Tuesday, August 15, 2023

Premier League Week 1 Results: Magpies Come Out Flying; Manchester City Win Match, Lose De Bruyne; Arsenal Clip Forest; Manchester United Barely Escapes Wolves; Seagulls Bombard Hatters; Chelsea and Liverpool Deadlock On Pitch As Blues Win Transfer Battle

Newcastle emerged from the Premier League’s opening weekend with a statement win, thumping Aston Villa 5-1 at St. James Park. Newcomers Sandro Tonali and Harvey Barnes both scored in their Newcastle debuts while Alexander Isak tallied in each half of the romp for the Magpies. Callum Wilson joined in the scoring fun while Anthony Gordon continued his fine play from the summer U21 Euros. Aston Villa’s disastrous day was not limited to the scoreline. Tyrone Mings was stretchered from the field with a knee injury in the first half and is expected to be out for months. Newly acquired defender Pau Torres did not impress in his relief role and reports on Monday were linking Harry Maguire with a possible move to the depleted Villans. Maguire’s move from Manchester United to West Ham hadn’t yet crossed the finish line as of early this week and Villa could now enter the fray.

The smashing win by Newcastle sets up an interesting matchup at the Etihad next weekend between Newcastle and Manchester City. The defending titlists easily disposed of Burnley 3-0 on Friday as Erling Haaland burst from the gate with two first half goals to open the Premier League season. Unfortunately for Manchester City, however, Kevin DeBruyne pulled up lame with the same hamstring injury he incurred during the spring Champions League finale. The absence of service from last season’s Premier League assists leader could be the only thing that can stop Haaland.

Arsenal looked ready to cruise over Nottingham Forest after a wonder goal by Bukayo Saka put the Gunners in front 2-0 just past the half hour mark. The Tricky Trees hung around, however, and made the Gunners sweat when Taiwo Awoniyi halved the deficit in the 83rd minute. The 2-1 final put three points in the book but the inability to effectively kill the match and a knee injury suffered by new Arsenal defender Jurrien Timber took some of the glow off the victory at the Emirates.

Manchester United were even less impressive in their 1-0 home victory over Wolverhampton. Wolves controlled the midfield throughout the contest as new signing Mason Mount made no positive impact for the Red Devils. The match’s only goal came from unexpected sources as fullback Aaron Wan-Bissaca, often criticized for his lack of contribution on the offensive end, chipped a beautiful ball into the box which center back Raphael Varane headed past Wolves goalkeeper Jose Sa. It was only Varane’s second career Premier League goal and followed a goalless 2022/23 season for the former Real Madrid star.

United is going to need more conventional goal sources going forward and one can only hope Rasmus Hojlund, currently sidelined with a stress fracture, proves a viable answer at striker for the Red Devils. New Wolverhampton manager Gary O’Neil, meanwhile, is due to catch a break. After keeping Bournemouth up last season, he was abruptly sacked. His club performed beyond expectations on Monday and came away with nothing. Worse yet, his club probably should have had an opportunity to salvage a point but for a referee decision in stoppage time. Manchester United goalkeeper Andre Onana clattered into Wolves striker Sasa Kalajdzic in an ill-timed, reckless and unsuccessful attempt on the ball. No penalty, however, was awarded in a head scratching decision. O’Neil claimed to have received an apology immediately after the match from Jon Moss, head of the referees’ association, for an incorrect call. The culpable referee and VAR officials have now reportedly been dropped from participation in next weekend’s Premier League fixtures. At the end of the day, however, Wolves were unable to find the opponents net which could well prove their undoing this season. Their anemic attack managed only 31 goals in 38 games last season and appeared no sharper in the final third on Monday.

Brighton, meanwhile, put on a fireworks show for its home supporters as the Seagulls scored three second half goals in a 4-1 win over Luton Town. Joao Pedro and Simon Adingra both scored in their Brighton debuts as the Seagulls showed little effect from the absence of last year’s stars Alexis Mac Allister and Moises Caicedo. An injury time goal by 18-year-old Evan Ferguson was one of three goals on Saturday for the Seagulls by a player 21 years old or under. Luton Town, meanwhile, looks in for a very long season.

Chelsea and Liverpool were still wrestling for the signature of Moises Caicedo on Sunday as the two clubs battled on the pitch to a 1-1 draw. The clubs deadlocked for a seventh consecutive meeting in a match for which the implications are open to  interpretation. An away point at Stamford Bridge would normally be a good result for Liverpool. Chelsea, however, were terrible last year, losing six times at home. Liverpool would thus justifiably have hoped for more out of the match. Chelsea supporters, meanwhile, were borderline thrilled with the result.  Despite dropping points at home on Sunday, the match hinted at better things ahead for the Blues this season. The club which took the pitch for new manager Mauricio Pochettino looked much improved and the Blue’s energetic play provided a welcome contrast to the lethargic drudgery of last season. New signing Axel Disasi scored in the 37th minute of his Chelsea debut to offset an earlier first half goal by Luis Diaz of Liverpool.

Winger Ben Chilwell and striker Nicolas Jackson posed continuing threat to the Liverpool defense while midfielder Enzo Fernandez was accorded Man of the Match for his best performance since joining Chelsea last year. Fernandez should be unleashed to show his talent further up the pitch as Chelsea has now closed the deal for ace defensive midfielder Moises Caicedo this week. Liverpool was the loser in the Caicedo sweepstakes and reports this week indicate Southampton midfielder Romeo Lavia is also posed to choose Chelsea over Liverpool in what would be yet another humiliation for the Reds. Meanwhile, the Trent Alexander-Arnold positional experiment at Liverpool again presented a high risk/ high reward element in Sunday’s match. Alexander-Arnold failed to get back and allowed Disasi a free run for the equalizing goal. The hybrid defender/midfielder, however, beautifully set up Salah for what would have been a winning goal but for an offside ruling. Salah was not a happy man when later lifted from the match in the 77th minute. Salah’s dramatic trudge to the sideline was enjoyable theatre for the Chelsea home supporters.

Spurs and new manager Ange Postecoglou gained a point in a 2-2 draw at Brentford as the club transitions to life after Harry Kane. The former Spurs captain had already made his debut for Bayern Munich by the time Spurs took the field on Sunday. New Tottenham Hotspur player James Maddison assisted both goals, the second coming on Emerson Royal’s equalizer in the first half stoppage time. Despite the away point, Tottenham Hotspur supporters should be concerned by another non-productive effort by Richarlison. The Brazilian forward was asked Sunday to lead the line in replacement of Kane after scoring just a single league goal for Spurs last season.

Richarlison’ s former club, Everton, were once again without their only bona fide scoring threat when Dominic Calvert-Lewin was absent for the Toffees’ 1-0 loss to Fulham. Bobby De Cordova-Reid had the goal for the victorious Cottagers.

A similar 1-0 scoreline played out at Bramall Lane where visiting Crystal Place put newly promoted Sheffield United to the sword. Odsonne Edouard scored the winner as the Eagles began life without club talisman Wilfried Zaha who is now in Turkey. Crystal Palace uncharacteristically controlled 68% of the possession against the hapless Blades.

New Bournemouth Manager Andoni Iraola earned a point in his Premier League debut in a 1-1 home draw against West Ham. Dominic Solanke equalized for the Cherries in the 82nd minute to neutralize an earlier goal by the Hammers’ Jarrod Bowen. Solanke had ironically been the subject of recent transfer rumors involving the Hammers. An interesting milestone was marked by the second half introduction of newly acquired Bournemouth player Justin Kluivert. At just 24 years of age, Kluivert on Saturday became just the fourth player to have appeared in each of Europe’s top five leagues - the Premier League, La Liga, Bundesliga, Ligue 1 and Serie A.

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