In a surprisingly attacking day of football, Saturday’s opening seven matches treated us to nineteen goals and kick-started the new campaign with a bang. The referees’ whistles blew at three in the afternoon across England and finally put an end to the agonisingly long summer.
Both Fulham and Swansea made statements of intent on Saturday by firing over half of those nineteen goals between them. Fulham made light of the absence of wantaway American Clint Dempsey by giving two debutants Mladen Petric and Alexander Kacaniklic the chance to notch three goals between them. Norwich found themselves behind to the Londoners after Damien Duff’s shot bobbled into the corner before the new boys strutted their stuff and Steve Sidwell put the cherry on the cake with an 87th minute penalty.
QPR were hoping to get off to a good start after being relegation fodder for much of the latter half of last season, but Michael Laudrup’s first game at the helm of Swansea saw him celebrating five goals with the Welsh boys. New boy Miguel Perez Cuesta or ‘Michu’ (6.6m) found the net twice before Dyer (5.6m) helped himself to another two and Sinclair came off the bench to curl a low shot past Rob Green. Just across London at the Emirates, Arsenal were left frustrated by a defensively minded Sunderland, despite Santi Cazorla (9.0m) showcasing an exquisite performance. Neither team managed to find the net, despite the tricky Spaniard teeing up Olivier Giroud who really should have scored near the end.
Promoted Reading did well to come from 1-0 behind against Stoke and West Ham’s Kevin Nolan (6.0m) scored a contentious goal against Paul Lambert’s new look Aston Villa, to give the Hammers a 1-0 victory in their new campaign. The shock of the day was West Brom’s 3-0 thrashing against Brendan Rogers’ Liverpool. Despite Suarez (9.5m) having a fantastic game, none of the boys in red could produce a finish. A game that easily could have ended 3-3, finished in the favour of the Baggies, courtesy of a stunning long-range Zoltan Gera shot, a penalty from Odemwingie and a neat header from loanee Lukaku.
Saturday’s late kick-off saw Newcastle entertain AVB’s Tottenham Hotspur. It was difficult to see where Spurs’ goals were going to come from without the prolific Emmanuel Adebayor, but the reliably consistent Jermain Defoe (7.5m) showed his stripes by tapping in a poacher’s rebound; in reply to Demba Ba’s (7.5m) sublimely curled opener. Hatem Ben Arfa’s (7.5m) fancy footwork on the edge of the box earned him a penalty, which he buried in the bottom right corner of Friedel’s goal to keep Newcastle carrying on in the same vein that they left off last season.
Chelsea started their expectant season away at Wigan. After coming home as Champions of Europe and splashing out on transfers Hazard, Oscar and Marin; fans were looking forward to an easy start to their campaign. It only took two minutes for the Blues to get their noses in front. An excellent turn from Hazard (9.5m) let him put his head down and run before feeding Ivanovic (6.5m) who had made a fantastic run from right-back. Ivanovic, who as we all know could play as a striker if he wanted to, took a few perfect touches and blasted the ball past a hapless Ali Al-Habsi. Only four minutes later, talismanic Frank Lampard doubled the lead after a foul on tricky-footed Hazard left the away team with a penalty. Wigan fought back valiantly and enjoyed a number of chances and lots of possession, but ultimately couldn’t provide the finish. Torres had a couple of chances but Wigan seemed to have Chelsea’s number later on and neither team could add to the tally. It finished a 2-0 victory for Di Matteo’s men, a great start to their campaign and a dismal one to Wigan’s.
Southampton couldn’t have faced a tougher test on their return to the Premier League, when they took on title defending Manchester City at the Etihad Stadium. It looked as if luck was on Southampton’s side with Aguero being injured early on and Silva missing a penalty, but the calibre shone through when Tevez (9.1m) slotted the ball past Kelvin Davis. In an effort to switch the play, Southampton brought on Rickie Lambert (6.0m) and Steven Davis and astoundingly, they both scored within minutes of stepping onto the pitch. In a game that felt more like a Cup Final than a season opener, it was Edin Dzeko who scored to equalise and Nasri who made it a hard fought 3-2 to the Champions.
The other Manchester club had a tough away start at Everton, but with new signings Kagawa and Van Persie; it would be hard to imagine them being scared of any team in the league besides their local rivals. An injury-rocked back four saw midfielders Carrick and Valencia move into defence, whilst the early return of Nemanja Vidic was an incredible boost for the Red Devils. Everton dominated proceedings right before the offset and when Fellaini climbed above Carrick in the 56th minute to nod past De Gea, it had definitely been coming for a while. Manchester United responded by bringing on their transfer pinnacle, Robin Van Persie but even his magic feet couldn’t change the outcome. Everton took inspiration from Chelsea and parked the big blue bus, holding out for a well-deserved 1-0 win and forcing Sir Alex Ferguson to start the new season on the same low that he finished last.
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