Results and Highlights of the First Round of Premier League Games
After all the trauma of the summer transfers, well for some of us anyway, the new EPL season got underway at the weekend. The first round of games completed on Monday night with a welcome defeat for Manchester United, welcomed by everyone that isn’t a Man Ure supporter that is.
After United’s close season poaching of Robin Van Persie, Arsenal captain and top scorer last season, I suspect Arsenal fans were even happier with Everton’s 1-0 victory than Everton themselves. Van Persie started the game on the bench and only came on for the last 22 minutes and did nothing effective. After their huge investment in the 29 year old striker, United found themselves short of central defenders. Michael Carrick filled in for the injured Rio Ferdinand, Phil Jones, Chris Smalling and Jonny Evans and Everton took full advantage of that. Marouane Fellaini scored from a 57th minute header from Darron Gibson‘s corner. United keeper David de Gea, had kept Everton at bay with a series of outstanding first half saves before that.
The other side of Manchester scored a narrow victory over newly promoted Southampton on Sunday. reigning Premier League champions Manchester City got a taste of how hard it is going to be to retain that title. City scored a late victory after going 1-0 up then 2-1 down to the south coast side. Southampton played some attractive football and scored two goals in ten minutes after prodigal son, Carlos Tevez, had put City ahead. Rickie Lambert and Steven Davis, who both came on as substitutes, scored Southampton’s goals and an unlikely win, over City’s multi million dollar squad, looked to be on the cards. But Edin Dzeko brought City back on level terms and another Arsenal defector, Samir Nasri, finished a man of the match performance with the winning goal in the 80th minute.
Big spending Chelsea started their campaign with a 2-0 away win over Wigan. Both of Chelsea’s goals came in the first 8 minutes of the game. £32m ($48m) new signing Eden Hazard cleared his man and put through a great ball for Branislav Ivanovic to score inside two minutes. Five minutes later, Hazard was brought down in the box by Ivan Ramis, who he had escaped to set up the first goal. Frank Lampard stepped up to take the penalty and put it under the diving Al Habsi. Wigan went on to dominate large chunks of play but never created many clear cut chances and were unable to claw back the early deficit.
Big winners on Saturday were Fulham and Swansea who both scored 5-0 victories over Norwich and Queens Park Rangers respectively. New signing Mladen Petric scored twice for Fulham on his debut. There must have been something in the west London air, as Michu and Nathan Dyer both scored twice at QPR to give Michael Laudrup a dream start as Swansea boss.
Things did not go so well for their ex-boss though. Brendan Rodgers‘s first Premier League game as Liverpool manager was a nightmare, going down 3-0 at West Bromwich Albion. WBA’s new boss Steve Clarke, who was sacked as assistant manager at Liverpool in the Kenny Dalglish clear out, got sweet revenge. Zoltan Gera, Peter Odemwingie and substitute Romelu Lukaku got Albion’s goals. They also missed a penalty after a foul by Daniel Agger that saw him sent off, Liverpool also picked up three yellow cards.
West Ham started their new Premier League campaign with a 1-0 win over Aston Villa. Kevin Nolan scored the Hammers goal and they had plenty of other chances, including an obvious penalty denied when Carlton Cole was shoved in the back by Villa defender Ron Vlaar.
Newcastle scored a 2-1 home win over Tottenham in a match that saw their manager sent to the stands for shoving a linesman. I am sure there will be further action on that, despite Alan Pardew’s apology. You cannot go around shoving match officials. Demba Ba put Newcastle ahead with a spectacular curling strike. Tottenham pulled one back through a scramble on the goal line and Jermaine Defoe slotting home for Spurs. But minutes later Ben Arfa was brought down in the box by a combination of poor challenges from Rafael van der Vaart and Aaron Lennon. Ben Arfa himself converted the resulting penalty.
Arsenal new boys Santi Cazorla and Lukas Podolski were included in the starting line up against Sunderland, while Alex Song was absent, being mid-way through his transfer to Barcelona.
Cazorla had an impressive debut creating chances and forcing an excellent save from Sunderland keeper Simon Mignolet. He linked up well with the Arsenal midfield and Mikel Arteta in particular. Podolski, Diaby and Theo Walcott all had goal scoring chances, but were unable to get past the solid Sunderland defence and Mignolet. Sunderland had a couple of chances themselves in the first half, one of which looked clearly offside to me and the Arsenal defence, but apparently not anyone else.
Diaby had a promising come back and despite the loss of Song, the Arsenal midfield looks to have plenty of depth, with Ramsey on the bench, Jack Wilshire and Tomas Rosicky yet to come back from injury and the strong possibility of signing Nuri Sahin on loan from Real Madrid. That aside, Arsenal could not breakdown the Sunderland defence, who often had 10 or 11 men behind the ball. Giroud replaced Podolski in the 64th minute and missed a sitter, set up by Cazorla, from 12 yards, not the ideal debut.
Chelsea have a mid week fixture against Reading on Wednesday, but it all starts again for everyone else on Saturday.