The Premier League returned on Friday with a pulsating encounter between Arsenal and Leicester. What followed on Saturday and Sunday was pure entertainment.
Here’s a wrap of the weekend’s action.
Arsenal 4-Leicester 3
The Premier League got off to a flyer on Friday Night, the first time in the 129 year history of English topflight football, with Arsenal and Leicester playing out a seven goal thriller.
The gunners produced a late comeback reminiscent of Alex Ferguson’s Manchester United to beat Leicester 4-3 at the Emirates, with Big-money signing Alexandre Lacazette scoring inside two minutes.
Leicester drew level through Shinji Okazaki and turned the gun on the Gunners by taking a shock lead through Jamie Vardy. Arsenal restored parity before the break through Danny Welbeck but Vardy headed home from a Riyad Mahrez corner on 59 minutes. Arsene Wenger’s men were staring a 3-2 defeat in the face with just seven minutes remaining but Aaron Ramsey and Olivier Giroud came off the bench to score and secure all three points and get Arsenal off to the right start.
Watford 3-3 Liverpool
Goals continued to flow in the Premier League after Arsenal’s goal laden season opener against Leicester City. Watford left it late but managed to secure a point following a 3-3 draw with Liverpool at Vicarage Road on Saturday.
Stefano Okaka’s opener on the 8th minute was cancelled out by Sadio Mane on the 28th minute mark before Watford regained the lead through Abdoulaye Doucoure four minutes later. Second-half goals from Roberto Firmino and Mohamed Salah saw Jurgen Klopp’s side looking home and dry until Britos struck at the death to rescue a point for the Hornets.
Chelsea 2-3 Burnley
Chelsea’s title defence got off to a shaky start as Burnley raced to a three goal lead in the first half and the Blues having skipper Gary Cahill sent off.
Sam Vokes put Burnley ahead on 24 minutes with a wicked flick inside the area before Stephen Ward doubled Burnley’s lead with a fierce strike in the 39th minute. And Vokes hit the back of the net again before the break with a header inside the area.
New signing Alvaro Morata netted his first Premier League goal as he pulled one back for Chelsea on his debut. Spain midfielder Cesc Fabregas was shown a second yellow for a foul late on, putting his earlier booking for a sarcastic clap towards the referee into perspective. David Luiz scored from a Morata assist late on to set up a nervy ending but Burnley held on for a dramatic victory.
Manchester United 4-0 West Ham United
All eyes were on Romelu Lukaku after Alexander Lacazette and Alvaro Morata both scored on their debuts. The Belgian responded in fine fashion as he haunted West Ham United, netting twice for a rampant Manchester United in a 4-0 hammering of the Hammers on Sunday.
The Belgian striker, who cost United £90m this summer from Everton netted either side of half-time before Anthony Martial and Paul Pogba completed the rout against Slaven Bilic’s men.
Newcastle United 0-2 Tottenham Hotspurs
Newcastle United’s return to the Premier didn’t go as expected as Tottenham beat the Magpies 2-0 at the St.James’ with Jonjo Shelvy seeing Red.
Rafa Benitez’s side had delivered a resolute first-half display until Shelvey was shown the exit for a stamp on Dele Ali’s ankle in front of the referee, to leave a side that had already lost two players to injuries with a mountain to climb.
Alli scored first by meeting a Christian Eriksen cross at the back post in the 61st minute before Ben Davies slotted a second soon after to make utter nonsense of the scrutiny of Spurs transfer business.
Huddersfield announced their presence in the English topflight with a bang. A 3-0 defeat of Crystal Palace will certainly have the other teams paying attention.
Brighton and Hove Albion couldn’t match Manchester City’s quality as a Sergio Aguero opener and a Lewis Dunk own goal confined the Clarets to defeat in their opening game at the Amex Stadium.
Elsewhere Wayne Rooney scored the only goal at Goodison Park as Everton beat Stoke while West Bromwich Albion also beat Bournemouth at the Hwathorns courtesy a header from Egyptian Ahmed Hegazi.
Southampton vs Swansea was the only game not to have recorded a goal in an opening weekend that produced nothing short of excitement.
My Take: Great opening games, thoroughly entertaining. That’s exactly what has established the Premier League as the most exciting football league in the world. On evidence of performance Manchester United have firmly established themselves as favorites but the old age cliché cannot be forgotten…It is early days.
It may be early days but Antonio Conte has got his work cut out. If winning the title in his first season was difficult, he’ll have no doubt in his mind regarding the magnitude of the task of defending the Premier League. The Blues participation in the Champions League will no doubt stretch the squad. It leaves Conte with questions to answer and puts Chelsea’s transfer dealings into perspective.
Big money signings have gotten off to good starts. Lacazette, Morata and Lukaku all scored on the opening weekend. The key however is consistency. The hefty price tags can only be justified with consistent performances. Lukaku looks good to go given his experience in the Premier League. It’s an entirely different scenario for Lacazette and Morata. The next ten games should provide better and clearer insight.
Brighton and Hove Albion must recover quickly. The last thing they want is to be drawn into a relegation dog fight. The English top division is a tough terrain and a good start always helps. A slow start for teams that gained promotion from the Championship, and descent is faster than Bolt.
Great weekend of football overall and we expect nothing less in the ten months ahead. Welcome back Football. You’ve been missed!
Hans Mensah Andoh