The wait was finally over as the Barclays Premier League returned to quench the thirst of millions around the world. The most awaited weekend in months was finally here and the script had all the twist and turns of a blockbuster. The magnum opus began at the most daunting of football arenas in world football – Anfield, where Kenny Dalglish’s Liverpool side took on Steve Bruce’s Sunderland. After 90 minutes of fluctuating fortunes honors were shared although the ‘Reds’ would surely be disappointed on missing out after a brilliant start.
Queens Park Rangers returned to the English first division after 15 long years; however Neil Warnock’s men found the step up from the Championship to be a gigantic one as they were humbled at home by Bolton Wanderers. Fellow newcomers Norwich fared much better as they came home with a deserved point from the DW Stadium after an Al Habsi howler. There were no goals at the St. James Park between the Magpies and the Gunners as the two teams failed to match up to last season’s epic encounter. However, with Joey Barton in town, drama is bound to follow and the Englishmen didn’t disappoint as usual. Arsenal newcomer Gervinho fell prey and served the consequences. Yet, the Gunners manager wouldn’t really be to disheartened with a point as the team showed a lot of grit and determination, however the Gooners would surely be urging Arsene to loosen the purse strings.
In other games Chelsea returned home from the Britannia Stadium with a point although they might feel more than a bit aggrieved about a few refereeing decisions. The game at Craven Cottage followed the same theme as Birmingham City and Fulham were involved in a stalemate with no prizes for guessing the happier of the two managers. Mick Mcarthy and Wolves proved their mettle as they came from behind to win against Blackburn Rovers at Ewood Park.
The final game of the weekend took us to the Hawthorns as Roy Hodgson’s Baggies took on the Champions. United started off brightly and went ahead early from their talisman Wayne Rooney. The Red Devils looked to have gained a stranglehold on the proceedings however a David De Gea mistake opened the door for West Brom. Both teams looked for the elusive winner as United were dealt a double blow with Ferdinand and Vidic both coming off injured. But as time looked to be running out Ashley Young found an opening and also a bit of luck as his deflected shot went in. United held on and became only the third team to win all three points over the weekend.
Interestingly, though, none of the home teams could drive home the advantage as none of the away sides lost their game. Here are the highlights of an action-packed weekend.
Star of the Weekend:
The former United centre-back stepped foot at Anfield amidst a plethora of abuse and boos from the Anfield faithful. Up against Brown, was the intimidating 35 million man Andy Carroll and the nimble footed current Kop favorite Luis Suarez. Wesley didn’t bat an eyelid and reminded us all of his true pedigree after a flawless display against a strong Liverpool outfit. Brown returned home a richer man with the 35 million Carroll in his back-pocket.
Goal of the Weekend:
Seb Larsson v Liverpool
The Swede joined the Black Cats on a free transfer in the summer and showed his value in the first game itself, as he struck a brilliant volley to silence the vociferous Anfield crowd and earn his team a valuable point in the process. Elmohamady sent a deep cross from the right hand side, which found Larsson in acres of space at the back post. But the winger still had all to do as he flung himself in mid-air, parallel to the ground and struck an unstoppable volley into the far corner.
Hounourable mention in this category goes to Bolton’s Gary Cahill, who started the rout against QPR by a wonderful struck shot into the top far corner, which gave the keeper absolutely no chance. If ever Arsenal were trying to sign him, he could not have advertised himself better.
Assist of the Weekend:
Jason Roberts v Wolves
The striker showed great determination, skill and composure in setting up his team-mate Mauro Formica for Blackburn’s opening goal of the season against Wolves. Roberts darted towards the bouncing ball, managed, rather luckily, to squeeze it past the two defenders and then control it and pass it, while the ball was still in the air, towards the onrushing Formica who finished it off past Hennessey.
Save Of The Weekend:
Shay Given v Fulham
Shay Given gets this honor in his very first game for Aston Villa, as the Irishman denied Bobby Zamora from point blank range to earn his team a valuable point. The Englishman found himself alone on the edge of the six yard box as he tried to direct Andrew Johnson’s flick into the goal. Although the shot was not far off from the goalkeeper, Given did show tremendous reflexes to deny the striker and keep the score nil-nil.
Miss Of The Weekend:
Luis Suarez v Sunderland:
The Uruguyan, in absence of Dirk Kuyt, stepped up to take the penalty against Sunderland and given his present form, the Liverpool faithful prematurely started celebrating a goal. However, Suarez had different ideas as he kicked the ball high and handsome into the stands; something he may have picked up from Brazil’s Copa display. The star striker did make amends later as he headed the Charlie Adam free-kick for the first goal.
Controversy of the Weekend:
All Hell Breaks Loose At St James Park
The bad boy of English football was the center stage although it can be argued that he wasn’t the only guilty party. Alex Song was the real instigator, his stamp on Barton went unpunished and even unnoticed by the officials but not by the man who mattered. Joey was seething, but he controlled his temper rather uncharacteristically. However when Gervinho tried to con the referee, Joey Barton took matters in his own hands literally. Barton manhandled Gervinho off the ground, taking a queue from Rio Ferdinand’s “Stay on Your feet campaign”. The Ivorian in a moment of haste slapped Barton and the Englishmen did a Busquet impression and got the desired result – Arsenal down to ten men. Love him or hate him, the League’s a far more entertaining place with the one and only Joey. We wonder if Monsieur Arsene Wenger shares our view.
Kieron Richardson might have gotten away with just a yellow when he brought down Luis Suarez in the box, but did Phil Dowd bottle it, as it was early on in the game? Well, the Kop certainly thought so. Frank Lampard might also have a good case at the Britannia although he did appear to be going down rather too early.
Blooper Of The Weekend:
David De Gea v West Brom
The highly-rated Spanish star hasn’t really made a quick start to life in the Premiership; the question marks were raised when Ferguson decided over experience in favor of youth. Now the murmurs have grown louder after another high profile goof-up. De Gea flapped at a couple early on, however his mistake eventually cost United dear as he allowed a rather tame Shane long drive to go underneath him, a shot that must be stopped at this level.
One of the toughest jobs in world football is the spot of United number one, as many a big names have perished under the enormity of the task. However let’s not write off the boy just yet, as there is enormous potential which was evident in his second half showing against Man City in the Shield. David would need to settle down a bit quicker as the Danish shot stopper, Anders Lindegaard is breathing down his neck.
Best ‘Nearly Goal’ Of The Weekend:
Ben Watson v Norwich
Watson slipped into this category by only a couple of inches as his first time shot from outside the area with the outside of his right foot caught the Norwich goalkeeper off guard and in the end left him stranded. However, luckily for Ruddy and Norwich, the ball did not bend enough to sneak inside the post.
Surprise Of The Weekend:
This is a close competition between Fernando Torres and Fernando Torres. It has been a long time since ‘El Nino’ was ever part of a win-win situation, but here it is. First surprise was that the Spaniard, whose body language usually represents that of an ashamed, demoralized teenager going through a rough patch in love relationships, finally looked up for a game; the last occurrence of which was probably when Liverpool were still in a title race. The second surprise was when he was awarded the man of the match without registering a single shot on target; which may tell you more about Stoke and Chelsea than the striker himself.
Quotes Of The Weekend:
“Evans, Jones and Smalling are a Godsend”, said Sir Alex Ferguson after he found out that Rio, Vidic and Rafael will be out for a long time.
“I think Kevin Davies showed us what it was all about. Seven fouls he committed in the first half and he didn’t get booked, and then he leaves his foot in to make sure he gets a free kick for the second goal. He’s a clever lad.” – QPR manager Neil Warnock after losing to Bolton.
Team Of The Weekend:
Asmir Begovic (Stoke), Robert Huth (Stoke), Wes Brown (Sunderland), Gary Cahill (Bolton), Ashley Cole (Chelsea), Victor Moses (Wigan), Fabrice Muamba (Bolton), Lee Cattermole (Sunderland), Ashley Young (Man United), Fernando Torres (Chelsea), Steven Fletcher (Wolves)
Premier League Results
Tottenham p-p Everton
Liverpool 1-1 Sunderland
QPR 0-4 Bolton Wanderers
Wigan 1-1 Norwich City
Blackburn 1-2 Wolves
Fulham 0-0 Aston Villa
Newcastle 0-0 Arsenal
Chelsea 0-0 Stoke City
West Brom 1-2 Man United