AYOZE Perez has come a long way in a short space of time at Newcastle United – on and off the pitch.
The striker has travelled halfway around the world and back with his new club.
But it was a relatively short trip to South Yorkshire which proved his most memorable yet.
Perez, on a steep learning curve in English football, opened his account at Hillsborough, where Alan Pardew’s jaded and jet-lagged team had had to take on tiredness as well as Sheffield Wednesday.
It didn’t look good at the break.
United, wearing black armbands ahead of the fifth anniversary of Sir Bobby Robson’s passing today, had spent much of the first half on the back foot, but they somehow wrestled control of the game from the Championship side after the interval.
And Perez the match-winner for Newcastle on a night when John Alder and Liam Sweeney – who lost their lives travelling to New Zealand on Malaysia Airlines flight MH17 – were also remembered.
Gabriel Obertan set Perez away down the right in the 66th minute with a well-timed pass, and the 21-year-old, signed from Tenerife this summer, illustrated why he was so prolific in Spain’s second division.
Perez took his time before beating Chris Kirkland with a precise shot just inside the box.
It was a striker’s finish, and hopefully it will be the first of many for the club.
The game fell awkwardly for Newcastle, with kick-off a little over 48 hours after the club’s players disembarked at Newcastle Airport after a mammoth 30-hour journey back from Wellington.
Some sleep-deprived players, understandably, were left back on Tyneside ahead of the weekend’s fixtures in Germany against Malaga and Schalke 04 at the Veltins Arena.
Pardew, however, was able to call upon midfielder Cheik Tiote for the first time this pre-season.
The midfielder captained a team featuring teenagers Lubomir Satka and Adam Armstrong.
New signing Emmanuel Riviere also shrugged off jet lag to play against Stuart Gray’s Championship side, which included Birtley-born Gary Madine.
After a barren opening, the game livened up in the 23rd minute.
Wednesday’s powerful striker Atdhe Nuhiu thought he had got the better of Paul Dummett, but referee Mark Brown stopped play for a foul on the United defender.
Riviere shot narrowly wide at the other end of the pitch.
The game swung back to the Leppings Lane End of the pitch - around 2,000 vocal Newcastle fans were in the stand - and Rob Elliot made a low save from Giles Coke.
A shot from Nuhiu was deflected wide, and Joe Mattock shot wide from the resulting corner.
Newcastle found themselves under pressure, and the only surprise was that it took Wednesday so long to get at a youthful defence lacking experience.
Sam Hutchinson struck the crossbar late in the half, and the half-time break couldn’t come soon enough for United, who had been put firmly on the back foot.
The home side had steadily grown in confidence, and they moved the ball well in Newcastle’s half with an energy and dynamism that their visitors had lacked in their forays upfield.
Pardew replaced teenage right-back Lubomir Satka - who had had a tough 45 minutes - with Vurnon Anita for the second half.
Remie Streete replaced Riviere in the 55th minute - the switch led to a reshuffle at the back and up front - and Wednesday continued to probe away looking for a breakthrough.
Pardew also threw on Haris Vuckic and Gael Bigirimana.
But it was Perez, moved up front after Riviere’s withdrawal, who got United in front after racing on to Obertan’s ball.
Perez carried the ball into the box and shot across Kirkland and into the far corner of the net.
The slightly-built player - who the club believes will need time to adjust to the pace and power of English football - is seen as one for the future.
But he could just have a say in the present.
SHEFFIELD WEDNESDAY: Kirkland, Palmer, Mattock, Hutchinson, Loovens, Kelhar, Maguire, Madine, Nuhiu, Coke, Maghoma.
NEWCASTLE UNITED: Elliot; Satka (Anita, 46), Yanga-Mbiwa, Dummett, Haidara (Bigirimana, 60); Tiote (Vuckic, 60), Abeid; Obertan, Armstrong (Gilliead, 85), Perez (Campbell, 73) Riviere (Streete, 55). Subs not used: Alnwick, Quinn.
Goal: Perez 66
Referee: Mark Brown (East Yorkshire)