One of the biggest complaints you hear from the soccer skeptical public is that there isn’t enough “action,” as in this clip from the opening of the November 2, 1997 episode of The Simpsons, “The Cartridge Family,” illustrates…
Now we fans often get defensive at this point. That’s silly, there’s tons of action in most top flight football matches. What they usually mean is that there isn’t enough scoring. While it is true that soccer is a traditionally low scoring affair, but so is hockey. Besides, every once in awhile a weekend like we just witnessed comes along to satisfy the goal hungry masses.
Premier League clubs combined for 44 goals over the ten matches contested last weekend. It was the highest tally since the top flight shrank to 20 teams in 1995, besting the 43 goals scored on the weekend ofFebruary 5-6, 2011. It was wild and wacky end to end football across the UK. Added to a fairly high scoring opening week, it certainly looks like the offense is ahead of the defense so far this year.
Game of the Week: Southhampton 2 vs Tottenham Hotspur 5, at St Mary’s Stadium
There were three games this week where teams scored SEVEN between them, and if you slept in Sunday morning like a certain blogger who was lucky enough to catch the replay on Peacock Premium then you might have missed the best of the bunch. Spurs headed to St Mary’s hoping to wash the bad taste of their Matchweek 1 loss to Everton out of their mouths. That wasn’t going so well in the first half, as last year’s Golden Boot runner up Danny Ings netted the first Saints goal of the season at the 32’nd minute. Spurs equalized just before the break as Son Heung-Min opened Tottenham’s account for the season, depositing a Harry Kane pass that may have been accompanied by eerie minor key forshadowing music.
A mere two minutes after the teams returned to the pitch, Son once again fed by Incredibly Handsome Englishman Harry Kane, put Spurs ahead with a deadly strike on the break. Not ten minutes passed before the duo again torched Southampton’s high line to complete the Korean’s first Premier League hat trick. Then 10 minutes after THAT Kane found found Son AGAIN to become the first player to assist the same teammate four times in a Premier League game. Kane finally joined the goal party, collecting the scraps in front of goal after an Erik Lamella shot was deflected into his path. New Spurs right back Matt Doherty fell victim to the new stricter handball rules when a ball caromed off his arm, giving Ings his sec and goal of the day from the penalty spot, but it was merely a consolation.
Some of the difference in outcomes can be explained by the opponents, with Southampton having added little to their 11th place squad from last year compared to the big midfield overhaul at Everton. But Spurs just looked a lot more alive than they did in week one. Southampton pressed their defenders high and Tottenham punished them for it with Son’s blazing speed. The squad may also be buoyed by the news that Welsh Prodigal Son Gareth Bale will be returning to North London from his dismal foray on the Continent at Real Madrid, accompanied by a young stallion of a left wingback in the form of 23 year old Spaniard Sergio Reguilón. If the oft injured Bale stay fit, he’ll join a potentially scary front three.
The Rest: Everton Rolls, Man City Holds, and Man U Folds
Arsenal 2 vs West Ham United 1 at Emirates Stadium
Arsenal opened the scoring with a forceful Lacazette header of a delicate cross from Aubameyang in the 24th minute. But the Hammers were in a scrappy mood Saturday after their embarrassing loss to Newcastle. Striker Michael Antonio did his job just before halftime, poking in a low Ryan Fredericks cross just inches ahead of his marker. West Ham fired off 14 shots compared to the Gunners seven over the course of the match, but it was 21 year old substitute Eddie Nketiah who scored the match winner for Arsenal with five minutes to go.
Manchester United 1 vs Crystal Palace 3 at Old Trafford
Andres Townsend drew first blood after seven minutes. Then a contentious sequence that started with a Victor Lindlhof handball (awarded after a VAR review,) a Jordan Ayew spot kick saved by David De Gea was overturned (after a VAR review saw De Gea leave his line early,) ended with Wilfred Zaha converting from the spot for a two goal lead. Dutch addition Donny Van Der Beek poked in a second half goal off the bench, but Zaha’s 85th minute beauty of a curler sealed the three points for Palace. Manchester United’s center half duo of Lindlhof and Maguire were just bamboozled by the speed of the attacking Eagles, giving Ole Gunnar Solskjaer a lot to think about this week.
Leeds United 4 vs Fulham 3 at Eiland Road
Two newly promoted sides clashed in the first Premier League game at Eiland Road in eleven years. After Helder Costa opened the scoring for Leeds, the teams traded penalties for a 2-1 score at halftime. Patrick Bamford scored five minutes into the second period, then assisted Costa’s second strike just before the hour mark to set up what looked like a rout. But Scott Parker’s Cottagers pushed furiously in the last half hour, with goals from sub Bobby Reid and Alexander Mitrovich to make it a contest to the final whistle. Great game.
Everton 5 vs West Bromwich Albion 2 at Goodison Park
Long suffering Everton fans were prepared for a let down after their dramatic Matchweek 1 upset of Spurs. It’s just part of being a Toffee. Luckily for them the Baggies had come to town with their “He went that-away…” defense. Dominic Calvert-Lewin collected his first career hat trick, James Rodriguez collected his first goal of the season, as well as a pretty flagrant whack upside the head from Kieran Gibbs that saw the Englishman sent off. West Brom manager was also shown a red card as he harangued the ref as they headed to the lockers, leaving the Baggies to see out the rout with 10 men and rudderless to boot.
Leicester City 4 vs Burnley 2 at King Power Stadium
One would think a 4-2 thrashing of the Clarets would involve more from that most vulpine of Foxes, Golden Boot winner Jamie Vardy. But it was the supporting cast that featured on Sunday, with Harvey Barnes, Dennis Praet, James Justin and an own goal from Burnley’s Erik Pieters to boot.
Chelsea 0 vs Liverpool 2 at Stamford Bridge
The match between the two biggest squads this weekend saw Jurgen Klopp’s familiar Reds visiting Frank Lampard’s new look Blues. Neither team indulged in the frantic scoring seen elsewhere, despite some nervy moments from Kepa in front of goal, as the two teams parried each others thrusts for 44 minutes. It was Chelsea who blinked first just before halftime, when Andreas Christensen saw Sadio Mané streaking after a long forward pass, then looked up to see his keeper inexplicably charging off his line after the ball. Rather than watch the Senagalese maestro burn the worlds most expensive goalkeeper he made what would be a touchdown saving tackle in American Football. In Association Football however it was a denial of a clear goal stopping opportunity and after a quick VAR check the Dane was shown a red card.
Christensen’s departure not only left Chelsea shorthanded, it also left Kepa Arrizabalaga even more shell shocked in from of goal. Mané finally broke the deadlock with a wicked header 50 minutes in, then was in just the right place to take advantage of the last mistake Kepa is likely to make for Lampard’s Lads. In another inexplicable decision, the Spaniard received a back pass and rather than clearing his lines attempted to pass the ball to Jorghino whilst Sadio was RIGHT THERE IN FRONT OF HIM. The howler can be witnessed in all its glory at the 6.00 minute mark of this highlight package.
The errors overshadowed what was an otherwise fairly even matchup. Timo Werner once again showed off his dangerous bursts of speed, and Liverpool debuted their own Bundesliga prize as Thiago Alcantara came on in the second half and looked like he had been a Red for years. Both of these teams will be fun to watch all year. (Update: Chelsea have completed negotiations to bring in Edouard Mendy from Rennes for a reported 22 million pounds, with an eye for him to be available to face West Brom on Saturday. Which isn’t a bad place to start your Premier League career.)
Newcastle United 0 vs Brighton and Hove Albion 3 at St. James Park
Neil Maupay’s brace in the first half and his assist of Aaron Connaly’s achingly beautiful curling finish late in the second half secured the Frenchman the game ball, whilst the Seagulls defense held firm. The victory was somewhat marred when BHA’s Yves Bissouma was sent off for a wild high kick that saw his cleats smash directly into Jamal Lewis’s face (OUCH!)
Wolverhampton Wanderers 1 vs Manchester City 3 at Molineux Stadium
Manchester City came to Molineux to start their 2020/21 campaign hoping for better results than their last two visits, a draw in 2018/19, and last year’s 2-3 loss as Wolves doubled up on the Citizens. Kevin DeBruyne got them started, converting from the spot after drawing a foul from Romain Saiss. Phil Foden, a rising youngster in his first opening day start in Sky Blue, doubled City’s total a few minutes later.
It wasn’t smooth sailing, as Nuno Espirito Santo’s men threatened throughout the second half, with a forceful Raul Jimenez header clawing Wolves back into it. But Gabriel Jesus put the game out of reach as stoppage time ended to seal the deal. Both squads are still fiddling with lineups in flux from Covid 19 and transfer business left to do, so the rematch next March should be a lot of fun.
Aston Villa 1vs Sheffield United 0 at Villa Park
Sheffield United played most of the day with 10 men after center back Jack Egan was shown a red card after a hard could on the Villains Ollie Watkins, making his Villa debut after his transfer from Brentford. Still the Blades had a chance to take the lead from the penalty spot, but Lundstrum’s attempt was professionally stopped by brand new keeper Emiliano Martinez, just signed from Arsenal last week. Villa sealed the victory around the hour mark as Ezri Konsa Ngoyo tucked home a headed cross from Tyrone Mings. It’s a great opener for a Villa squad many picked to go down, and a frustrating second outing for a winless Sheffield United.
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