Once in every generation there comes a face-off for the ages, a clash of the titans, the chance to see the finest sportsmen battle it out to prove themselves the best the world has seen, athletes in their physical prime, mentally sharp, toned to perfection, drilled to within an inch of their lives with an overwhelming drive to be the greatest. Once in a lifetime you’ll see the sport redefined in a match-up of the most elite competitors known to man, and all you can do is sit back and watch on in awe at history unfolding before your eyes. But before England v Malta, we had a weekend of Premier League fixtures to enjoy.
Anyone hankering after a generous portion of insurance sponsored association football for their lunch on Saturday would have found themselves sated by the appearance of AFC Bournemouth and Manchester City on their televisions. The Cherries were looking to pick up their first points of the season against a team they’d never beaten, and despite the visitors being strong favourites Bournemouth took the lead in the 13th minute as Charlie Daniels posted his entry for Goal of the Month with an absolute bastard of a strike from the corner of the penalty area, the ball pinging the underside of the crossbar and nestling into the net, giving all goal fetishists a stonk on before 1pm.
The lead was shortlived however, as neo-nazi cosplay enthusiast David Silva fed a through ball to Gabriel Jesus, and the arch-angel lord and saviour toepoked the ball past Asmir Begovic to bring Manchester City level. Whilst City applied the lions share of the pressure for the remainder of the game, Jermain Defoe and Josh King will both be disappointed they couldn’t add to the home side’s goal tally. The game looked to be petering towards the draw when, in the 97th minute, Raheem Sterling found himself with space by the penalty spot, and struck a looping shot into Begovic’s top corner, sparking jubilant scenes in the away end.
Not to be outdone by a late winner, Mike Dean ensured he shared the back pages with City’s goalscorer by showing him a second yellow for his celebration. While Sterling was trudging off, Sergio Aguerö was questioning some unnecessarily aggressive peacekeeping from the Bournemouth stewards, who later fabricated an assault from the Argentinian for good measure. At the final whistle Bournemouth manager Eddie Howe fittingly looked like a dumbfounded Princess Diana, as his side’s car crash start to the season continues – reports that these bad results are an undercover job by Reading FC are yet to be confirmed.
The spreading of games across both days of the weekend meant that there were only four 3pm kick-offs, and once again it was West Ham that provided the weekend’s LOLZ. This time out they travelled up to Officially In-Crisis Newcastle United who, like their visitors, were yet to pick up a point. A full debut was given to Joselu, and the Spaniard opened the scoring for Benitez’s side ten minutes before half time, converting Atsu’s centre after a sumptuous through ball from fellow summer recruit Mikel Merino. The Hammers almost levelled in the second half, when Rob Elliott’s double save fell at the feet of Javier Hernandez, but the Mexican’s 7 yard screamer was blocked on the line by Ciaran Clark. It was Clark himself who then headed Matt Ritchie’s cross past an ailing Joe Hart to double Newcastle’s lead; West Ham’s backline belying the tuition of a World Cup bronze winning manager. The afternoon then got worse for Bilic as Ayóze Perez’s through ball saw human battering ram Aleksander Mitrovic waltz past Hart and roll then all into an empty net. Newcastle then Officially Out-of-Crisis (for now), but Slaven Bilic’s performance is under review from the Hammers’ top brass. Not the best time to be an unemployed Croatian living in Britain.
In the other 3pm games, Crystal Palace‘s terrible start to the season continued as they conceded a shot to Swansea. Oh, and it went it! Tammy Abraham’s goal was the Swans’ first shot on target this season, and their lead was doubled in the second half as Jordan Ayew played a one-two off the shin of onrushing ‘keeper Wayne Hennessy, with the resulting rebound trickling into the net. Frank De Boer is another manager whose employment prospects are already looking bleak, unsurprisingly given how terrible Palace have been since his appointment. He’s now got two weeks to get his system to gel with the Palace squad and it’s imperative he does – Simon Jordan has run out of second rate British managers in his phonebook.
Brighton and Hove Albion gained their first point of the season at Vicarage Road as Watford‘s Miguel Britos was sent off for a knee level flying kick on Anthony Knockaert. The Belgian had a frustrating afternoon, as he was thwarted by both post and Watford custodian Heurelho Gomes, and received a boot in the face. There was also a stalemate at the John Smith, as Huddersfield and Southampton huffed and puffed but couldn’t make anyone care.
The evening kick-off saw Manchester United continue their fine early season form, as 2016 champions Leicester City were swiped aside. Goals from Marcus Rashford and Marouane Fellaini saved the blushes of Romelu Lukaku, who saw his second-half penalty saved, as 1,000,000 FPL managers shouted obscenities at their television screens. Any talk of Manchester United being the team to beat seems premature, but if they can continue to dispatch the teams likely to finish outside the top 7 as easily as they have so far, the job will be half done.
Super Sunday kicked off with…West Brom vs Stoke?! A victory for those that rally against the so-called big teams having the monopoly on televised games, a crushing defeat for everyone else. The annual 1-1 draw in the Pulis Derby was settled with two stooping headers – Jay Rodriguez netting his first Premier League goal for The Baggies, and Radio X DJ Peter Crouch netting a record 51st headed goal for Stoke’s equaliser.
Meanwhile in West London, Chelsea faced an Everton team who’s exertions in Croatia on Thursday had clearly left them feeling a little leggy. Alvaro Morata dominated the Toffees’ defence, setting up Cesc Fabregas for Chelsea’s first, and converting Dave Azpilicueta’s cross for the second in a routine 2-0 victory.
The only thing on Tottenham’s mind, besides the opportunity to do some Sunday night Bank Holiday drinking, was the chance to dispel the myth of the Wembley Curse against last season’s worst travellers, Burnley. If ever there was a chance to break the spell this was it, and when Dele Alli converted after a goalmouth scramble, it looked as though Spurs were home and dry. Harry Kane, looking to overcome his own personal hoodoo and eat his Sunday dinner without a bib, had chances to register his first ever goal in August, though Tom Heaton was equal to his efforts as the game became stretched. Then, in the 92nd minute, the ball was fed through to new Burnley signing Chris Wood, and his dink past Lloris gave the Clarets 4 points from their opening two away fixtures.
The heavyweight bout of the weekend came at Anfield as Jurgen Klopp’s Liverpool took on Petr Cech and ten beach towels (insert obvious joke about Germans and beach towels here – Ed). The ‘Wenger Out’ calls had been muted so far this season, though the exclusion of Alexandre Lacazette from Arsenal’s starting lineup had middle-aged men across London heading to their nearest Debenhams in search of discounted bedsheets.
Klopp too had a surprise omission from the teamsheet as Loris Karius replaced Simon Mignolet in goal. The official line being that Mignolet is dog plops. From the off Liverpool looked sharper and hungrier than their visitors, and it was no surprise when Roberto Firmino headed Liverpool in front on 17 minutes. The lead was doubled before half-time as Sadio Mane curled a drop dead ten on ten stunner of a shot round Cech.
Arsenal looked all at sea in the second half, mainly because of their kit, but after Mo Salah’s goal in the 57th minute the only surprise was that it took until the 77th minute for Liverpool to add a fourth, as Daniel Sturridge nodded Salah’s cross into an empty net. It’s taken a few weeks, but the full meltdown from Arsenal fans on social media is back in full force. Feel free to share your favourite videos of grown men shouting “YOU’RE A DISGRACE” at their television screens below.
So the first month of the new season comes to a close, and Manchester United sit top with the league’s only 100% record. Jose Mourinho faces stiff competition from David Wagner for manager of the month, and 7 from 9 for Huddersfield Town represents a dream start. At the bottom, Bournemouth, West Ham and Crystal Palace remain pointless going into September. I suppose God really is a northerner.
It’s now two weeks til the Premier League resumes, with the circus of Transfer Deadline Day to be endured this week. Expect a few new faces when the league resumes, and if you’re looking for something to keep the wolf from the door, don’t watch England v Malta. It’ll put you off football for life.