I am a ‘football’ newbie, as I just got into watching the EPL last season. I saw 2 games, was amazed at the pace of Gabriel Agbonlahor of Aston Villa, and am now a Villa supporter. I will make a prediction about what the table will look like at the end of the season (yes, even with point totals too). We’ll also use some of this space to review some of the ‘important’ or ‘shocking’ results of fixtures that have just passed.
Sunderland 1 Tottenham 0
Roy Keane’s newly promoted Sunderland got off to a flying start, defeating #5 (the last 2 seasons in the EPL) Tottenham Hotspur, on an injury time goal by newcomer Michael Chopra. It was an exceedingly cool finish, as Chopra placed his shot in the lower right corner past Paul Robinson (England’s #1 choice goalkeeper). Not the start that Martin Jol’s lads were looking for.
Aston Villa 1 Liverpool 2
A disastrous start for Martin O’Neill’s squad, as an own goal by (soon to be benched) Martin Laursen placed Liverpool on top. Liverpool had the run of play in the first half, as Steven Gerrard, Xabi Alonso and Jermaine Pennant dominated the midfield in the first half over Gareth Barry and new acquisition Nigel Reo–Coker. The second half saw the game become more even in possession, and saw the brilliant skill of Ashley Young on display, but Young and Agbonlahor were not allowed to run free, as Liverpool defended smartly. Villa got a much needed break, as a John Carew flicked ball hit the arm of Jamie Carragher in the box, and Gareth Barry scored on the ensuing PK. The excitement at Villa Park was short lived, however, as Steven Gerrard ran into Stiliyan Petrov 24 yards out and a late whistle meant a free kick not more than a minute after the PK. Gerrard’s sublime free kick bent over the wall, dipped down and left, and hit the upper right corner of the goal. So perfect was the placement, you would think that only a world class rifleman could be so accurate. Villa keeper Stuart Taylor had no chance. Villa player expressed their frustration and displeasure with the referee post match.
Manchester United 0 Reading 0
Champions ManU came out with much fire in their first league game since hoisting the trophy, but Reading defended bravely, and gained a point out of their visit to the ‘Theatre of Dreams’. Reading had to be especially stout after 2nd half substitute Dave Kitson, after only 37 seconds on the field, made an awful challenge on Patrice Evra. Sliding into Evra’s shin with the studs up, 80 yards from goal on the sideline, Kitson was red carded bringing Reading down to 10 men. Surely Manchester United would have scored if not for the outstanding defending of Michael Duberry and unbelievable keeping of USA international Marcus Hahnemann. Hahnemann was coming off of a broken hand injury from last year’s season. Also of note, a collision between Duberry and Wayne Rooney cause a fracture of Rooney’s foot that will cause him to be out 2 months. This would be a killer to most teams, but since ManU went crazy over the summer transfer period, they can substitute any of several world class players on their bench and be none for the worse.
Chelsea 3 Birmingham City 2
Claudio Pizzaro and Florent Malouda made great opening impressions on the home crowd at Stamford Bridge, as both scored in their debuts. The game winner took a slight deflection off of a defender after being launched off of the foot of Michael Essien.
Arsenal 2 Fulham 1
Arsenal made a patented comeback at the Emirates Stadium after Keeper Jens Lehmann made an unbelievable blunder in the first minute of action that saw David Healy put Fulham up 1-0. It was a back pass from one of Lehmann’s defenders on his left side. He went to feather it back to that defender with his right foot, but the ball went straight into his own left knee and sat up nicely for Healy to bury in the back of the net. Arsenal pushed play, and it seemed that they were in Fulham’s final 1/3 of the field for 2/3 of the time. They finally got a breakthrough when Carlos Bocanegra fouled Kolo Toure just inside the box. Robin Van Persie buried the PK, and we were squared at 1. About 3 minutes later, Alexander Hleb scored the game winner from 12 yards out on a strike to the bottom left of the Fulham goal.