Arsenal 0 –0 Sunderland
The Gunners were held to a goal-less home draw against the Black Cats and looked bad doing it. There are no questions about the defending and Arsenal did do their usual possession domination. However, one could see that boss Arsene Wenger has a problem. Who will score the goals this season? We all know about last season’s Golden Boot Winner Robin Van Persie’s exit. The Gunners are a disjointed bunch and it showed on Saturday morning. Time after time they managed to work the ball through the Sunderland defense, only to flub in front of goal. The most glaring miss happened in the 82nd minute when substitute Olivier Giroud burst into the area in typical Gunner fashion, and promptly put his effort wide of goal. The Black Cats did hold their own and Stephane Sessegnon and substitute Louis Saha gave the Gunner defense a scare or two. But this should have been an easy three points for Arsenal. If they have any trophy aspirations for this season, they have a lot of work to do.
Fulham 5 – 0 Norwich
Fulham are top of the league with a brilliant home display. And they did it without want-away American striker Clint Dempsey. New signing Mladen Petric looks like a wonderful replacement for Dempsey. He scored a great header from a Damien Duff corner at minute 41st and hit a great 54th minute strike from 25 yards out that deflected in off defender Michael Turner. Duff started the smack down in minute 26 when he latched onto defender John Arne Riise’s through ball and tucked a way a fine finish. The Canaries never really put up any opposition and went further behind when Petric grabbed his brace. Alex Kacaniklic added a fouth in the 66th minute and Steve Sidwell completed the Canaries’ London humiliaton with an 87th minute penalty kick that had been awarded after Hugo Rodellaga had been fouled in the area. Norwich are one of the three relegation candidates for this season and they really looked awful. Cottagers’ midfielders Moussa Dembele and Bryan Ruiz made the Canaries look very ordinary and their influence could be seen as the main contribution for all five goals. While no one in their right mind thinks that Fulham will stay top for long, they gave a great performance on Saturday.
QPR 0 – 5 Swansea
The other beat down of the day also happened in London as the Swans traveled to Loftus Road to deliver a five goal QPR butt whipping. New Swansea boss Michael Laudrup was feeling all kinds of happy watching what looked like a training ground warm-up match. Rangers’ defending was horrible. And that is being kind. Boss Mark Hughes was visibly upset during the whole match as his boys had no answer for new Swansea signing Miguel Michu. Michu got his first in the 8th minute from a 20 yard strike that got under QPR keeper Rob Green. That’s how things stayed until Michu struck again in the 53rd minute and the rout was on. Nathan Dyer scored in the 63rd and 71st minute as the Swans seemed to move the ball around the pitch with ease. Scott Sinclair’s 81st minute score finished off the whipping. So what does Mark Hughes do now? And how does new Ranger siging Park Ji-sung feel about his team?
Reading 1 – 1 Stoke City
Reading score a last minute penalty to salvage a draw in their debut return to the BPL. Potter’s boss Tony Pulis must be a little upset about losing three easy points to the newly promoted Royals. The Potters did go into the lead in the 34th minute when keeper Adam Federici handed them a gift wrapped goal from Michael Kightly shot. What should have happen then was Stoke to go on to an easy win and for Reading to wonder how long this stay in the BPL is going to last. But Royals’ boss Brian McDermott was has taught his boys to keep fighting for all ninety minutes of the match. It also helped that Stoke were not playing very inspirational football. The Royals’ hard work and perseverance paid off when substitute Garatth McCleary, in the 88th minute, was able to cut through the Potters’ defense and was fouled by Dean Whitehead in the Stoke City penalty area. The referee paused to see if there was any advantage to be gained, and seeing none, brought play back for the spot kick and Whitehead was sent off for a second bookable offense. Adam Le Fondre took the kick from the spot and the match was all tied up. Reading almost won it in stoppage time when Mikele Leigertwood nearly scored from a free kick. If the Royals can maintain that kind of fight for every match, they stand a good chance of staying in the BPL.
West Bromwich Albion 3 – 0 Liverpool
So King Kenny Dalgish’s replacement Brendan Rogers’ debut as the new Liverpool boss was an absolute bust. I went to the local pub to watch this one. I was expecting to see Liverpool make mince meat of WBA and make the home fans wish for Roy Hodgson to come back from managing England and rescue them. I did not expect the Baggies to pull off the shock result of the week. The match started out in Liverpool’s favor and Luis Suarez showed again why he will always be a handful for anyone defending him. He should have opened the scoring when his 8th minute effort was saved by keeper Ben Foster. Suarez’s next chance came in the 16th minute when his shot was saved again by Foster. New Red’s signing Fabio Borini’s 17th minute effort cleared the Baggies goal and Suarez missed another attempt in the 25th minute. The opening goal of the match was scored in the 43rd minute when Zoltan Gera hit a wonderful effort from 25 yards out into the upper 90 of the Liverpool goal. The “Goal of the Week” came when the Reds clearance from the Baggie corner kick came right to Gera’s feet and he buried the shot with wonderful class. Controversy came in the 58th minute when Daniel Agger was judged to have fouled Shane Long in the Liverpool penalty area. Replays seemed to suggest that the initial foul happened outside of the area. Also, Agger was judged by the referee to have been the last man, so he was summarily sent off. The ensuing penalty, taken by Shane Long was one of the worst penalties that one will see. It was a slow run-up followed by a lame kick and Reds keeper Pepe Reina made easy work of the save. But the Baggies were awarded another penalty when Martin Skrtel got caught dithering on the ball and after losing it to Shane Long, clipped the latter’s heal trying to win it back. This time Peter Odemwingie took the spot kick and made sure work of getting the second goal. The third goal is what should have Liverpool fans worried. The Baggies, on a counter-attack, outnumbered the Reds. Liam Ridgewell was able to pick out an unmarked Romelu Lukaku with an easy cross and Lukaku headed the goal home to secure the win. The Reds host the Champions next week and if they perform like they did on Saturday, they’re going to get a right good hiding.
West Ham United 1 – 0 Aston Villa
The Irons announce their return to the BPL with a win over the Villains. Paul Lambert’s debut as the new boss of Aston Villa was messed up by a controversial decision at Upton Park. The match started nice and even with both sides taking their chances. So things went until the 40th minute when Kevin Nolan scored from a Ricardo Vaz Te cross. Initial video indicated that Nolan may have been offside. In fact the referee’s assistant did put up his flag. But the referee had noticed that Vaz Te’s cross had been headed by defender Kieran Clark and by rule Nolan could not have been ruled offside. So the referee rightly overruled the assistant and awarded the goal. There was more controversy in the second half when Irons striker Carlton Cole seemed to have been pushed over in the Villain penalty area by defender Ron Vlaar. But the referee did not see the challenge as anything illegal and nothing was given. Vlaar did nearly mark his debut with an equalizer but put his 30 yard strike wide. But the bubbles are blowing again as West Ham celebrate their return to the BPL with a win. Can Sam Alladyce keep the Irons up?
Newcastle 2 – 1 Tottenham
The Magpies spoil Andreas Villas-Boas’ first match in charge of Spurs. Demba Ba had the best chance in the first half when his left footed strike nearly crept into an open left side of the Spurs net. Villas-Boas’ boys looked really lost without want away midfielder Luka Modric. They also miss last season loanee Emmanuel Adebayor as transfer negotiations with his club Manchester City still have not been finalized. The Magpies went ahead in the 54th minute when striker Demba Ba hit a magnificent curling shot from 20 yards out over keeper Brad Friedel’s left shoulder. Soon afterward, Magpies boss Alan Pardew was sent to the stands after shoving the referee’s assistant in anger after he felt the ball had gone out of play during a Spurs attack that saw Gylfi Sigurdsson shoot wide of the goal. Pardew was really angry when, from his seat in the stands Jermain Defoe grabbed an equalizer in the 76th minute. But Spurs were behind four minutes later when Hatem Ben Arfa brilliantly cut through the defense and was brought down in the Spurs penalty area by a mistimed Rafael van der Vaart tackle. Ben Arfa took the resulting spot kick and Newcastle opened their campaign with a convincing win. I wonder if somewhere on a London golf course Harry Redknapp is smirking a bit?
Wigan 0 – 2 Chelsea
The European Champions start the BPL campaign off in efficient form over relegation candidates Wigan. New Blues signing Eden Hazard was influential in both goals and made a wonderful debut. The first goal came in the 2nd minute when the Belgian midfielder made a very neat turn and sent defender Branislav Ivanovic on a clear run into the box to score. Hazard set up the second goal in the 7th minute when he was fouled in the Latics penalty area by Ivan Ramis. Frank Lampard put away the resulting spot kick and it looked like Chelsea were going to run away with the match. But Blues transfer target Victor Moses nearly scored twice in the first half, with the second attempt saved by keeper Petr Cech after Moses made Ashley Cole look a bit silly. Hazard had to be taken off in the 64th minute still suffering from the effects of a bad challenge from Gary Caldwell that happened in the 10th minute. But the Latics did not really mount much of a threat and if this performance is any indication of how the season will go for them, boss Roberto Martinez will have another bottom of the table struggle on his hands.
Manchester City 3 – 2 Southampton
Boy, do Citeh like end of match drama. I think someone should tell boss Roberto Mancini that he is competing for the BPL Premiership Trophy and not the Daytime Emmys. Did the club get an investment from Oprah Winfrey and she demanded some “Hollywood like dramatics”? This should have been an easy three points for the BPL Champions and they started the match in fine form. They eased the ball around the Etihad Stadium ground with the arrogance that one earns by being champions. But things got shaky in the 14th minute when Sergio Aguero was carried off with an apparent knee injury after a challenge from midfielder Nathaniel Clyne. Things got even shakier for the Champions when David Silva’s 16th minute penalty kick attempt was saved by Southampton keeper Kelvin Davis. But act one of the “Baby-Mamma Drama” was ended when Citeh striker Carlos Tevez finished off a great, low, hard shot in the 40th minute. The second half should have seen Citeh finish off the match, but Gael Clichy, and David Silva both hit easy shots over the bar, Tevez had his shot saved by keeper Davis, and Pablo Zabaleta had his shot blocked. So when Southampton brought on Rickie Lambert for Jay Rodriguez in the 55th minute, the drama really started. It started in the 58th minute when Tevez missed a sure goal and Southampton were able to counter-attack. Guly Do Prado was able to find Lambert who took a great shot from the edge of the area and beat keeper Joe Hart to get the equalizer. The Saints took the lead in the 68th minute from another counter-attack finished off by Steven Davis. Mancini had seen enough and replaced David Silva with Mario Balotelli in the 72nd minute. Shortly afterward, Samir Nasri made a great run along the goal line and was able to find Yaya Toure streaking into the area. Toure found Edin Dzeko with his cross and Dzeko made the match was level. Nasri scored the winner in the 80th minute when he headed in Gael Clichy’s cross and that should have been that. The Saints should have scored the equalizer in the 89th from Steve Davis’ cross, but Pablo Zabaleta made a fine defensive clearance and three minutes into stoppage time (should we now call it Mancini time?) the win was safe and confirmed.