It’s been a hectic opening weekend in the Premier League, with teams battling for the approval of their fans, and new signings battling for the approval of their team-mates and managers.
We also saw the introduction of Monday Night Football, with Tottenham taking on Watford last night in a match which delighted and surprised in equal measure. And there was plenty of both delight and surprise over the course of the weekend, as we will see in just a moment.
Norwich City 0-0 Everton
: Ruddy, Martin, Ramis, Bassong, Olsson, Mulumbu, Howson, Bennett, Hoolahan, Dorrans, Mbokani
: Howard, Coleman, Jagielka, Stones, Baines, McCarthy, Gago, Barkley, Mirallas, Pienaar, Naismith
Not the most exciting of opening days for either set of fans, as Norwich and Everton largely cancelled each other out. The best chance of the afternoon fell to Scottish striker Steven Naismith, who managed to rattle a shot towards goal from 30 yards, destined for the top corner, only to see John Ruddy get a hand up to palm it over for a corner.
West Ham 0-1 Swansea City
: Adrian, Jenkinson, Reid, Oxford, Cresswell, Amalfitano, Song, Noble, Moses, Payet, Valencia
: Fabianksi, Rangel, Fernandez, Williams, Taylor, Routledge, Shelvey, Ayew, Oviedo, Sigurdsson, Gomis
Our second game was another Saturday afternoon encounter, between West Ham and Swansea. The Welsh side started slowly, but West Ham couldn’t make the most of their chances, with Payet, Moses and 15 year old debutant Reece Oxford all missing the target within the first 20 minutes. Swansea slowly clawed their way back, but the teams went in at half-time level.
In the second half, it was Swansea who looked the more dangerous side, and with 69 minutes gone, Andre Ayew saw the ball drop in front of him in the penalty box from Sigurdsson’s long ball forward, and the Ghanaian winger made no mistake, rattling the ball home to put his side ahead. The game fizzed out after that, and Swansea will be delighted to head home with a 1-0 victory.
West Brom 0-3 Southampton
: Foster, Gamboa, Olsson, Evans, Pocognoli, Morrison, Yacob, Fletcher, Brunt, Blanco, Rondon
Forster, Cedric, Gardos, Caulker, Bertrand, Davis, Wanyama, Clasie, Tadic, Ramirez, Rodriguez
Rodriguez (42), Long (51), Ramirez (65)
A much more entertaining Saturday game, with Southampton really powering through West Brom, who, despite replacing Berahino with Rondon, looked toothless in attack. Jay Rodriguez, who had been subject to some speculation linking him to Liverpool (of course) over the summer, reaffirmed his loyalty to Southampton when he scored just before half time, kissing the badge, and sliding across to the fans on his knees, arms aloft.
After half time, Shane Long and Gaston Ramirez extended the Southampton lead, and an inspirational performance from Victor Wanyama, who had been linked to a move to Manchester United, was at the very core of this Southampton performance, as he provided the assist for Long, completing 82% of his passes, and making 14 tackles, conceding just one foul. Southampton looked dangerous in this game, and they could well be this season’s surprise package.
Arsenal 3-0 Crystal Palace
: Cech, Debuchy, Nkoulou, Koscielny, Gibbs, Oxlade-Chamberlain, Ramsey, Wilshere, Sanchez, Walcott, Giroud
Nkoulou (28), Cazorla (77), Wilshere (80)
: McCarthy, Ward, Mariappa, Dann, Souare, Chung-Yong, Jedniak, Cabaye, Bolasie, Mismovic, Chamakh
60,000 fans packed into the Emirates stadium to watch Arsenal kick off their Premiership campaign, and a sublime performance from Jack Wilshere made sure they did that in style. The Englishman was at the heart of everything Arsenal did, picking up a late run from new signing Nkoulou to set up his side’s first goal, as the 24 year old Ghanaian rocketed a low header past Alex McCarthy.
When Alexis Sanchez was substituted in the 74th minute, with Arsenal just one goal ahead, many fans were upset - Sanchez was consistently one of their prime creators, but his replacement, Santi Cazorla, had other ideas, taking on two defenders before slotting the ball cooly past McCarthy to double his side’s lead just 3 minutes after coming on. Wilshere rounded off his Man of the Match performance just 3 minutes later, netting a powerful strike from just outside the box which curved wickedly past McCarthy, who looked bereft of confidence in the Crystal Palace goal.
Watford 0-3 Tottenham Hotspur
: Gomes, Nyom, Prodl, Britos, Holebas, Anya, Capoue, Behrami, Dyer, Diamanti, Deeney
: Lloris, Walker, Fazio, Vertonghen, Rose, Romero, Dembele, Townsend, Heung-Min, Kane, Berahino
Berahino (19, 84), Fazio (81)
It was a day for debutants at Vicarage Road, as Tottenham and Watford contested the first Monday Night game of the new season. Saido Berahino, who would have seen his old club steamrollered by Southampton, opened the scoring on his debut with a fine close-range strike after just 20 minutes, which left Gomes flat-footed.
Watford were determined not to let Tottenham settle into a rhythm, and injuries to both Danny Rose and Andros Townsend had Spurs manager Mauricio Pochettino livid, but Watford avoided any cards. Alderweireld and Insigne were brought on to replace the injured parties, while loanee Jese replaced the less-than impressive Harry Kane at half time. But it was Federico Fazio who doubled the Spurs lead with 9 minutes remaining, powering a header home from Insigne’s free kick, and Berahino sealed the 3-0 win just 3 minutes later, tapping in from 4 yards, Insigne again the provider.
Bournemouth 1-4 Newcastle
: Boruc, Elphick, Cook, Distin, Gradel, Arter, Surman, King, Tomlin, Wilson, Murray
: Krul, Janmaat, Taylor, Coloccini, Emanuelson, Tiote, Sissoko, Colback, Orellana, Gouffran, Perez
Gouffran (6, 57), Perez (45), Riviere (84)
Bournemouth and Newcastle mark the first game we’ve covered so far where both teams have scored. Newcastle though, never looked like throwing this one away from the moment Yoan Gouffran put them ahead after just 6 minutes. Some incredible flowing football, and a resilient defence, meant that when Ayoze Perez scored just before half time, nobody doubted that the Second half would see more of the same. Perez picked up a knock after around 70 minutes, but by that point, Newcastle were 3-1 up, Gouffran having added his second before Lee Tomlin pulled one back for Bournemouth. Perez’ replacement, Emmanuel Riviere rounded off the match with a stunning long-range effort to seal a 4-1 win, and put Newcastle on a sound footing after their first game.
Sunderland 1-4 Stoke City
: Mannone, Jones, O’Shea, Kaboul, Matthews, Cattermole, Rodwell, Johnson, Toivonen, Borini, Defoe
Butland, Johnson, Shawcross, Wollscheid, Pieters, Arnautovic, Cameron, Sidwell, Shaqiri, Van Ginkel, Diouf
Diouf (20, 36), Van Ginkel (58, 73)
Stoke sent a message to the rest of the league on Saturday afternoon, with a strong side putting 4 past Sunderland, who could only find one goal in reply. Stoke have made some bold moves this summer, including the signing of Xherdan Shaqiri, who started this game on the left wing for Stoke, and put in an incredible performance, with a pass completion rate of 64%, covering 13.8km, and setting up Van Ginkel’s first goal to boot!
Liverpool 1-5 Manchester City
: Mingolet, Skrtel, Lovren, Sakho, Milner, Can, Henderson, Moreno, Coutinho, Firmino, Benteke
Hart, Zabaleta, Demichellis, Otamendi, Kolarov, Sterling, Toure, Fernandinho, De Bruyne, Nasri, Bony
Bony (2, 18), Sterling (31), De Bruyne (44), Toure (62)
In a clash which was billed as the top game this weekend, Liverpool were seeking revenge on a Manchester City side which terrorised them last season. But with Raheem Sterling on the opposite side, and accompanied by Kevin De Bruyne, there wasn’t much Liverpool could do, and it was City who opened the scoring after just 2 minutes - Wilfried Bony rounding Simon Mingolet to tap in from 4 yards.
Bony was the man of the moment again just over 15 minute later, as he volleyed home from a De Bruyne cross to double City’s lead. Liverpool looked to be sinking without trace, and lacking any real inspiration. Emre Can took matters into his own hands after 22 minutes, breaking through the City midfield before playing a neat 1-2 with Brazilian winger Firmino, and when Can collected the ball on the edge of the area, everyone expected the shot. The German U21 international had other ideas though, and dummied his way past Joe Hart, rolling the ball into an empty net to pull a goal back.
It would prove to be Liverpool’s only moment of genius in the game, as first Sterling, then De Bruyne and finally Yaya Toure beat Mingolet to run up a 5-1 scoreline, and break hearts on Merseyside.
Manchester United 6-2 Chelsea
: De Gea, Darmian, Khacheridi, Rojo, Shaw, Blind, Schneiderlin, Schweinsteiger, Mata, Rooney, Memphis
Rooney (45, 68), Mata (57), Blind (75), Memphis (86, 89)
: Courtois, Ivanovic, Cahill, Dede, Azpillicueta, Mikel, Matic, Fabregas, Willian, Hazard, Costa
Willian (67), Hazard (76)
Another match which was billed as being a clash of two titans, Saturday’s early kick-off between Manchester United and Chelsea proved to be uniquely one-sided. The first half was even, although United had the better of the chances, despite the teams going in at half-time level on the scoreboard.
Whatever van Gaal said at half-time clearly had an effect, as Wayne Rooney scored almost immediately from the restart, picking up a through ball from new singing Memphis, and pulling his shot across Courtois and into the back of the net. Juan Mata doubled the United lead 12 minutes later with a dipping freekick from the edge of the box which left Courtois flat-footed, and the United fans in raptures.
Willian pulled one back for Chelsea after 67 minutes, but his dipping volley from the edge of the area was quickly cancelled out by Daley Blind’s blistering header from a Mata corner. Hazard replied immediately, with a powerful freekick from 30 yards, and for 10 minutes, Chelsea were the more dangerous side.
United’s new signing, Memphis, had other ideas though, and his two goals in 3 minutes left Chelsea and United fans breathless, as he compounded the visitor’s misery, and lifted his side to the top of the table.
Game Ten: Game Of The Week
Leicester City 5-3 Aston Villa
: Schwarzer, Simpson, Morgan, Benalouane, Fuchs, Inler, James, Drinkwater, King, Okazaki, Kramaric
Kramaric (13, 43), King (60), Okazaki (73, 84)
: Guzan, Richards, Okore, Illori, Crespo, Traore, Sanchez, Westwood, Richardson, Gestede, Agbonlahor
Sanchez, Sinclair, Gestede
Two of the most improved teams in the Premiership combined to give us the opening weekend’s Game of The Week. Leicester, complete with new signings such as Gohkan Inler, immediately took the initiative, pinning Aston Villa back into their own half, and Kramaric’s opening goal was built deep inside Leicester’s own half…
It’s Kramaric, deep inside his own half. He’s laid it off to James, who’s bringing it forward now...Aston Villa are backing off of him, and this could be dangerous. James plays it forward, and it’s cleared by Westwood, but only as far as Inler. Inler now, plays it right to Simpson, who finds James - this is some excellent passing play, and Leicester are right on the edge of the Villa area. James swings it across for King, and King, first time, to Ozakazi right on the edge of the box - a nice lay off to Kramaric, and GOAAAAAAL! Leicester with some great play, and they’re 1-0 up already! 13 minutes played!”
Leicester were dominant, and they kept Villa pinned back in their own half, with Kramaric’s second goal coming just before half time…
”And it’s James, on the halfway line now for Leicester. He plays it left fo Drinkwater, and a long ball forward here...he picks out Inler, right on the edge of the area. Inler cuts inside, OH! but he’s brought down by Carlos Sanchez, and the referee, quite rightly, awards the penalty. Kramaric steps up. And it’s straight into the bottom corner, the ‘Keeper going completely the wrong way! Leicester 2, Aston Villa Nil”
Half Time saved Villa’s blushes somewhat, and they came out for the second half looking like a different side, and it was the visitors who drew first blood in the second half…
”Traore’s corner now, cleared by King, but only as far as Westwood on the edge of the box. The ball’s lofted back in here, and it’s found Sanchez, who’s really thrown himself at that, connecting with a sweet volley - GOAL! He’s pulled one back for Villa! 57 minutes gone, Leicester 2, Villa 1!”
King added Leicester’s 3rd after 60 minutes, but Sinclair pulled one back from the Penatly spot just 7 minutes later. Okazaki scored twice late on to help his side to a miraculous 5-3 victory, and seal the win for Leicester.
Well, that was some opening weekend - some upsets, lots of goals, and a solid start to the season...but what does the league table look like now?