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By ESPN Staff

Gazza scores in winning China debut

BEIJING, March 29 (Reuters) - Paul Gascoigne delivered an early goal in his debut with Chinese B-league team Gansu Tianma today, shepherding his new club to their first win of the season before a sell-out home crowd.

The former England midfielder played 85 minutes and said he felt 'very good' about his performance in the 2-0 victory over the Qingdao-based Hailifeng.

'I played better than my normal level and my team mates and I worked with each other quite well,' he said, adding his fitness levels were 'fine'.

His goal came in the 14th minute, and greatly impressed team general manager Zhong Bohong.

'It was really pretty,' Zhong told Reuters. 'He stole the ball in midfield, beat two defenders and carried it all the way in to the edge of the penalty box.

'His shot went into the upper left corner of the net. It was a world-class goal.'

Team mate Wang Heng sealed the win in the 86th minute in front of a capacity crowd of some 20,000 fans.

Zhong added that Gascoigne was substituted late in the match to protect him from injury, and not because the player was physically unfit.

'He was all over the field, in the front, in the back. You could say he flew around the whole field,' Zhong said. 'Not only did he organise the attack, he also helped out in defence.'

CAREER REVIVAL

Gascoigne, 35, arrived in China in January in the hope of reviving his career and, after passing up an offer to stay with first division side Liaoning Bodao, signed a one-year renewable contract to be player-coach at Tianma.

He had been earmarked to play in the season opener last Saturday but the club decided to postpone his introduction so he could be introduced to the home supporters in the largely Muslim industrial city on the fringes of the desert.

The Englishman is already a firm favourite with Tianma supporters and last week they presented him with a gilded sheep's head as a gift to prove it.

The club need all the help they can get, though, even from a Gascoigne well past his prime. They finished bottom of the B-league last season with a record of four wins, seven draws and 11 defeats.