August 21, 2006
EPL Week 1 Recap
Reading 3-2 Middlesbrough – Reading began their first season of top flight football well as they overcame a two-goal deficit to claim all three points. The Royals got a man of the match effort from debutant Seol Ki-Hyeon, whose passing caused the Boro defense all sorts of difficulty. American Marcus Hahnemann did not have the best game in goal as Stuart Downing’s opener slipped under his body and his failure to hold Fabio Rochemback’s free kick led to Boro’s second goal. Lack of communication at the back should be of some concern in the future for Reading.
Where did it all go wrong for Boro? The selection of Julio Arca at left back is worth a start. The Argentine played on the left wing for most of his time at Sunderland. I think it was a case of taking Reading too lightly by trying to play Arca and Downing at the same time. Gareth Southgate could have used an experienced player in defense because the whole back four seemed unsettled after Dave Kitson’s goal.
Arsenal 1-1 Aston Villa – After barely scraping fourth spot last season the Gunners still have the same problem in attack. Villa was perfectly content to let them have two-thirds of the possession since Arsenal continued to try to walk the ball into the goal. They will have to find some diversity in attack if they want to be in the running at the end of the season. Good points for Arsenal included a promising debut for Theo Walcott and Emmanuel Eboue’s contributions in attack from the right back position.
Martin O’Neill showcased his managerial talents by getting a 1-1 draw with the same players who lost 5-0 in last season’s corresponding fixture. The Villans played with everyone behind the ball in defense and hard work in the midfield led to the corner that yielded their goal. With so little possession Juan Pablo Angel, Luke Moore and Gabriel Agbonlahor were just observers. This could possibly be the beginning of a return to greatness at Villa Park.
Sheffield United 1-1 Liverpool – The Blades proved that they could play on the same pitch as Liverpool with a superb draw at Bramall Lane. Rob Hulse played a huge part in the game with a goal, another goal disallowed (rightfully) and a bad challenge that ended Jamie Carragher’s match. On the basis of just this one match, Sheffield United look like they can stay up.
Liverpool continue to have a problem find problems scoring goals. Only a harsh penalty decision allowed the Reds to come away with a point. Fabio Aurelio and Jan Kromkamp did not have the best of matches for Liverpool and Mark Gonzalez was anonymous as well off the bench. Steven Gerrard’s constant running finally allowed him to get in position to score but he fell with little or perhaps no contact. Liverpool seemingly need an early goal in order to play well regardless of the opposition.
Everton 2-1 Watford – Andy Johnson got a bit of luck to score on his debut but the goal was fully deserved. Their second from a penalty was a result of poor refereeing and in the end they really didn’t deserve all the points. They were presented with an opportunity to control a game from the beginning, something which rarely if at all happened last season, and it looked uncomfortable for them. Everton should take solace in a good start to the season with the possibility of a fantastic strike force.
Watford should have gotten a point, but Chris Powell’s head was deemed to be a hand by the referee. The Hornets and in particular Damien Francis will have to work on their finishing after the latter missed an easy chance before scoring a Lampard-style deflected goal. A long season awaits for Watford.
Portsmouth 3-0 Blackburn Rovers – Pompey made an impressive start to the season while Benjani continued to show that he is a striker incapable of scoring. However, he did have the assist on Svetoslav Todorov’s opener. The debutants all played well with Kanu bagging a brace while also having a penalty saved. Portsmouth rolled over Blackburn like a team that could be playing in the Champions League, but there’s still 37 games to play.
Blackburn may battle relegation with continued performances like that. Lucas Neill was sent off for an awful challenge in midfield which was his second yellow. Andy Todd at least denied a goalscoring opportunity when he was sent off. And worse yet, even when they had 11 men it was one-way traffic in Pompey’s favor. Brad Friedel’s penalty save may be the lone bright spot for Blackburn.
Bolton Wanderers 2-0 Tottenham Hotspur – Bolton’s longball tactics gave them a fully deserved three points against a poor Spurs team. Bolton are deadly from set pieces and Kevin Davies’ opener came from Bolton’s second corner of the match. They added to their lead with a fantastic 35-yard strike by Ivan Campo. There are some who expect Bolton to struggle, but I think they will be fine.
Spurs need to play much better if they want to finish in the top four. They posed very little danger in attack once they were two goals down and Edgar Davids appears to be past it. More midtable mediocrity awaits based on this performance.
West Ham United 3-1 Charlton Athletic – The Hammers got a deserved win at Upton Park to open the season with Lee Bowyer and Bobby Zamora playing major roles in the Addicks downfall. West Ham showed plenty of attacking flair and look best poised of the English teams to do something in the UEFA Cup.
Charlton had an excellent start to the match which was ruined by one man. Clown prince Djimi Traore got himself sent off on his debut for kicking the ball away while on a yellow. After that, Charlton lacked the fitness to play over an hour with ten men and could not keep up. Charlton may not be as bad as many think despite the result.
Newcastle United 2-1 Wigan Athletic – Newcastle played well in their opener with Wigan with goals coming from Scott Parker and Shola Ameobi. Ameobi played an immense match as he setup Parker’s goal while getting in perfect position to get onto the rebound from Charles N’Zogbia’s shot in the second half. The Magpies still need a backup striker to do anything this season though.
Wigan played well but fell to defeat at St. James’. The presence of heskey did not prevent them from scoring as Lee McCulloch hit a nice bending finish early in the second half. I don’t see them matching last season’s highs, but Wigan have a shot at avoiding a relegation battle.
Manchester United 5-1 Fulham – United ran riot over an awful Fulham defense which may not have been League One standard. They seemingly scored every time they went forward in the first twenty minutes, but they inevitably lost concentration and allowed Fulham to score on the break. However, that should not take away from the best performance by a team this weekend.
Fulham should start preparing for life in the Championship and Chris Coleman should brush up on his resume after this performance. Already destabilized by Steed Malbranque and Tomasz Radzinske’s desires to leave the perennial relegation fighters, the last thing they needed was a result like this. In addition, Michael Brown should have been sent off for his horror tackle on Ryan Giggs and he may see further punishment by the FA.
Chelsea 3-0 Manchester City – Chelsea showed themselves to be the efficient sometimes boring machine they were last season. The most expensive team in world sport did not get a good performance out of Shaun Wright-Phillips, whose days at Stamford Bridge may be coming to an end soon. Frank Lampard continues to turn the deflected goal into a staple for Chelsea as defenders continue to try to get in the way of his wayward shots.
Manchester City started Nicky Weaver in a Premiership match for the first time since March 31, 2001. Yes, that is correct, over five years. He lacked match practice like almost anyone would after a layoff which had seen City relegated and promoted again in that span. Despite this he was beaten on two good headers and a Lampard deflected goal. At the other end, City were able to create a few good chances, but that ended when Bernardo Corradi was sent off. At least the hardest game of the season is out of the way for them.