Drama A Plenty As Premier League Gets Into Gear
The second round of Premier League fixtures commenced over the weekend and there was further drama to follow opening day.
Manchester United could assert themselves as the early pace-setters after they romped to their second successive 4-0 victory. Having beaten West Ham United by the same score last weekend, the Red Devils required a late four minute onslaught to secure the big win at Swansea City after Eric Bailly had prodded them into a first half lead from close range. Romelu Lukaku followed last weekend’s brace with another goal with ten minutes remaining, before Paul Pogba and Anthony Martial added gloss to the scoreline.
Southampton recorded a controversial victory against West Ham United in the highest scoring game of the weekend. The Saints went 2-0 up through Manolo Gabbiadini and a Dusan Tadic penalty, while the Hammers’ new signing Marko Arnautovic was correctly sent off for elbowing Jack Stephens. However, fellow new boy Javier Hernandez netted twice, his first two goals since joining from Bayer Leverkusen, and West Ham were heading for a point before Pablo Zabaleta was adjudged to have bundled over Maya Yoshida in the penalty area. The decision seemed slightly harsh but Charlie Austin converted the spot-kick to hand Mauricio Pellegrino his maiden win as Saints boss.
Chelsea’s poor start to the season was given a boost as they defeated last season’s runners-up, Tottenham Hotspur. Marcos Alonso netted twice, the first a stunning free-kick and the second a late winner, either side of Michy Batshuayi’s own goal. The result meant Spurs’ Wembley woes continue having previously struggled at the national stadium in the Champions League. It was the Lilywhites’ first home league defeat since May 2016.
Another big club struggling in the opening weeks of the season are Arsenal, who required a late comeback last weekend against Leicester City. This week, the Gunners fell to a 1-0 defeat to Stoke City with debutante Jese Rodriguez scoring the only goal of the game. However, there was late controversy at the Bet365 Stadium as Alexandre Lacazette’s goal was ruled out for offside. Replays showed that the Frenchman was a matter of inches ahead of Stoke’s last defender and the decision was correct.
Leicester City bounced back from that defeat at the Emirates last weekend with a 2-0 victory against Brighton and Hove Albion. The Foxes went ahead inside a minute thanks to Shinji Okazaki and the impressive Harry Maguire added a second shortly after half-time, squeezing home a header from a corner.
Referee Bobby Madley was the centre of attention as Manchester City left it late to earn a point against Everton. Excellent hold-up play from youngster Dominic Calvert-Lewin allowed Wayne Rooney to give the Toffees the lead in the first half with his landmark 200th Premier League goal, only the second player to do so after Alan Shearer.
Calvert-Lewin was involved again soon after when Kyle Walker was sent off for allegedly elbowing the former Sheffield United forward. Replays showed that there was very minimal contact other than his shoulder connecting with Calvert-Lewin’s chin as the full-back backed into him to win a header.
The ten-man Citizens dominated for the majority of the second half and equalised through substitute Raheem Sterling. Madley was then reaching for his red card again moments later, sending Morgan Schneiderlin for an early bath for a second yellow card despite clearly winning the ball from Sergio Aguero.
Hal Robson-Kanu was also harshly sent off as West Bromwich Albion defeated Burnley. The Wales international had scored the only goal of the game at Turf Moor before jumping to win a header and despite his hand brushing the neck of the Burnley player, he was sent off for serious foul play. Just like last season with shirt pulling in the penalty area, referees appear to be trying to clamp down on forwards elbowing defenders while trying to jump to win headers. However, both the Walker and Robson-Kanu red cards were wrong.
Meanwhile, Huddersfield Town and Liverpool recorded 1-0 wins against Newcastle United and Crystal Palace respectively. The Terriers’ impressive start to life in the Premier League continued following their 3-0 victory at Palace last weekend, as Aaron Mooy scored the only goal of the game against Newcastle. Elsewhere, Sadio Mane struck midway through the second half to hand Liverpool their first victory of the season, while Palace are still yet to record a point under Frank de Boer.