Premier League Round-Up: Opening Weekend
LS Sport’s David Ahluwalia reviews an exhilarating weekend of Premier League action…
The new Premier League season got off to an exciting start with several clubs’ summer signings making their debuts, in an opening weekend which saw Fulham and Swansea at the top of the league after impressive 5 – 0 victories against Norwich and QPR respectively. Eden Hazard was the standout performer after strong displays against both Wigan and Reading to put Chelsea on top having played twice already, and Robin van Persie was unable to stop his new Manchester United side losing 1-0 at Goodison Park to a rock solid Everton.
Fulham 5 Duff, Petric x 2, Kacaniklic, Sidwell (pen)
Should Clint Dempsey leave, Fulham look to have a solid replacement for him as new signing Mladen Petric was twice on the score sheet as the Cottagers thrashed Norwich 5-0. The Croatian forward, who scored the winner against England to prevent them qualifying for Euro 2008, joined on a free transfer from Hambrug. Chris Hughton’s team never really got going and created few chances, and Fulham capitalised on this in a commanding first game of the season. Although very early days, Norwich will need to quickly try and rekindle some of their form from last year if they are to remain in the top flight.
Swansea 5 Michu x 2, Dyer x 2, Sinclair
Despite being one the busiest teams in the summer transfer window, QPR were subject to a humiliating 5-0 defeat at home to Swansea, much to the delight of their new manager Michael Laudrup. Spanish signing Michu scored twice on his debut to get Swansea off to a great start in the post-Brendan Rodgers era. For a player who scored 15 goals in 37 appearances for Ray Vallecano last season, the £2million paid to land Michu looks to be a very shrewd piece of business. Nathan Dyer also scored twice for the Swans – and despite QPR having more shots on target they were unable to make anything of their chances.
Arsenal played out a 0-0 draw at home to Sunderland, a result all too familiar and frustrating to their supporters. Following the departure of Robin van Persie to rivals Manchester United, fans had hoped that Lukas Podolski and Olivier Giroud would be able to prove their worth from the word go as suitable replacements for the Dutchman. Unfortunately, this was not the case. With Giroud starting on the bench, the likes of Podolski and Theo Walcott were unable to convert chances created in the first half, and when Giroud replaced Podolski in the 64th minute, he went on to miss a clear-cut opportunity much to the despair of the Emirates crowd. However, the Gunners other new signing Santi Cazorla was very impressive on his debut, and credit must also go to Sunderland for defending well as a unit and leaving Arsenal struggling to break teams down once more.
West Brom 3 Gera, Odemwingie, Lukaku
Brendan Rodgers’ debut as the new Liverpool boss resulted in a depressing 3-0 loss at the hands of West Brom at the Hawthorns, with Zoltan Gera’s stunning volley just before half-time setting Albion on their way. Daniel Agger’s straight red card proved to be a catalyst for a vibrant West Brom display, despite a poor penalty from Shane Long following the tackle which was easily saved by Pepe Reina. Albion’s second penalty however was converted by Peter Odemwingie, and Romelu Lukaku, on loan from Chelsea, wrapped up the 3 points in a resounding victory for the Black Country side.
Newcastle 2 Ba, Ben Arfa (pen)
Tottenham 1 Defoe
In what was probably the pick of the opening weekend fixtures, Newcastle started the 2012/13 campaign strongly with 2-1 victory over Tottenham. A well taken volley from Demba Ba ended his goal drought of 14 games and a late penalty from Hatem Ben Arfa was enough to cancel out Jermaine Defoe’s equaliser and show doubters that Newcastle may well be able to replicate their form from last year, providing they keep their best players such as Ben Arfa injury-free. Alan Pardew managed to be the star of some comedy gold as he was sent to the stands, due to a shove on the linesman. Pardew himself labelled his behaviour as “ridiculous”, and having decided not to contest his FA charge for misconduct can expect to receive a two-game touchline ban.
Reading 1 Le Fondre (pen)
Stoke 1 Kightly
A late penalty from Adam Le Fondre managed to rescue the points for Reading against a Stoke City side, reduced to 10 men after Dean Whitehead was sent off. Stoke had taken the lead thanks to some lacklustre goalkeeping from Adam Federici which allowed Michael Kightly’s tame effort on goal to slip through to give the visitors a half-time lead. The game also saw a return for Robert Huth who was previously in hospital with viral meningitis, but was able to come through with a solid defensive display.
West Ham 1 Nolan
Aston Villa 0
Newly-promoted West Ham got their campaign off to a winning start as they were able to sneak a 1-0 win over a poor Aston Villa side, who have been tipped as potential relegation contenders once more after the previous disappointing season. The Hammers took the lead just before half time thanks to Kevin Nolan, though there was some controversy over the assist from Ricardo Vaz Te as he appeared to be in an offside position. However, the officials correctly gave the goal as the ball had come off Ciaran Clark rather than a West Ham player. Paul Lambert will need to make sure his side galvanise themselves for the weeks ahead or they face slipping down the table once more.
Manchester City 3 Tevez, Dzeko, Nasri
Southampton 2 Lambert, Davis
Last season’s champions Manchester City received a scare from new boys Southampton, but managed to save their record of never losing their opening Premiership game after going down 2-1 to come back and win 3-2 thanks to an 80th minute goal from Samir Nasri. Southampton substitutes Rickie Lambert and Steven Davis gave them the lead midway through the second half, and despite their defeat the Saints look like they are more than capable of putting up a fight to remain in the top tier. Early on for City, Sergio Aguero was injured and an absolutely woeful penalty from David Silva meant City did not get off to the start they wanted, but as we saw last season they are certainly capable of producing exciting comebacks to ensure victories.
Chelsea 2 Ivanovic, Lampard (pen)
Two early goals for Chelsea, combined with an inspiring debut from Eden Hazard gave the European Champions a deserved 3 points against Wigan at the JJB stadium. Hazard managed to link up well with Frank Lampard in the centre of the park and was able to show the Chelsea fans he may well be worth his hefty price tag. It was also an eventful debut for Wigan defender Ivan Ramis, giving away a penalty in the 8th minute before later racing back to prevent Torres opening his goal scoring account for the season. Roberto Martinez may well find himself in a relegation battle once more, particularly if Victor Moses does indeed head to Stamford Bridge after producing the only real impressive performance for the Lactics.
Everton 1 Fellaini
A superb performance from cult hero Marouane Fellaini gave Everton a winning start against a Manchester United side who were left frustrated by their inability to convert several good chances. Fellaini and Phil Jagielka were absolutely outstanding in their efforts in midfield and defence respectively, and even new signing Robin Van Persie was unable to even get a shot in after coming on as a substitute for United. Although disappointed to start with a defeat, United fans can take hope from lively displays from Shinji Kagawa and David de Gea, and can be consoled in the knowledge that they are renowned for being slow starters and always gain momentum as the season goes on.
Chelsea 4 Lampard (pen), Cahill, Torres, Ivanovic
Reading 2 Pogrebniak, Guthrie
Chelsea had to fight back from being 2-1 down at half time to pull through and secure a win against a tough Reading side at Stamford Bridge. Lampard’s early penalty was once again won from good work from Hazard, but some poor goalkeeping from Petr Cech resulted in a goal for Danny Guthrie to give Reading the lead after an excellent header from Pavel Pogrebniak. Gary Cahill showed his scoring abilities with a 25-yard effort to equalise, and Fernando Torres gave Chelsea the lead despite being in an offside position – before Bransislav Ivanovic was on the score sheet again after his effort against Wigan at the weekend. Once more, Eden Hazard was absolutely outstanding in the middle and could certainly aid Chelsea in giving the Manchester clubs a real fight for the title if he continues in this form.
The game that stands out the most this weekend will be Liverpool vs. Manchester City, after Brendan Rodgers left out many of his senior players for their Europa League game on Thursday against Hearts in order to prepare for this clash as they look to recover from their defeat against West Brom. Newcastle vs. Chelsea will certainly be a game to watch as well, as the Blues look to make it 3 wins in a row. Manchester United will look to bounce back with a home win against Fulham, who will be brimming with confidence after thrashing Norwich. Arsenal face a tricky away trip to the Britannia Stadium with Stoke City also looking for their first win, and may well see Aaron Ramsey come up against Ryan Shawcross once more after his horrific leg break in February 2010. The two sides who lost their opening games 5-0 come up against each other too as QPR travel to Carrow Road to face Norwich.
Swansea v West Ham
Aston Villa v Everton
Man Utd v Fulham
Norwich v QPR
Southampton v Wigan
Sunderland v Reading
Tottenham v West Brom
Chelsea v Newcastle
Stoke v Arsenal
Liverpool v Man City