Shanghai derby on Sunday.
It was the first game of the Chinese Super League season and Shanghai Shenhua fans could hardly wait for their newly-signed world famous attacker to make his debut.
There had been days of excitement on local radio and television. Yet in March 2012, Nicolas Anelka didn't even play. Three years on, almost to the day, Tim Cahill did and the result? A 6-2 thrashing of local rivals Shanghai Shenxin.
The Australian is a different beast to the Frenchman. Here he was, everywhere, despite a lack of pre-season after his 2015 AFC Asian Cup heroics.
A real team player who gave everything for the men and the fans in blue. Cahill is a winner with a winner's attitude and that is what the underachieving Shenhua need.
As he left the field at the Hongkou Stadium with 15 minutes remaining, the Blue Devils, who had not stopped singing all night though this is par for the course for some of the best fans in China gave him a standing ovation.
Fight for the famous shirt and the fans here will love you and they already love Cahill.
It is mutual as the player told Chinese television after the game and he also talked about how things could get better. “I've had a whole pre-season in just two weeks,” Cahill told Chinese media after the game. “It's been a quick turnaround but it's a good start.”
He may not have got on the scoresheet but he was involved in plenty. Prior to the game, Shenxin's Lim You-hwan had talked of how much he was looking forward to facing the former Everton man but it was doubtful he felt that the Korean defender felt that way after 35 minutes as he headed into his own net following a Cahill cross from the left.
Cahill was obviously delighted with how the first game of the season had gone. “We haven't been together too long but we showed tonight that there is some chemistry there but more importantly we had a massive result to score six goals.
"Our discipline is very high as is our fitness. You could see tonight how we pressed, worked for every tackle and were unfortunate to concede two goals.”
Usually, Brazilian striker Paulo Henrique would be making the headlines following his hat-trick but such is the stature of Cahill that all wanted a word after the game.
The two attackers worked together well, providing hope and confidence for the future. The South American's pace coupled with Cahill's intelligence, work and experience will cause problems for plenty of defences in China this season and not just that of Shenxin.
“It is great to play with someone like Tim Cahill,” Henrique said after the game. “He is a top-class player and we could see tonight the effect he can have on the team.”
Cahill could be seen encouraging his team-mates, clapping them even when mistakes had been made and even doing a little organising from time to time. He also ensured that the opposition defenders could not relax for a second.
The man himself is confident that the goals will come as they surely will. “It was close but perhaps the next game! If I don't score then I am happy to work hard for the team, being involved in some of the goals and being involved in some of the play and running down the defence, this is what I do. We will make strides in this league."
There comes a much tougher game on the road to Guangzhou R&F on Friday night. A result against the team that finished third last season and has already ended hopes of Central Coast Mariners in the AFC Champions League could be a sign that Shanghai Shenhua and Tim Cahill could be a force to be reckoned with in 2015.
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