Even with fans relegated to their couches, the first week of the Premier League season felt like a big deal. Offseason additions made a big difference in their new colors at Chelsea, Everton and Newcastle, while Wolves wasted no time, scoring twice before fans could finish their first beer. And an old friend returned to the top flight for the first time in sixteen years in spectacular fashion
Game of the Week: Liverpool 4 vs Leeds United 3, at Anfield
Leeds United were once one of the biggest clubs in England before financial mismanagement in the early OO’s sent them tumbling all the way down to League 1. It’s been a long hard slog back to the promised land, but the Whites finally earned their ticket back to the Premier League with a solid 93 point season to win the Championship handily. Led by eccentric Argentine Wizard Marcelo Bielsa, Leeds United hope to replicate the success Wolves and Sheffield United have had the past two years with some immediate results.
Their campaign started at Anfield, where Liverpool hoped to regain their form after a flat performance in the Community Shield loss to Arsenal. The Reds struck first when Mo Salah slotted home a penalty from an unfortunate Robin Koch handball in the box. But Leeds struck back fast when Kalvin Phillips was left with too much time on the ball by the Reds press and found Jack Harrison to level the match only eight minutes later. Virgil Van Dijk smashed powerful header in from a corner to retake the lead, but then badly misplayed a high ball into the box that Patrick Bamford snuffled away to get level again! Sanity seemed to return when Mohamed Salah curled in his second goal at 33 minutes and the Champs headed to the locker room up 3-2 at halftime.
Veteran Polish midfielder Mateusz Klich got the Peacocks even once more just after the hour mark and Bielsa’s men dreamt of sneaking out go Anfield with a point. But big offseason signing Rodrigo, brought in to provide goals, found himself clumsily defending on a corner kick and fouling Fabinho in the box. Salah tucked in the penalty in the 88th minute and despite a flurry of late chances the Whites were sent home empty handed.
It was a thrilling game to watch for us neutrals, but neither Liverpool fans nor Jurgen Klopp can be happy with surrendering three goals to a newly promoted side. Leeds United only took six shots, but all three that were on target went in the net, and all three were the result of defensive miscues or shoddy positioning. James Pierce at The Athletic broke down the breakdown pretty well. They will need to figure something out because their next stop is Stamford Bridge and a tilt against Frank Lampard’s collection of shiny new weapons.
The Rest: Toffees Triumph, Gunners Romp, and Hammers Flop
Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang, who signed a new three year contract this week, capped off the Gunners three goal rout of newly promoted Fulham to kick off the season. The signing will keep the Gabon international in North London through his 34th birthday and cements the captain as a club legend in the making.
Until Sunday Crystal Palace had never won a season opener in front of their home fans, and technically they still haven’t. But Wilfred (Why am I Still an Eagle?) Zaha volleyed an Andres Townsend cross into the net for his 50th Premier League goal to send the Saints packing. The Cote D’Ivoire international was immediately linked to just about anywhere else immediately following the match.
I picked one of these teams to get relegated. The news evidently reached the ears of Magpies skipper Steve Bruce, who rallied his troops around news of my rash dismissal of their chances and clobbered the Hammers two goals to nil. Survivor of the sinking of AFC Bournemouth Callum Wilson scored in his United debut and may or may not have been quoted as saying “take that you obscure American soccer blogger,” to reporters after the game.
The Baggies celebrated their return to the Premier League by surrendering three second half goals. It’s like they never left!
It was Spurs first home opener in their brand new stadium, but it was Everton’s new look midfield that stole the show. Brazialian Allan, Frenchman Abdoulaye Doucoure and Colombian James Rodriguez all made contributions. Rodriguez was especially revelatory, handling the ball effortlessly and making perfect passes, showing a playmaking flair that the Toffees have lacked in recent years. The loss was the Spurs managers first opening day loss in 19 seasons at the helm, and actuaries have moved up the likely date of the sadly predictable firing of Jose Mourinho by two weeks.
Raul Jimenez and Romain Saiss had a brace on the scoreboard before the Blades had their warmups off. One of these teams is a recently promoted but talented and hungry side with visions of cracking the top six. Actually both of them are.
The long opening weekend ended on the coast as the Seagulls hosted Chelsea. It didn’t take long for the Blues summer spending spree to pay off, as Timo Werner earned a penalty with his pace that Jorghino put away with a hop, skip and a jump. The final score is a bit deceiving though, as BHA equalized in the 54th minute off the left boot of Leandro Trossard, and continued to threaten a shaky looking Kepa all night. A new #1 keeper is still on Frank Lampard’s shopping list before the transfer window closes next month.
Looking Ahead: Late Starts and Early Clashes
Both Manchester squads were given an extra week of rest to recover from their European efforts, Burnley and Aston Villa were happy to oblige and all four squads will be back in action this upcoming weekend, with their week one matches squeezed into the schedule later. The biggest game on the slate will be Liverpool visiting Chelsea Sunday at 11:30 EST, streaming on NBC’s new Peacock Premium. And on Monday night at Molineux, Wolverhampton will look to continue their surprising run of form against Manchester City, having doubled up the Citizens last year.
“From our Haus to Yours”