The Premier League is back!
Top flight football returned with a bang this weekend, with title favourites throwing the gauntlet down to their rivals while relegation contenders showed they weren’t going anywhere without a fight.
Both Manchester sides were impressive, with United beating West Ham 4-0 at Old Trafford and City taking a 2-0 win away at Brighton. Meanwhile, Arsenal got us underway with a 4-3 thriller against Leicester City on Friday night. And as for the defending champions… Well, we’ll get to them.
Steve Mounie celebrates with his new team
Saturday’s games finished with Premier League debutants Huddersfield on top of the footballing world, and the league, after their 3-0 will away to Crystal Palace.
Their first game in the top flight since 1972 started well, with fans having to wait just 23 minutes to see the first goal, as Mathias Jorgensen’s flick on came off Joel Ward at the far post and went past a stranded Wayne Hennessey.
It was only three minutes later when they got their first goal proper, with record-signing Steve Mounie burying a header into the corner to make it 2-0.
The game wasn’t without it’s scares for Huddersfield, with both Wilfried Zaha and Christian Benteke going close, but the new boys weren’t to be denied and the third came from Mounie on the 78th minute.
David Wagner’s side were tireless and full of effort. It was a Premier League debut for all but Tom Ince, but they showed they belong with an incredible performance. After the game Wagner stated:
Our game plan of pressing them as high as possible and keeping them away from goal worked, alongside the togetherness and fighting attitude we had.
It was a great debut for Steve Mounié and we had a great goalkeeper (Jonas Lossl) as well and that helped massively.
Did I expect this result? No, but I hoped it could happen. This makes for a wonderful afternoon.
New names, more goals
Mounie wasn’t the only new striker to find the back of the net this weekend. Alexandre Lacazette opened his account at Arsenal after just two minutes as he flicked a ball from Mohamed Elneny in with unerring ease. He nearly had another as he danced through the box only to smash it high over the crossbar.
Alvaro Morata came on after an hour with the champions a man down and 3-0 behind, and after just nine minutes he made a beautiful run to get onto the end of a Willian cross. With two minutes left he flicked a ball on for David Luiz to convert. 30 minutes, one goal, one assist. Not too bad.
On Sunday Romelu Lukaku topped that though, scoring the opener against West Ham as he took a wonderful ball from Marcus Rashford and smashed it past Joe Hart, he picked up another with a towering header in the second half.
Wayne Rooney’s return to Everton was also marked with a goal, as he scored the only goal in a 1-0 win over Stoke.
All in all, it was the kind of weekend that brought a lot of smiles to a lot of fans and promises a season full of goals. With Morata seemingly set to become the starting hero for Chelsea, and Lukaku looking more deadly than ever this season could see an incredible race for the Golden Boot.
Miguel Britos slots home a late equaliser – the second Liverpool conceded from a corner
Set piece frailties
Arsenal needed a miraculous comeback to take three points against Leicester City on Friday, and in the early kick-off on Saturday Liverpool were twice undone by corners.
Shinji Okazaki opened the scoring for Leicester off a training ground corner that exploited Arsenal’s lack of movement. Their zonal marking system left them completely exposed to the deep ball that was then knocked back into the middle, and it didn’t help that Petr Cech came for it and didn’t get close.
It was Jamie Vardy from a more conventional corner in the second half that gave Leicester a 3-2 lead. The England striker had all the space in the world as he advanced and jumped unchallenged to nod past Cech.
For Liverpool, it was Stefano Okaka early on putting Watford ahead. The forward was entirely unchallenged at the front post to hammer a header practically through Simon Mignolet. Liverpool recovered and looked good for a 3-2 win until chaos reigned at the front post from a corner again. Georginio Wijnaldum seemed to corral the corner, only for it to fall to Richarlison, whose shot came off Mignolet and the crossbar for Miguel Britos to nod home from close range.
Both Liverpool and Arsenal have their sights set, at the very least, in finishing in the top four this season, but with the competition expected to be fierce, there will be hell to pay if they can’t defend better from set pieces.
Antonio Conte looks on as Chelsea put in a horror performance against Burnley
Champions to chumps
Chelsea’s title defence was looking rocky in mid-June, as the transfer saga of Diego Costa rolled through the news. Then Nemanja Matic left, and they were beaten to the signing of Lukaku by Manchester United. Alex Sandro never materialised, and now they are at the start of the season and look like as they did in the final days of Jose Mourinho.
Their game against Burnley went wrong in the 14th minute when Gary Cahill was sent off for a horror-tackle. The Chelsea captain pushed the ball a little too far away as he went on a marauding run and left his foot high on Steven Defour. There was no malice in it, but he had to go and the early red rattled Chelsea. They were all at sea for the rest of the first half.
Conte’s attempted to get through the game with youngster Jeremie Boga in the starting lineup, but he had to be subbed off after 18 minutes to reshuffle the side, as Andreas Christensen came in to partner David Luiz. It did not work.
Burnley took advantage of poor communication and positioning with cross after cross after cross. Sam Vokes opened the scoring after 24 minutes, Stephen Ward scored a beauty on 39 minutes before a Defour cross was met by Vokes again to make it 3-0 before half time.
Chelsea would get two back, but with ten minutes to go Cesc Fabregas made a reckless challenge and he was the only one surprised to see a second yellow card and a red.
Antonio Conte needs to make a signing, and soon, to restore some kind of confidence to a Chelsea side that look worrying like the team that fell apart last time they were defending champions. At the moment they have no option but to play kids, and too many of them. Conte needs to strengthen the squad or he could become the third defending champion to be sacked in a row.
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