The top league in England roared back into action this week, and with 26 goals scored, there was a lot to talk about in the opening weekend of games.
Manchester United & Swansea took the honour of being the very first fixture of the new season, in the early kick off on Saturday at Old Trafford. United fans were looking for a brand new start after last season. Though it was clear to see it will need more than a new manager to change their fortunes. Swansea more than matched the home team, and took the lead after Ki put away a well worked passing move. United were level early on in the second half, Rooney scoring from close range with an acrobatic effort. But whereas previous United teams would have surged on to win, their defence was once again found wanting, as Sigurdsson pounced on a loose ball and scored he winner. A horrible debut for LvG but take no credit away from Swansea, who lost here 4-1 last season.
Arsenal were looking to start a Premier League season with a win for the first time in several seasons, and against a Palace team that lost manager Pulis a few days earlier, an easy win looked on the cards. But this was not the case, Palace played with great resilience and discipline. The Pulis mentality was still there. Arsenal could not find a way through, and got hit with a sucker punch. Hangeland heading home after some slack marking from a corner. Arsenal were not at their fluent best, but managed to get back on level terms just before half time. Koscielny with an excellent improvised header deep into added time. The second half was more of the same, Arsenal piled on the pressure, but Palace held firm. it was not until the 91st minute did Arsenal get the breakthrough. Ramsey slotting home from 6 yards. A very scrappy win, but Arsenal take the 3 points. Palace will find the result hard to take, and had Jason Puncheon sent off late on.
The first London derby of the season took place at Upton Park, with the Hammers entertaining Tottenham. This was Pochettino ‘s first game in charge of the North London team, and it looked like a win on his first game would be a difficult task after Kyle Naughton was shown a red after being deemed to prevent a goal scoring opportunity with his hands. The red seemed a tad harsh, but West Ham failed to capitalise, Mark Nobel with a very rare miss for the spot, his kick just wide of the post. With Enner Valencia and Zarate on the bench, West Ham did not take advantage of their situation, and on the hour mark, James Collins was sent off for a second bookable offence. With seconds to go, it was Eric Dier, on his debut who won it for Spurs. The defender found himself clear, and rounded the keeper with the composure of a striker, a rolled the ball into an open net, a debut to remember for the young Englishmen.
Leicester were back in the big time for the first time in almost a decade, and played a thoroughly entertaining match with Everton. Everton, were rocked by the news of an injury to Ross Barkley, which will now keep him out for several months. It was the Toffees who opened the scoring, Aiden McGeady with a sublime curling strike into the top corner from tight angle. But the home side fired back immediately, their new signing Ulloa rifling home a loose ball in the box. On the stroke of half time, Steven Naismith capped a fine move, and put Everton back in front. It appeared Everton would be leaving with a win, but with minutes left, Chris Wood beat Howard with a fine finish. In the end, the spoils were shared, both teams doing enough for a point a piece.
Last season Sunderland carried out a miraculous turnaround, saving their season after relegation seemed almost sure, they were up against a West Brom team with another new manager in Alan Irvine . Lee Cattermole is not known for his goal scoring prowess, but it was the defender who put Sunderland in front with a powerful, well struck goal from a good 20 yards out. But a brace from Berahino had the Baggies in front. The first from the spot late in the first half after a very soft penalty for a tug on Anichebe. He had the hosts in front mid way through the second half, arriving at the far post to fire home a cross. Sunderland were not giving up, and Seb Labsson levelled the game with a tidy finish. The equaliser took the bad taste away from that penalty decision, had Albion held on.
Andreas Weimann scored the winner for Aston Villa in their opening match at Stoke. Roy Keane has joined Paul Lambert as Assistant Manager at Villa Park, and this hard fought victory at the Britannia would have been a great start to their campaign. Stoke had chances of their own to score, but could not find the net. An opening day loss at home would not have pleased Mark Hughes. QPRs return to the league was not a happy one for their fans, James Chester scoring the only goal of the game for Hull. QPR will rue the chances they had, with 19 attempts on goal throughout the game.
Sunday saw two of the title contenders in action. Liverpool were in action first, hosting Southampton. A team who has lost 3 of its key players to the Merseyside team, which provided an interesting subplot to the game. Raheem Sterling got back to his goal scoring ways quickly, scoring after 23 minutes, applying the finish to a wonderful pass by Henderson. Many would have assumed Liverpool would take control and add to their goal, but Southampton were not going to lie down, and grew into the game. They were more than a match for the Reds, and got their reward early in the second half. Nataniel Clyne lashing home after great 1-2 with new signing Dusan Tadic. Southampton then spurned several chances to take a shock lead, but were made to pay for their missed chances after Sturridge scored with Liverpool’s first attempt on goal in the second half. Southampton carried on, and Schneiderlin’s powerful shot was tipped onto the crossbar by Mignolet. Liverpool held on for the win, like Arsenal, they were not at their best, but the first few games are all about the result. It was very harsh on Southampton, who were the better team for a large share of the game, but they brush away any doomsday talk of their demise after a rotten summer.
Champions Man City were at Newcastle for their opening game, a fixture which has been very kind to them over the last few seasons. Newcastle had made several new singings over the summer, and were looking to get back to the early season form they showed last year, before their collapse after the sale of Cabaye. This was a game that Newcastle rarely threatened. City took the lead in the first half, after Dzeko’s neat back heel pass found David Silva to fire home. City were comfortable for most of the game, Newcastle failed to have a single shot on goal, though Ayoze Perez almost had the dream debut. Within seconds on coming on, he broke clear, and only a last ditch tackle from the covering defender deflected the ball just wide of the far post. Aguero sealed the win at the death, applying the finish after his initial shot was saved. City open their defence with a sold win. Newcastle will hope for better performance next match.
The final game of the week was newly promoted Burnley hosting, Chelsea, who many consider the title favourites. Burnley may not have been given a chance by many pre-match, but that did not stop them from taking a surprise lead. Scott Arfield with a rising drive after 15 minutes. Sending Turf Moor into raptures. It proved to be a short lived celebration, Chelsea were back in it. £32m striker Diego Costa smashing home the ball from inside the box. A goal on his debut, and many more will be expected of the Spain hitman. Soon it was all Chelsea, and all attention on their other blockbuster signing. Cesc Fabregas did not take long to get back into the groove of the Premier League. A sublime pass opened up the Burnley defence to allow Andre Schurrle to put the Blues in front. It was soon game over, Ivanovic poking home the ball from a Fabregas corner. No more goals occurred in the second half, all the damage had been done in the first 45. Both Costa & Fabregas played a key role, but it was still against newly promoted team. Bigger challenges lie ahead.