In perhaps the most exciting game of the weekend, Manchester City stumbled to a 3-2 win against plucky Southampton at the Etihad. The Saints talisman Rickie Lambert started on the bench but came on after an hour to transform them into a genuine threat for the champions. Within four minutes he brought the score to 1-1, after a first half strike from Carlos Tevez. Saints manager Nigel Adkins second substitute, Steven Davis, scored almost straight away with an almost identical strike to Lambert’s. Panic had wavered across the Etihad. But City showed why they were champions when Samir Nasri pounced on a poor clearance to grab the three points.
The second weekend of the Premier League was more or less a follow up to last weekend in that Arsenal failed to score, Swansea continued their free-scoring form, Aston Villa are in serious trouble, the two Manchester clubs are leaking goals and Chelsea are the undisputed in form team.
However, Liverpool showed some of the old fighting spirit with Brendan Rodgers trademark swagger, Fulham couldn’t follow up their Norwich demolition with a win at Old Trafford and despite valiant efforts at the Etihad last week Southampton struggled against a resurgent Wigan.
Michael Laudrup’s Midas touch at the Liberty Stadium took new heights as Swansea showed impressive passing, assured possession and patience to win 3 nil. They even got recognition from Cesc Fabregas via Twitter, “I love the way Swansea plays … Respect.”, as they carved open a woeful West Ham time and time again. Michu showed that his performance last weekend wasn’t a one off, but it’ll be when Swansea starts conceding goals that we will see what this team is really made of.
David Moyes has for once got his team off and running straight away as Everton followed their win against Manchester United with a 3-1 win away to Aston Villa. Villa Park hasn’t seen a win in over nine months and Paul Lambert as done little so far to change the Birmingham club’s fortunes. He said after the game, “I will take the blame. We were disappointing.You cannot at any level give somebody a couple of goals’ start.” He was referring to Steven Pienaar’s fantastic curling strike from outside the box, after a superb lay off from Steven Naismith, to put Everton in front inside three minutes. Fellaini (31) and Jelavic (44) made sure that at half time Aston Villa were well and truly buried. Villa responded with a long range strike from El Ahmadi but that was after Ciaran Clarke was sent off early in the second period. Moyes summed up the performance after the game, “At times it was as good as I’ve seen us play.”
Another team that has hit the ground running is Chelsea, who followed up their 4-2 win against Reading with a 2 nil win against Newcastle. The Toon rarely threatened and they would have conceded more if it wasn’t for Coloccini and Taylor in the backline for Newcastle. Again, Chelsea have shown that the Torres/Hazard partnership is seamless, when the Belgian thumped in a penalty won by the Spaniard, and they combined on the edge of the box before halftime to produce a stunning goal. Hazard did a backheel pass for Torres to curl a first touch shot straight to the top corner. Alan Pardew was very praising of his opponents and said of Hazard, “He travels with the ball and bides time, he has that kind of nonchalance about him that marks him out as a great player.”
On Sunday, Arsenal yet again couldn’t find a way through a sturdy defence and finished with another goalless draw. Though Stoke rarely threatened, due to Arsenal’s own resolute backline, the Gunner’s found it tough to create clear cut chances. Cazorla again was the most productive player on the field and Giroud, who started up front, made some ingenious lay-offs to likes of Diaby, Gervinho and Podolski who struggled to get a shot on target. The game’s best chance came late on when Arsenal were on the counter. Giroud picked up the ball from the half way line and darted forward. Aaron Ramsey, who replaced Cazorla, much to the ire of Arsenal fans, made a run through the middle which Giroud spotted but, hilariously, chose to shoot from nearly 50 yards out. Sorenson panicked and back pedalled only to see the shot just fizz past the crossbar by a whisker.
Anfield saw a lot more drama when Liverpool finished with a 2-2 draw against Manchester City. Martin Skrtel turned from Kop hero to Kop clown when in the 80th minute he gifted Tevez with a carless back pass, after the defender opened the scoring with a bullet header in the 34thminute. Yaya Toure brought things level at the 63rd minute but Luis Suarez scored a wonderful free kick in the 66th. Raheem Sterling started for Liverpool on the left wing and immensely impressed. The 17 year old seems to have gone a long way from pre season where the video (above) shows Brendan Rodgers dressing him down. Roberto Mancini was flapping his arms around in anger every five minutes and has made no secret of his frustration at the lack any summer signings.
Swansea 3 0 West Ham
Aston Villa 1 3 Everton
Manchester United 3 2 Fulham
Norwich 1 1 QPR
Southampton 0 2 Wigan
Tottenham 1 1 West Brom
Chelsea 2 0 Newcastle
Stoke 0 0 Arsenal
Liverpool 2 2 Manchester City
From Fulham and Swansea’s 5 nil thumping’s of Norwich and QPR respectively, to Marouane Fellaini’s bullet header last night for Everton, to give Manchester United problems from the get-go, the Premier League returned in fine style.
Saturday afternoon saw Arsenal host Sunderland as they started life without Robin van Persie with a drab goalless draw. Of the three debutants for the Gunners, Santi Cazorla impressed the most with his vision and willingness to press forward whilst peppering Simon Mignolet with vicious shots. Lukas Podolski offered little in the game, despite valiant efforts, before he was replaced just past the hour mark by Olivier Giroud, who spurned the best chance of the game. The two strikers will have time to settle and adapt though.
Meanwhile, South East of the Emirates Stadium, Fulham were proving their worth in the absence of their star man at Craven Cottage. Clint Dempsey had made it clear that he would not play for Fulham again and Martin Jol’s squad responded emphatically. New striker Mladen Petric, from Jol’s former side Hamburger SV, scored two and set up another for fellow debutant Alex Kacaniklic whilst a Steve Sidwell penalty and Damien Duff shot compounded a dismal display from Norwich- we wait to see if the Canaries are diagnosed with second-season syndrome. By the final whistle the Fulham fans were screaming ‘Who needs Dempsey!?’ in defiant elation.
Dempsey’s potential suitors Liverpool could have done with the American’s talents on Saturday though, as they were completely outplayed by an invigorated West Bromwich Albion 3 nil. Zoltan Gera’s stunning volley, Peter Odemwingie’s penalty and Romelu Lukaku’s late strike, gave Brendan Rodgers a dose of reality as his team’s weaknesses were brutally exposed at the Hawthorns. £15 million man Joe Allen looked out of sorts at times while fellow midfielder for West Brom, Claudio Yacob, a free signing, achieved a 96% pass completion rate- but Liverpool fans should be used to expensive flops by now.
Perhaps Rodgers should have taken note of his Swansea successor Michael Laudrup’s shrewd transfer policy. He bought Gylfi Sigurdsson’s replacement in Michu for £2 million, brought Villarreal midfielder Jonathon de Guzman on loan and Arsenal’s Kyle Bartley for £1 million. For a team who lost their manager and one of their best players from the last campaign, they started the new season emphatically under Laudrup. Michu scored twice, Nathan Dyer scored twice and an unsettled Scott Sinclair finished with a fifth.
Sunday picked up where Saturday left off, first at The DW Stadium where in less than six minutes, Champions League winners Chelsea found themselves 2 nil up against a shell shocked Wigan. Eden Hazard was the architect for both goals and vastly improved his performance in six minutes of League football, from his 90 last week in the Community Shield. Wigan collected themselves however and made a better showing in the second half, ultimately to no avail.
The other half of Manchester had to wait until Monday night to see the Red Devils kick-start their 2012/13 campaign at Goodison Park. Fans had to wait even longer to see their latest signing Robin van Persie make his debut as Sir Alex Ferguson opted to partner Wayne Rooney with Danny Welbeck. Shinji Kagawa impressed but couldn’t prevent another Belgian international from winning the game. Fellaini, who had a busy game, secured three points after an hour when he smashed a header past David de Gea. Robin van Persie had just 29 minutes to make an impact when he replaced Welbeck. Boos rang through the entire stadium from all sections of the crowd, even the away support, every time the Dutchman touched the ball. Ferguson put the defeat down to the fact that van Persie wasn’t supplied enough to make an impression. The former Arsenal hero’s sunken expression throughout the game suggested he didn’t know how to play without Theo Walcott, Gervinho and Alex Song supporting him.
Arsenal 0-0 Sunderland
Fulham 5-0 Norwich
QPR 0-5 Swansea
Reading 1-1 Stoke City
West Brom 3-0 Liverpool
West Ham 1-0 Aston Villa
Newcastle 2-1 Tottenham
Wigan 0-2 Chelsea
Manchester City 3-2 Southampton
Everton 1-0 Manchester United