Two of the richest clubs in the world went head to head in the opening day of the season and Jose Morhinho’s Chelsea took the spoils with a 1 -0 win over Manchester United.
Before the match, Sir Alex Ferguson claimed that his injury crisis at Manchester United was the worst he had endured in his career. Eight first team squad members were missing as the red devils started the match with an unfamiliar team with John o’Shea pushed up in midfield and Roy Keane stepping in at centre back.
But Sir Alex can feel disappointed as his side dominated possession throughout the match but failed to break the stubborn Chelsea defence. Only a moment of indecision after fifteen minutes by United goalkeeper, Tim Howard, allowed Icelandic striker, Eidur Gudjohnson, to steal 3 points for the home side.
Howard failed to claim a cushioned header from Chelsea’s £24m acquisition, Didier Drogbha allowing Gudjohnson to round the keeper for a simple tap-in that handed new manager Jose Mourinho the ideal start in his first match in charge.
After the goal Chelsea were not so threatening and United dominated possession pushing Chelsea back towards their own penalty area. But the visitors lacked ideas to unlock the stubborn Chelsea defence. Ryan Giggs should have equalised with a late header, but in truth, United threatened little.
After the match, Morinhno admitted: “Mr Ferguson pushed me to make changes that normally I don’t do, to play a safer match- and in fact the team defended very, very, very well.”
Ferguson’s disappointment to the defeat was obvious. “I hoped more for more from our possession, which we dominated, although our crosses were a bit scrappy and over-hit,” he said.
“It was a good performance by us, we worked really hard. We can consider ourselves a bit unlucky.”
So Chelsea triumphed in the first encounter of these goliaths of the Premiership. But Roman Abramovich will expect more entertainment for his £210m investment as the season progresses.
The champions sent a spine-chilling message to the rest of the Premiership with a crushing 4-1 defeat of Everton away from home.
Arsenal were in complete control and never looked troubled as goals from Bergkamp, Reyes, Lyungberg and Pires secured the points. With Patrick Vieira deciding to stay with the London team, Arsenal are worthy favourites for retaining their Premiership crown.
The first goal was typical of their counter-attacking capabilities as they broke with power and pace. Reyes ran at the Everton defenders allowing Henry space to feed the ball to unmarked Bergkamp 10 yards from goal. The Dutchman drilled the ball between the legs of Nigel Martyn.
Everton then seemed helpless as the Gunners dominated possession with slick passing and close ball control. Their second goal came after 39 minutes, a bullet-header from Spaniard, Reyes.
The second half proved to be no different as Everton tried to salvage something from the match by introducing Marcus Bent into their attack. Freddie Lyungberg tapped in the third after 54 minutes after clever work from Henry as heads in the home crowd began to drop.
But the Evertonians had something to shout about after 64 minutes as a clever chip from Thomas Gravesen put Lee Carsley through. He rounded Jens Lehmann and slotted the ball into the gaping goal.
But all hopes of a miraculous comeback were dashed seven minutes from time as Robert Pires latched onto a goalkeeping blunder from Martyn to round off a comfortable victory.
Arsene Wenger said: “It was a hungry performance and the team really wanted to win. That is what I wanted.”
David Moyes on the other hand knows he faces a mountainous task over the next nine months with many pundits tipping Everton for relegation after a summer of boardroom unrest at Goodison.
He said: “This is probably the toughest job in the Premiership, but it’s a great challenge and opportunity for me to stand up and come through, and if we do then we will be better people for it.”
Two debutant Premiership managers went head to head in North London on the opening day of the new season as Spurs were held to a 1-1 draw against Liverpool.
Both Jacques Santini of Spurs and Rafael Benitez of Liverpool have fresh ideas to add to the Premiership frenzy but on this showing, hard work and not champagne football dominates their thinking.
All talk this week in Merseyside has been of Michael Owen’s departure to Real Madrid. But in new summer signing, Djibril Cisse, bought from Auxerre for £14m, it seems they have a striker who possesses the same instinct for goal as the England marksman.
This was highlighted in the 38th minute when poor defending from a Steve Finnan cross allowed Jamie Carragher to flick-on and the unmarked Cisse was allowed enough space to tuck the ball past Paul Robinson who was making his debut for Spurs in goal.
Spurs moved the ball around well in the first half but Jamie Redknapp lacked the confidence to deal with the control exerted by Gerrard and Hamann. Gerrard’s willingness to push forward almost resulted in a penalty when promising 17-year-old full back, Philip Ifil, pulled back the Liverpool captain’s shirt, only for the referee to wave away Gerrard’s appeal.
The second half started slowly with both sides producing limited chances. But on 71 minutes, Jermaine Defoe reminded England boss, Sven Goran Eriksson, of his potential, after a long pass fromErik Edman was touched on by Kanoute. The young striker produced a deft touch, quick turn and neat finish to salvage a point for his new manager.
Norwich and Crystal Palace made their Premiership bows together with a 1-1 draw at Carrow Road. This match was a Division 1 fixture last year and although a lively encounter, it lacked quality.
Ten players made their debuts. Four for Norwich, six for Palace so the passing was wayward at times as both sides lost their shape early on and the match became stretched.
But on 16 minutes, Darren Huckerby of Norwich opened his Premiership account. He was released by Svensson into the box and ran at Palace captain, Popovic, before unleashing a ferocious right foot shot past Speroni.
Simon Charlton making his Canaries debut almost doubled the lead on 29 minutes as his first time volley from David Bentley’s corner fizzled just over the bar.
Palace looked more assured in the second half and nearly scored in the 53rd minute after a goalmouth scramble as they started to turn the screw. They got their reward on 73 minutes when Routledge put through Johnson with a flick-on, and he comfortably slotted the ball beneath Green, the Norwich goalkeeper.
Johnson almost stole the game for Palace in injury time, but Green dealt with his volley at the second attempt.
Norwich play Manchester United, Newcastle and Arsenal in their next three matches. It’s going to be a long, hard season for them but they seem determined to enjoy it.
Bolton Wanderers hit top gear at the first time of asking as they swept past Charlton with ease at the Reebok stadium.
Nigerian international, Jay-Jay Okocho, stole the show on his 31st birthday, scoring twice to inspire the Trotters to a comprehensive 4-1 win. Okocho’s trickery and inventiveness troubled Charlton all afternoon and he broke the deadlock after 11 minutes with a free-kick, 22 yards from goal. Addicks goalkeeper, Dean Kiely, was helpless as the ball flew into the top right-hand corner.
A minute later, Charlton captain, Matt Holland, limped off the field with suspected ankle ligament damage and Alan Curbishley’s team lost their shape. Henrik Pederson doubled the host’s advantage after half an hour, latching onto a through ball from Okocho.
Charlton rarely threatened Bolton in the first half and the pattern remained unchanged after the break. Kevin Davies almost scored for Bolton before Okocho grabbed his second on 59 minutes with a low right-footed drive.
Charlton managed a consolation goal when Kevin Lisbie rose unchallenged to head Murphy’s corner past Jaaskelainen. But Pederson completed the rout on 72 minutes with a curling, left footed drive.
Bolton boss, Sam Allerdyce, described the match as a “dream start” while his Charlton counterpart, Alan Curbishley, was left dumbfounded by his side’s poor showing.
Boro new-boy, Jimmy Floyd Hasselbaink, snatched a late controversial, equaliser as the honours were shared between these local rivals at Teeside.
Both sides have made several summer signings and were keen to start the season with a victory.
Newcastle had taken an early lead against the run of play after 14 minutes, when Craig Bellamy retuning from a knee injury raced onto a mistake by Chris Riggott in the Boro defence to score.
Newcastle then sat back and defended deep as Boro went searching for an equaliser. Maggpie midfielder, Nicky Butt, looked assured as he thwarted Zenden’s and Mendieta’s ability to build momentum.
But their persistence paid off in the 73rd minute when Hasselbaink’s cross found Stewart Downing who drove the ball home.
Shearer restored Newcastle’s lead from the penalty spot after Ameobi was fouled by Mendieta in the box.
Hasselbaink’s controversial equaliser came in injury-time as he nodded home at the far post through a combination of head and hand.
Elsewhere in the Premiership, Aston Villa opened their season with a comfortable 2-0 home win over Southampton. Goals from England striker, Darius Vassell, and Villa debutant, Carlton Cole, on loan from Chelsea were enough to secure the 3 points for David O’Leary’s men. Villa could have had more goals had it not been for an excellent performance by Antii Niemi in the Saints’ goal.
Manchester City were denied an opening day victory by the18-year old Dutchman, Collins John of Fulham.
City had taken a deserved lead on 28 minutes when Robbie Fowler’s spectacular finish sailed over Edwin Van der Sar in Fulham’s goal. But Fulham snatched an undeserved equaliser in the second half after 57 minutes, when Claus Jensen’s cross found John who had time to turn and score past the flat-footed David James.
The City goalkeeper denied Jensen with a fine save ten minutes from time as the sides shared the points.
Blackburn Rovers manager, Graeme Souness, was left fuming after his side’s lacklustre first half against Premiership new boys, West Bromwich Albion.
The Baggies took the lead after 33 minutes when Niel Clement’s free-kick deflected off Barry Ferguson’s arm and past goalkeeper Brad Friedel. The Blackburn boss gave Paul Dickov his debut after the break and the Scotsman unsettled the Albion defence.
Blackburn spent most of the decond half camped in their opponents half and equalised on 70 minutes when John Stead’s cross found Craig Short whose header went in off the post.
Souness said: “They don’t make them like Shorty any more. He might have got hurt going for that ball, but it never crossed his mind.”
Portsmouth new signing, veteran defender, David Unsworth, earned Harry Redknapp’s men a draw against a new look Birmingham City side at Fratton Park.
Debutant Unsworth drilled in a penalty after Stan Lazaridis was adjudged to have fouled Steve Stone in the box as the pair challenged to head a cross.
Birmingham, whose manager Steve Bruce had given debuts to Emile Heskey, Jesper Gronkaer, Mario Melchiot and Muzzey Izzet, had taken the lead in spectacular fashion when Welshman, Robbie Savage, curled home a 25-yard free kick.
The Blues nearly pinched a dramatic winner in stoppage time when Clinton Morrison’s swivel and shot could have given them victory with the last kick of the match.