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Remember Roy Hodgson's first game in charge of Liverpool? It was a lot like Brendan Rodgers', only infinitely less disastrous.
Marouane Fellaini's bullet of a header early in the second half was enough to seal all three points for Everton in what was a solid and very professional job done by the home side. United however will be wondering how they couldn't get themselves on the score-sheet having spent a bucket-load on attacking talent this summer.
Everton started where they left off by going straight on the front foot and almost taking the lead with 48 minutes on the clock. Tony Hibbert's cross to the back post saw Marouane Fellaini rise highest, nodding back to Leon Osman who crashed a half-volley off the crossbar with De Gea well beaten.
Not that Everton could sit and rue their misfortune as Shinji Kagawa lead the counter attack for the visitors, playing in Danny Welbeck who was bearing down on goal, only to be denied by a superb last-ditch tackle from Phil Jagielka.
It came as little surprise when Everton did take the lead on 57 minutes, and even less surprising was the fact it was Fellaini who did so. A routine goal for the big Belgian who simply powered in a close range header from Baines' corner. A deserved lead for the home side, and for Fellaini who had been magnificent all game.
The visitors had a superb chance to equalize on 66 minutes when with the ball bobbling around the Everton six-yard box Kagawa played the ball away from Tim Howard and into the path of Tom Cleverley who's shot was cleared off the line by Jagielka.
This was cause for Sir Alex Ferguson to finally introduce Robin Van Persie to the fray at the expense of Danny Welbeck. It seemed a good move at the time given United had spent the majority of the time since Fellaini's goal to this point camped in the Everton half.
Van Persie's first impactful piece of play came on 78 minutes when he skipped past Distin and played in a beauty of a ball to Kagawa in the area, but Howard got enough on the Japanese international's dinked effort to deflect the ball away from danger.
United continued to press as Everton's midfield sunk deeper and deeper into their own territory as they looked to hold the lead, but the door was slammed shut by the Toffee's steadfast defence all night. Substitutes Ashley Young and Anderson were both reduced to poor efforts from distance.
Overall Everton come away with a fantastic and well deserved victory following a very entertaining game at Goodison Park today.
It's halftime at Goodison Park where Everton are taking on Manchester United in today's only Premier League game, and the conclusion to the first round of fixtures. The halftime score might be 0-0, but it's a very open game with Everton just about having the slightly better of things so far.
Starting at a ferocious pace, it was Luis Nani who first tested the Everton defence. After Leighton Baines misjudged the flight of the ball the Portuguese winger sprinted clear of the chasing Sylvain Distin, but last season's Player Of The Year at Goodison Park recovered to clear - much to the chagrin of Nani, who's revengeful foul on Baines after three minutes earned the game's first yellow card.
The first real sighting of the exciting Shinji Kagawa came after seven minutes when he expertly turned Phil Neville in central midfield before playing a lovely ball in to Wayne Rooney with the outside of his boot. Unfortunately for the visitors Rooney's return ball lacked the necessary zip to trouble the Toffees defence too much as Phil Jagielka cleared.
Paul Scholes was next to enter Andre Marriner's notebook for a horrendous foul on former teammate Darron Gibson. Pushed deep into the Everton half, the once retired midfielder made what could only be described as a 'very Scholesian tackle'.
Everton's first real chance came just a few moments later when Marouane Fellaini wriggled into the United penalty area. Having fended off the challenging defender, the Belgian inexplicably chose to shoot rather than tee up the well placed Nikica Jelavic, as Fellaini's shot came back off the post from the most acute of acute angles.
What followed was a period of relative inactivity given the busy start to the game with both teams looking to settle down a little. Thing perked up when Nani tried his luck from distance, but Everton swiftly countered with a delicious passing move which lead to Jelavic firing off the legs of David De Gea for a corner - from which Steven Pienaar further tested De Gea as the Spaniard tipped the recent arrival's header over.
A foul on dsdsds in the 27th minute proved to be dangerous for Everton. Placed dead center, Wayne Rooney hoisted the ball up and over the Everton wall to force USA International Tim Howard into a fine low save, picking up where he left off following midweek heroics against Mexico.
In the 32nd minute it was Pienaar once more who tested De Gea in what was the best chance of the game to this point. Picking up the ball on the edge of the area from Baines, the South African took a touch out of his feet and curled the ball low through a crowd of bodies towards the bottom corner, De Gea doing very well to scramble away what looked like it could have been the opening goal.
As we rumbled though to half time both teams squandered chances. Yet more great interplay between Baines, Fellaini and Pienaar lead to Baines seeing a chance foiled. This triumvirate enjoyed themselves against United's makeshift right-hand side of defence, and it was beginning to show.
Baines also had a penalty appeal turned down moments later following a robust but fair challenge in the area from Michael Carrick, while at the other end Danny Welbeck felt aggrieved to not receive a penalty following a tap from Phil Jagielka when he latched on to Kagawa's through ball.
Rooney fired weakly at Howard and Leon Osman at the other end drew a tremendous reaction save from De Gea following yet another Fellaini knock down.
To draw a curtain on the half and merely add to Everton's great play during the first half, Leighton Baines curled a freekick over the Manchester United wall, only to see De Gea once again equal to things as he denied the left back a fine goal with a superb one handed save.
As things stand though, it's 0-0 and there's everything to play for in the second half.
The home side has a familiar look about it with Steven Pienaar the only new face in the side, although he did spend an extended spell at the club last season on loan. Steven Naismith makes the bench, while Kevin Mirallas is not involved having only just arrived at the club.
Manchester United are looking to immediately follow up on cross-town rivals Manchester City's win yesterday and in turn keep the pressure on from the off and lineup with a very interesting side.
Rio Ferdinand misses out through injury meaning there's a makeshift central defenders job for Michael Carrick, while Antonio Valencia is preferred at right back to Rafael Da Silva. Robin Van Persie starts the game on the bench, but there's a full debut for Shinji Kagawa in midfield.
A less-than-impressive win marked the beginning of Manchester City's title defence. With their season starting with a home game against newly-promoted Southampton, one might be forgiven for expecting the hosts to essentially stroll to three points under the August sun, but City had an off day while the Saints played superbly, coming very close to staging the biggest upset of the young season.
Southampton acquitted themselves fairly well early in the first half, stationing themselves firmly in the City box and controlling play in the early stages. It was fairly obvious that that was something of a mirage, but for the first ten minutes the Saints showed that they could play with the big boys.
And injure the big boys, as it turns out. Sergio Aguero was threatening to burst down the City left when he was halted by a ferocious tackle from Nathaniel Clyne, the sort that makes you wonder whether it was entirely legal despite the fact that the right back took the ball cleanly. Aguero landed very awkwardly, twisting his knee, and after several minutes of medical attention was stretchered off -- obviously bad news for the defending champions.
Roberto Mancini's mood would not have been improved by what happened next. 17 minutes in, some excellent play from City led to Jos Hooiveld bringing Carlos Tevez down in the box, a stonewall penalty despite the defender's protests. It was a perfect opportunity for City to break the deadlock... and David Silva made a complete mess of it, sending a weak spot kick straight at Kelvin Davis. Ooops.
That penalty miss looked as though it could end up fairly costly. City weren't looking particularly dangerous in front of goal, with Southampton defending both pretty well and in numbers, but Tevez was obviously a bright spark and he was able to execute a perfectly timed run and finish just before halftime to give the hosts a 1-0 lead, picking up the ball from Samir Nasri before slotting in at Davis' near post.
For many teams, that would have been enough to collapse. Southampton tried to, but City wouldn't let them. The second half saw some gilt-edged changes for Mancini's men to pad their lead, with Silva hitting the bar and substitute Edin Dzeko unable to control after some fine work by Nasri on the left wing and the goal at his mercy. Eventually the Saints would regroup and make City pay for their profligacy.
Introducing Rickie Lambert and Steven Davis certainly helped. Lambert was last season's top scorer in the Championship, and his introduction made an immediate impact, terrifying the City defence and giving Southampton a real boost going forward. That said, what happened next was still a surprise. A loose ball in Joe Hart's box looked like a half chance until Lambert got there, blistering a first-time shot past the keeper to make it 1-1.
It was a stunning goal, and there was better to come from the visitors. Less than ten minutes later, City new boy Jack Rodwell gave the ball away in midfield, and a fast break from Southampton led to another goal, which was eventually slotted home by Davis. The midfielder, not the goalkeeper. That would have been weird.
At any rate, City had to reply, and they did so more or less immediately. Dzeko managed to find some space on a corner kick, and the ball broke kindly for him to rocket a shot past Davis (the goalkeeper) to draw City level. Then Nasri capped off an excellent match by taking advantage of a really awful mistake from Danny Fox -- the left back turned a cross going out of play into a cushioned pass to the unmarked City man -- volleying into the top corner to give the hosts another lead.
They were able to hold this one, but it was touch and go. Fair play to Southampton, who came to one of the most difficult grounds to win on in the league and more than held their own. City won't be pleased with the performance, but three points are three points. As for the neutral... well, that was pretty fun, wasn't it?
Well that's not good news for Manchester City. Less than ten minutes into their first Premier League match of the 2012/13 season, last season's hero Sergio Aguero is off the pitch at the Eithad Stadium. The Argentinian striker, whose last-gasp goal against Queens Park Rangers won the title for City, went into a tackle with Southampton right back Nathaniel Clyne and came out not very well at all, twisting his knee awkwardly as he went down.
Aguero ended up being treated for some time by the City medical staff, and although signs were initially promising as he was able to hobble to the sidelines, a few minutes later the stretcher was recalled and he was carried off down the tunnel. Edin Dzeko will replace him in this match, but if that injury is as serious as it looks right now, Roberto Mancini's going to have a bit of a problem. Good thing he has four excellent centre forwards in his squad.
Time for the defending champions to kick off their first match of the season. Manchester City host newly-promoted Southampton in their first competitive match since that goal by Sergio Aguero, and you wouldn't really expect them to have too much difficulty with the Saints here. The visitors have contrived to leave their two best players in Rickie Lambert and Steven Davis on the bench, which seems dangerous, while Roberto Mancini looks like he's abandoning the 3-5-2 he's been playing with in preseason.
Southampton starting lineup (4-5-1): Kelvin Davis; Danny Fox, Jos Hooiveld, Jose Fonte, Nathanial Clyne; Adam Lallana, Morgan Schneiderlin, Guly do Prado, James Ward-Prowse, Jason Puncheon; Jay Rodriguez.
Substitutes from: Paulo Gazzaniga, Rickie Lambert, Steven Davis, Billy Sharp, Frazer Richardson, Luke Shaw, Danny Seaborne.
Early goals from Branislav Ivanovic and Frank Lampard proved enough to see off the Latics, who were lively but ultimately toothless.
Chelsea hand a start to Ryan Bertrand, while Oscar is on the bench and Ramires misses out. Mauro Boselli is on the bench for Wigan, with Franco Di Santo starting.
Manchester City are probably going to beat Southampton pretty easily on Sunday. But maybe they won't!
Chelsea look to get their season off to a fast start as they travel to face Wigan Athletic
An odd match between Newcastle United and Tottenham Hotspur marked Andre Villas-Boas' first game in charge. There had been some doubts raised over just how effective Spurs would be without Emmanuel Adebayor and Luka Modric, and although they managed a reasonable game against the Magpies, they were ultimately undone by a lack of cutting edge and some very naive defending in a 2-1 loss.
The visitors started the game broadly on top, helped by an early groin problem picked up by Newcastle midfielder Cheik Tiote. It looked as though it would be bad enough to force the Ivorian out of the game -- Vurnon Anita warmed up only to be sat back down on the verge of making his debut* -- but even though Tiote was able to play on he was clearly some distance from his best.
*He'd get it in the second half, coming on in the 71st minute for Yohan Cabaye.
Despite Steven Taylor's return, Newcastle's back line was very weak. With Fabricio Coloccini absent, James Perch partnered Taylor in the centre and Danny Simpson went up against Gareth Bale on the left, which had exactly the expected results. The defence looked panicked, and third band of Gylfi Sigurdsson, Aaron Lennon and Bale gave them plenty of problems all evening.
It was actually the hosts who had the best chance of scoring early, however, although it was mostly an accident. Papiss Cisse took the Premier League by storm last season following his arrival from SC Freiburg (he'd been busy taking the Bundesliga by storm prior to that), and he barely missed grabbing yet another goal here. That said, he'd have had basically nothing to do with it -- Demba Ba tried a very speculative long range effort that struck his compatriot in the foot. Brad Friedel was wrong footed and forced to watch in horror as the ball trickled just wide of his right hand post. It would have been an undeserved goal, but it was a massive letoff regardless.
Spurs had their chances too. Some brilliant interplay by Bale and Sigurdsson set Jermain Defoe free, and the centre forward did superbly to twist past Taylor before rattling Tim Krul's near post. The woodwork came to Newcastle's rescue again a few minutes later following excellent work by Aaron Lennon, who swung in a cross which Bale ended up nodding off the crossbar with the goalkeeper beaten.
Thanks at least partially to Tiote's struggles, Tottenham had complete control of the centre of the pitch to in the first half. But Alan Pardew made some changes at halftime, going away from the 4-4-2 and pushing Demba Ba over to the left hand side. That allowed the hosts to contest the centre a little better -- and it also resulted in the opening goal.
Yohan Cabaye and Hatem Ben Arfa exchanged passes in the centre before the former sprayed the ball out wide for Simpson. The fullback's cross was met by Kyle Walker, who completely failed to execute a proper clearance. Instead, the ball was popped up and fell to the grateful Ba, who allowed it to bounce before dispatching a brilliant half volley into the top corner, leaving Friedel completely stranded.
Tottenham attempted to recover, but about all they managed in response to Ba's opener was getting Pardew sent to the stands following an argument about whether or not Bale had kept the ball in play in the Newcastle defensive third. Spurs were allowed to continue despite the hosts having a clear case for a throw-in, a decision that incensed Pardew to the point that he shoved the referee's assistant and was rightly sent off for it.
But what Spurs needed was a way of getting back into the match, and forcing Pardew to communicate via semaphore wasn't going to help them much there. Rafael van der Vaart was Villas-Boas' answer. It turned out to be an effective one. The Dutch midfielder generated a slew of chances for Tottenham before the visitors were finally able to make a breakthrough, with Defoe able to poke home the rebound after Davide Santon forced Krul into a sprawling save to prevent what would have been an unfortunate own goal.
At 1-1, Newcastle were forced to go onto the attack once more, and it didn't take long at all for them to restore their lead. Just why Lennon and van der Vaart were left defending against Ben Arfa is more than a little bit unclear, but it came as no surprise when they screwed things up rather magnificently, allowing the midfielder to dart between them before Lennon brought him down. In the penalty area.
Having won the spot kick, Ben Arfa took it superbly, sending Friedel the wrong way and tucking his shot perfectly into the bottom left-hand corner. There were ten minutes left for Spurs to haul their way back into the match -- they'd been level for just four -- and that simply wasn't enough time.
Aston Villa flopped in their first outing under new manager Paul Lambert, but West Ham United will be thrilled to mark their return to the top flight with three points. Villa were by and large the better side, dominating possession at Upton Park and generating most of the (few) chances, but all it took was a ricochet off Ciaran Clark and a Kevin Nolan tap-in to secure the win for the Hammers.
Villa can't feel too hard done by. They had plenty of the ball but didn't do very much of it, and with their most creative presence in Barry Bannan confined to the bench for much of the match it's not really very hard to see why. Compared to the dark days of Alex McLeish, however, this wasn't a terrible performance. They've at least learned how to pass the ball. All that remains for them to do is figure out how to score more goals than the opposition. Expect slow and steady progress.
If you had followed Ryan Rosenblatt's advice and bet on their being more cards than shots on target, you would've just lost out. Stoke City and Reading combined for two goals, five shots on target and two cards in a contest that was so statistically even Stoke City nearly managed to reach 50% in possession for the second time in their Premier League history.
Stoke's goal resulted from a goalkeeping error by Adam Federici; Michael Kightly won the second ball from a knockdown in the penalty area, and, from the middle of the box, hit a soft dipping shot to Federici's near post. Inexplicably, the Australian goalkeeper let the shot squirm in, to give Stoke a 1-0 lead.
Reading tried to find an equaliser, but they were often prohibited from doing so by Stoke's tactical fouling. They continued to push for an equaliser though, with Danny Guthrie running things well in the midfield, displaying his excellent long-range passing ability. Reading, though, lacked a cutting edge, with Pavel Pogbrenyak particularly disappointing. They would be held until Dean Whitehead fouled Garath McLeary in the penalty box in the 89th minute, earning himself a second yellow card. Reading's top goal-scorer from last year, Adam Le Fondre, scored the penalty, giving the hosts a deserved point in their return to the Premier League.
Queens Park Rangers had a terrible defense in the 2011-12 season, and decided that the best way to rectify this problem was to sign Fabio da Silva on loan from Manchester United and hilariously error-prone goalkeeper Robert Green on a free transfer. Fabio and Green were just two of many hilariously poor QPR players on Saturday, as they got steamrolled 5-0 by Swansea.
Many expected Swansea to struggle after the departures of Brendan Rodgers, Gylfi Sigurdsson and Joe Allen, but those people were apparently unfamiliar with the awesomeness that is their new manager Michael Laudrup. With a gang of new value signings and a similar style of football to his predecessor, Rodgers set up a team on Saturday that put together the most spectacular performance the Swans' fans could have possibly asked for.
Swansea got off to a brilliant start, with Michu scoring a great goal from the edge of the penalty area in the 8th minute. For the rest of the first half, Swansea played well but couldn't finish off their chances. They got a bit more clinical in the second half and took QPR to the woodshed with four goals. Michu added a second in the 53rd minute before Nathan Dyer went on a rampage, scoring two goals of his own.
Scott Sinclair closed the scoring in the 81st minute, assisted by Michu. QPR will move on to ... probably not brighter days, because they're a pretty bad side.
A Robin van Persie-less Arsenal were held 0-0 at the Emirates by a reasonably impressive performance from Sunderland. It wasn't a great game -- there weren't that many clear-cut chances and the game was mostly played around the edges of the Black Cats' box. But with the Gunners having to bed in so many new signings at once, a quiet draw to start the season isn't much of a surprise.
The first half was mildly entertaining, with some chances for Sunderland swimming in the quagmire of blown Arsenal opportunities. Santi Cazorla had a neat shot from range which Simon Mignolet was forced to bat aside, leading Martin O'Neill to deploy Lee Cattermole as the new acquisition's personal marker/fouler. Cazorla was probably the hosts' best player in the first half, and the only one capable of threading passes to a front three that was actually looking reasonably lively.
That said, new acquisition Lukas Podolski was clearly miscast as a centre forward. He was dropping far too deep and then failing to pounce on the opportunities that presented themselves. Twice the ball broke to him in the six yard box, and a more natural striker -- yes, I'm going to invoke van Persie's name here -- would probably have notched at least one. Podolski got clean contact on neither.
There were some concerns about Arsenal's defending, with Per Mertesacker looking particularly inept, a worrying sign when he was deployed next to Carl Jerkinson. But as the game went on and the Gunners turned the screws, the threat of Sunderland actually scoring a goal diminished, and the match became a question of whether or not Arsenal would actually be able to break down the visitors' defence.
It turned out that no they could not. Arsene Wenger tried to change things up by introducing an actual centre forward in Olivier Giroud, and the former Montpellier striker did make a difference, exploiting the space between Sunderland's centre backs and generally giving the Black Cats far more trouble than did his predecessor. But even when he did get into that space, he wasted it.
In the 76th minute, both Giroud and Cazorla did fantastically. The former looped around John O'Shea with an excellent run, and the latter found him with an equally excellent through ball. And then, with only Mignolet to beat, he blasted well wide from eight yards.
It's not a good start to the season for new-look Arsenal. But there's plenty of time for things to get better... oh wait they've just confirmed that Alex Song's been sold. Uh oh.
Brendan Rodgers' first game at the help of Liverpool FC couldn't have possibly been any more of a disaster. His side played an unspectacular, but rather even game for most of the first half until Zoltan Gera scored a stunning goal to put the Baggies ahead. The second half was much worse for Liverpool, who had Daniel Agger sent off, signaling the start of West Brom's domination in a 3-0 rout.
The score should have been a lot worse than it was, and doesn't do justice to how completely useless the Reds were in the second half. Gera's stunning 20-yard volley in the 43nd minute set the stage for a meltdown of a second half, and things truly got ugly in the 59th minute. That's when Daniel Agger pushed down Shane Long in the box, giving away a penalty and picking up a red card.
Lucky for Agger and Liverpool, Long took a terrible penalty and kicked the ball right into the arms of Pepe Reina. They stayed in the match for another four minutes until the Baggies drew another penalty, this time conceded by Martin Skrtel. Peter Odemwingie stepped up to take the second spot kick of the game and buried it, putting West Brom up 2-0.
Romelu Lukaku came on as a substitute for his debut and was brilliant, setting up one great chance and buring another. James Morrison missed an absolute sitter set up by Lukaku, but the Belgian international would make up for the missed opportunity four minutes later, heading in a Liam Ridgewell cross to seal a 3-0 victory for his side.
After all the consternation and discussion about Clint Dempsey, Fulham put it all aside and did what you should do in your season opener, thrash your opponent. New signing Mladen Petric had a near perfect debut, scoring a brace and setting up Alexander Kacaniklic on another as Fulham steamrolled Norwich City 5-0 at Craven Cottage.
Fulham dominated the first half, at least in terms of possession. Bryan Ruiz and John Arne Riise generated a couple dangerous chances that were foreshadowing for what would come later. The Cottagers continued to press the Canaries defense and finally broke through in the 26th minute. Riise caught out the Norwich defense with a perfectly placed diagonal long ball over the top to Damien Duff who made a simple first touch, and poked the ball past goalkeeper John Ruddy just inside the far post.
Fulham got a second goal in the 41st minute that initially appeared to be cleared off the line by Norwich. The AR was in the right place though and correctly ruled that Mladen Petric's header crossed the line, putting Fulham up 2-0 at halftime.
The second half looked shockingly similar to the first half. The big difference was Fulham only needed 10 minutes to score again. Petric fought off a foul outside the Norwich box and blasted a lovely left-footed strike that appeared to take a slight deflection on its way past Ruddy. Alexander Kacaniklic got in on the fun in the 66th minute, giving Fulham a 4-0 lead after an absolutely sublime back heel assist from Petric that allowed the Swede to go in uncontested against Ruddy.
Just because they wanted to match Swansea's 5-0 thrasing of QPR, Steve Sidwell converted a late penalty to give Fulham their fifth goal. The PK was set-up by Hugo Rodallega who was dragged down in the box by defender Michael Turner.
Tottenham and Newcastle begin their seasons in what on paper at least should be the best match of the day.
New Spurs boss Andre Vilas-Boas has rolled out lineup that is pretty much as expected. The only real surprise is William Gallas getting the start over Jan Verthongen or Michael Dawson. Jermain Defore starts alone up front, but he'll have a formidable attacking trip of midfielders behind him to assist.
We'll have live updates in our Premier League Week 1 StoryStream. You can read more about Spurs at Tottenham blog Cartilage Free Captain, and you can check out Newcastle blog Coming Home Newcastle for more on the Magpies.
As someone selling you Red Stripe might say: "Football! Hoooooray, football." Except they wouldn't, because they'd be talking about beer. Anyway, Premier League football's back and everyone's happy apart from Arsenal fans, who've lost Robin van Persie and are apparently about to see Alex Song depart as well. Oh, and they're being held at home by Sunderland through half of their opening fixture.
Unsurprisingly, the hosts dominated possession at the Emirates and generated most of the chances. New signing Santi Cazorla tested Simon Mignolet with a long drive early on then shot just wide after great work from Gervinho on the left side of the Sunderland penalty area. Theo Walcott scuffed the ball wide from a corner. Lukas Podolski somehow failed to score when the ball fell to him in the six yard box. Twice.
But it's not all gone Arsenal's way. I mean, duh, it's still 0-0. But they've had to do some defending too -- some awful play by Per Mertesacker, who completely lost the offside line, allowed James McClean through on goal against Wojciech Szczesny. Fortunately for the Gunners, the young winger's first touch was very poor, forcing him out wide and allowing the goalkeeper to make a stop. Szczesny was called into further action when Jack Colback attempted a dangerous low shot from range with the Arsenal midfield nowhere.
In other words, it's been just about what you'd expect from a van Persie-less Arsenal playing against Martin O'Neill's Sunderland. There's still not much defending to speak of and nothing in the way of a cutting edge so far. We'll see if they can improve in the second half.
We'll have live updates in our Premier League Week 1 StoryStream. You can read more about the Gunners at Arsenal blog The Short Fuse, and you can check out Sunderland blog Roker Report for more on the Black Cats.
It's been a reasonably uneventful 45 minutes of play at The Hawthornes, save for the one absolutely stunning goal. It appeared as if the two sides were going to head into halftime locked up at 0-0, but Zoltan Gera scored an absolutely stellar goal just before the end of the half to put West Bromwich Albion 1-0 up on Liverpool.
Even though the Reds trail, he brightest player on the pitch for either team has been Joe Allen, who has dominated the midfield battle. It's impressive, considering that he's surrounded by Steven Gerrard and Lucas Leiva, while West Brom is also playing a midfield three. He's had a great debut and has been the start of everything that resembles an attack for Liverpool.
Meanwhile, the rest of the Liverpool side isn't looking too great. All of their defenders have completely misjudged headers while Gerrard, Fabio Borini and Stewart Downing have committed quite a few giveaways. West Brom has had more of the ball and more possession in the final third than anyone might have guessed, and that finally caught up with Liverpool in the 43rd minute.
A West Brom corner kick was cleared away to what looked like safety just prior to the goal, but Gera got on the end of the clearance and brought the ball down. His first touch set him up for a fantastic volley that he took with his second, and the ball whizzed by the outstretched arm of Pepe Reina to give the Baggies a lead. Without a doubt, it'll be a goal of the week candidate.
Lukas Podolski starts up front for Arsenal with Olivier Giroud on the bench, while Sunderland hand a debut to Carlos Cuellar.
Joe Allen starts in midfield for Liverpool, with Carroll and Cole on the bench. Romelu Lukaku is on the bench for West Brom, with Shane Long and Peter Odemwingie up front.
The Premier League is back and so is the gambling that so thankfully accompanies it.
Newcastle and Tottenham open their seasons against each other, perhaps previewing the race between the two for a European place
Roberto Mancini says that rivals Manchester United will be favourites for the title this season, because they have the best strikeforce in the world.
In the post-Robin van Persie era, Olivier Giroud will once again be asked to score lots of goals for an understaffed team and guide them into European places without a ton of help.
The other shoe hasn't completely dropped but it's hanging on by a shoelace at the moment. Clint Dempsey has been left out of Fulham's opening day squad against Norwich City, confirming that he's ready to leave, something we already sort of knew. Of course, head coach Martin Jol's comments may actually count as the shoe dropping.
Here's what Jol had to say today:
"Clint was not involved over the last four weeks so he is not going to be in the squad.
"He is not committed to the club. He wants to leave. I would like to keep him, but I think it's impossible. It's a sad and an almost embarrassing situation."
Sounds crystal clear and it can't really come as a surprise to Fulham fans that Dempsey is on his way out of Craven Cottage. The American midfielder has been absent from the club's pre-season matches and skipped out on the US Mens National Team's friendly against Mexico on Wednesday.
Jol also stressed that Dempsey would only be sold if the club receives an appropriate bid, but that's what a club always says when they are about to be forced to sell a star player.
The question now becomes where will Dempsey go. Liverpool manager Brendan Rogers has been hinting at his interest in Deuce and while the move doesn't make sense based on Dempsey's expressed desire to play in the Champions League, it would be a step up in terms of the club's stature. Then there was the NESN story that was accidentally posted claiming that Dempsey was a Liverpool player. NESN is essentially the propaganda arm of the Fenway Sports Group, who owns Liverpool.
There are plenty of clubs across Europe who could use a player like Dempsey for their Champions League campaign, but all signs point to him wanting to stay in England. With time running out in the transfer window, a deal will have to get done quickly or Deuce and Jol might be forced to have a serious heart to heart.
The Premier League is back once again, and pundits everywhere are asking the same question; will this be Stoke's year? Plus, Sam Allardyce is back and RvP plays for Manchester United now.
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