By Ryan Moran
- Arsenal and Chelsea drop points on the opening weekend.
- Promoted teams Bournemouth and Norwich lose, Watford draw.
- Wins for Liverpool, Manchester United, Manchester City and Leicester City.
BARCLAYS PREMIER LEAGUE- ENGLAND AND WALES- Chelsea draw and Arsenal lose on the first weekend of the 2015/16 season as Leicester City record a big win.
Wins for Aston Villa, Crystal Palace, Leicester City, Liverpool, Manchester United and West Ham United on the opening weekend of the Premier League kicked off what is going to be a close season, especially at the lower end of the table. Last season’s champions were in action against a free flowing Swansea side at Stamford Bridge and only managed to grab a point.
Chelsea 2-2 Swansea City
After losing to Arsenal in the Community Shield, Chelsea were hoping to kick off their title defence with a win over Swansea. The blues went ahead after an Oscar free kick avoided everyone and went straight in. Andre Ayew then drew the Swans level when shot after shot was kept out until the ball dropped at the ex- Marseille forward’s feet for the second time. The striker moved the ball away from the defenders before firing into the far corner of the net.
Chelsea failed to produce any fancy football they started last season and looked a team in limbo. This was epitomised by Cesc Fabregas running into trouble and the defensive guard of Nemanja Matic being found out of position on many occasions, leaving space in front of the defence for the Swansea forwards. Chelsea responded quickly when Willian’s deflected cross come shot off of Frederico Fernandez ballooned over Lukasz Fabianski and into the net.
Ayew and Bafetimbi Gomis were a constant threat and the latter got his reward. Through on goal, the French striker found himself one on one with Thibaut Courtois only to be brought down inside the box. The Chelsea goalkeeper was sent off as a result and the Swans striker converted against Chelsea debutant Asmir Begovic.
Jose Mourinho’s ten men held out for over half an hour but couldn’t get that winning goal with Eden Hazard coming the closest striking the ball against the face of Fabianski. With Manchester City being the Blues next opponent, Mourinho’s men can’t afford too many more performances like this one.
Arsenal 0-2 West Ham United
Probably the most surprising result of the weekend. West Ham headed to the Emirates Stadium hoping to recover from what was not only a shock, but a disappointment to be knocked out of the Europa League at the qualifying round. If there was a way to recover it was to come to the Community Shield victors and claim victory, which they did.
Arsenal saw a lot of the ball, however there was no end product. West Ham produced two goals, the first coming after Petr Cech misjudged a Dimitri Payet free kick which gave Cheikhou Kouyate the chance to head into the Gunner’s net just before half time. This momentum carried into the second half as 12 minutes after the restart Mauro Zarate added a second after a defensive mistake from the reds.
A special mention goes to 16 year old Reece Oxford who completed the match with a 95% pass succession rate, the best of both teams and kept the likes of Mesut Ozil at bay for 79 minutes before being substituted.
Manchester United 1-0 Tottenham Hotspur
In the early kick off, the game of the day saw last season’s fifth against fourth as Tottenham Hotspur travelled to Old Trafford to face Manchester United. In a well fought battle an own goal from Kyle Walker was enough to see the Red Devils home. Spurs had the brighter of the opening exchanges with Christian Eriksen lobbing a Harry Kane through ball on the top of the net over Sergio Romero, coming out to pressure the attacking midfielder.
Against the run of play, United got their goal as Ashley Young crossed low towards Wayne Rooney who got the ball stuck under his feet. None the less, Walker did the job for the England captain and in an attempt to dispossess the striker, the ball ends up past Michel Vorm and in the Tottenham goal.
It took the home side 65 minutes to register a shot on target through Ashley Young but the own goal through the Tottenham full back was enough to see them home. Sergio Romero was the man in goal for the home team, sparking more speculation that David De Gea will be on his way to Real Madrid.
Everton 2-2 Watford
Watford came to Goodison Park under new manager Quique Sanchez Flores and left Merseyside with a well-deserved draw. Mid table candidates Everton were expected to win against a side tipped for relegation. However the tables were turned when Miguel Layun capitalised on a ball the Toffees failed to clear, half volleying into the bottom left corner.
The Blues did not settle for this with Ross Barkley claiming the goal of the day with a rocket of a strike swerving through a crowded penalty area. The Hornets kept pushing with Layun looking particularly threatening. Odion Ighalo put the away side ahead after quick feet round oncoming blue shirts found himself clear in the opposition box with time to tuck into the corner past Tim Howard.
Welcome to the game Arouna Kone, the striker overlapped Romelu Lukaku, running wide of the 18 yard box before firing through Watford legs into the far corner, equalling his tally from last season. Watford were the better side in an even game and Flores will take much inspiration from their high energy performance.
Norwich City 1-3 Crystal Palace
Norwich will feel they should have had a share of the spoils when the Canaries welcomed the Eagles to Carrow Road. Wilfried Zaha volleyed Crystal Palace ahead 6 minutes before half time. 4 minutes after half time they added another from a smart corner routine, Pape Souare sneaking in unmarked at the back of the 18 yard box heading back across to find Damien Delaney who slotted home.
Substitute Nathan Redmond then pulled one back to start a resurgence, turning the tide in this game. Norwich thought they had levelled when Cameron Jerome volleyed overhead only for the goal to be disallowed for a high foot on Joel Ward. Crystal Palace put salt in the wounds when Yohan Cabaye played the offside trap well before calmly slotting past John Ruddy in the home side goal.
Bournemouth 0-1 Aston Villa
Premier League newcomers Bournemouth welcomed Aston Villa to the Vitality Stadium for a close fought contest, separated by a header by Villa debutant Rudy Gestede. Eddie Howe’s side learnt harsh lessons from their first game in the top flight, the main being when you are on top, you have to take your chances.
After 98 goals last season, the Cherries are not short of goals but the Premier League will prove much harder to get anywhere near that amount. Glorious chances were wasted by Dan Gosling and Marc Pugh, both from 12 yards, the first over the bar and the second into the ground.
Howe’s side dominated the first half with no breakthrough however and Tim Sherwood’s side emerged revitalised. Ex- Blackburn striker Gestede replaced another debutant in Jordan Ayew, 13 minutes into his debut, the striker rose highest to head the ball past Artur Boruc and condemn Bournemouth to a loss on their debut in the Premier League.
West Bromwich Albion 0-3 Manchester City
If there was ever a week for the sky blues to get a result, it had to be a weekend when two other title rivals dropped points. A convincing three goal win over West Bromwich Albion was the perfect way to prove critics wrong. Two goals from Yaya Toure showed the Ivory Coast international’s class, which was only seen in snippets in the second half of last season.
Nine minutes into the game, Toure opened the scoring with a bit of luck, the ball seeming to strike David Silva and pass through the legs of Craig Dawson. Goal two had no luck about it when the playmaker curled another effort into the top corner of Boaz Myhill’s goal.
Another player who declined towards the end of the season was Vincent Kompany, a header to add a third goal from a corner will do the Belgian international no harm. Add a clean sheet with his goal and the centre half will hope himself and Toure can provide many more performances of this quality consistently.
The spotlight was on Raheem Sterling after his £49 million switch from Liverpool. Unfortunately his performance was overshadowed by the dynamic duo of Toure and Silva. On the contrary, in the second half the England international started to show the pace and drive towards goal which made him a threat at Liverpool. Sterling will be hoping he can turn that threat into chances made and converted.
Leicester City 4-2 Sunderland
The Black Cats travelled to the King Power Stadium with manager Dick Advocaat still at the helm. The score was opened through last year’s hero Jamie Vardy who headed into Costel Pantilimon’s goal. This was followed by a Riyad Mahrez header at the far post from a dangerous Marc Albrighton cross.
The winger was a constant thorn in the side of not only Patrick Van Aanholt but the Tyneside defence, winning a penalty after being brought down by Lee Cattermole. The confidence of the midfielder was epitomised by taking and converting the penalty himself. Jermaine Defoe did manage to claw a goal back only for Leicester’s Albrighton to make it 4-1. Another consolation goal was added by Steven Fletcher but the damage was already done.
The wingers and attack as a whole were instrumental and the form showed at the end of last season was carried through, it has to be said the Sunderland back four were punished and beaten too easily time and time again. Defensive work on the training ground for Advocaat and the Black Cats.
Newcastle United 2-2 Southampton
Southampton travelled to St. James’ Park looking to build on what was a second overachieving season in the Premier League. Steve Mclaren and his new team were hoping to halt those plans and start his spell with a win. Those hopes were put in doubt when Graziano Pelle headed a Cedric Soares long ball into the home side’s goal.
The ex-Derby manager’s players responded brilliantly taking a 2-1 lead. The equaliser came 3 minutes before half time when Papiss Cisse scored with his chest after a cross was deflected. Georginio Wijnaldum added a second with a header. Ronald Koeman’s side earnt a draw for their home bounded boss, due to an Achilles injury, when Shane Long headed in a Dusan Tadic cross.
Stoke City 0-1 Liverpool
After an embarassing 6-1 defeat by the Potters on the last day of last season, Brendan Rodgers’ side took 86 minutes to find the back of the net to grab a 1-0 victory. Stoke gave debuts to Glen Johnson, Marco Van Ginkel, Ibrahim Afellay and Phillip Wollscheid.
Johnson had the chance to get one over on his old employees but shot over the bar from 12 yards. Another ex- Anfield player, Charlie Adam nearly put Stoke City ahead with a free kick from distance but the shot was match by Simon Mignolet’s save.
Liverpool handed debuts to Nathaniel Clyne, Joe Gomez, James Milner, Roberto Firmino and Christian Benteke, but Philippe Coutinho was the man to break the deadlock, and his goal was enough to take the 3 points back to Anfield. The Brazilian’s long range strike beat Jack Butland in what was a poor encounter between two strong looking sides for 86 minutes.
The Premier League continues on Friday 14th August when Manchester United travel to Villa Park to face Tim Sherwood’s Aston Villa.