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Premier League Wrap-up: Week One

Tottenham's Gareth Bale tries - and fails - to open the scoring at White Hart Lane.
Tottenham's Gareth Bale tries - and fails - to open the scoring at White Hart Lane.

That's ten games in the books now as week one of the Premier League season comes to a close. Let's take a quick peek at the matches around the league.

Manchester City 0-0 Tottenham Hotspur

Coverage: Bitter and Blue (City)

It was a rough match for Manchester City as they fielded an team against Spur's fluid attacking side in the Premier League's opening fixture. City lined up 4-3-3 with three holding midfielders (Nigel de Jong, Yaya Toure, and Gareth Barry), which meant that the front three of Carlos Tevez, David Silva, and Shaun Wright-Phillips were completely isolated from the rest of the City players. Unsurprisingly, the linkup play between midfield and strikers never really got going, even with Yaya Toure trying to get forward as much as possible in the second half. What is perhaps more surprising is how easily Tottenham were able to carve up the City lines, especially in the first thirty minutes of the game. Joe Hart made some terrific saves to keep his team level, the most impressive from Benoit Assou-Ekotto's long-range deflected drive that looked set to smash into the top corner. City will probably pleased to have escaped with a draw - at no point did their play look like it would trouble Tottenham. It's still early days for Roberto Mancini, and he certainly has enough resources at his disposal to do whatever he likes, but it was a worrying sign for City fans.

"Can [Mancini] keep the players happy? It's difficult. He's not going to do it."

-Harry Redknapp, Spurs manager

The international gang of superstars definitely won't be happy if they keep performing like they did on Saturday.

Aston Villa 3-0 West Ham United

Coverage: 7500 to Holte (Villa)

Not too many would have put money on Aston Villa coming out of the gates firing on all cylinders; a raft of significant injuries depriving the squad of three first team players, including Gabby Agbonlahor, was bad enough before one accounted for the chaos caused by Martin O'Neill leaving the club. But fire on all cylinders they did as they coasted to victory against the Hammers, Stewart Downing scoring the opener and hitting the crossbar twice, Stiliyan Petrov adding a rare headed goal, and James Milner finishing the rout after a cut-back from impressive debutant Marc Albrighton. Villa also hit the post twice and should have had a penalty in the second half, so complaining about Downing's goal being offside would seem a little churlish, even though the linesman should have spotted it. On the other side of things Avram Grant's first game in charge went about as badly as it could go, with West Ham completely incapable of stringing two passes together. Robert Green made his first appearance since the South Africa debacle, seeming on the verge of tears as he made a series of elementary mistakes within the first fifteen minutes, none quite so brutal as the error in England's World Cup match against the United States but each of them enough to bring fresh jeers from Villa fans.

"We passed to them more than they passed to themselves."

-Avram Grant, West Ham manager

He didn't even mention passing the ball to their own goalpost. That was a neat trick.

Wolverhampton Wanderers 2-1 Stoke City

Stoke had spent big money in the offseason by acquiring Kenwyn Jones from Sunderland, but despite hitting the crossbar early on the new signing had a nightmare debut, levelled by a challenge from Joey Craddock inside the quarter-hour mark and hurt badly enough to be withdrawn. Wolves earned the lead through a remarkable free-kick routine, then extended it just a few minutes later when Stoke completely failed to deal with a cross, leaving Stephen Fletcher with a simple header. Abdoulaye Faye scored with a header to reduce the deficit back to one soon after half-time, but the game petered out and Stoke were sent to a surprising loss at Molineaux.

"It was no convincing result, but a convincing performance."

-Mick McCarthy

Wigan Athletic 0-4 Blackpool

Two teams expected to be cellar-dwellers met at Wigan's DW Stadium for the first six-point relegation contest of the season. Someone forgot to invite the home team, and Roberto Martinez's side went 1-0 down to newly promoted Blackpool within the first quarter of an hour. Things got worse for Wigan fans, as Marlon Harewood added a second, then a third, and by the time the game reached half time the Latics were staring at a 3-0 scoreline. Blackpool did not like a side who play in grounds too small for the Premier League, and when all was said and done the Tangerines had demolished Wigan 4-0. Latics goalkeeper Chris Kirkland had a particularly disappointing match, at fault for at least three of the goals. Charles N'Zogbia has declared himself on strike, an entirely reasonable reaction to a remarkably poor performance by Wigan.


-Roberto Martinez, Wigan manager (paraphrased).

:( indeed.

Blackburn Rovers 1-0 Everton

Coverage: Royal Blue Mersey (Everton)

Everton are reliant on Tim Howard to anchor their team, but the American goalkeeper committed a blunder of the highest error on Saturday, dropping a cross onto Serbian striker Nikola Kalinic's foot after 14 minutes. Everton tried to create chances through combination play in the midfield, but the spark wasn't there and Blackburn were better on the day, playing their usual brand of hyper-physical football and de-stabilising the Toffees's attempts at controlling play. It took until second half injury time for Rovers keeper Paul Robinson to be called into serious question as he dealt with Phil Jagielka's last-gasp shot.

"Our home record is telling everybody it ain't going to stop."

-Sam Allardyce, Blackburn manager

Does anybody know what this means?

Bolton Wanderers 0-0 Fulham

Coverage: Cottagers Confidential (Fulham)

With Mark Schwarzer failing a fitness test and therefore unavailable, Bolton's strikers might have been looking forward to an easy time of things at the Reebok Stadium. David Stockton, a hitherto unknown from Fulham's reserves, was in no mood to oblige them. The 24-year old goalkeeper kept out Bolton's best efforts for the entire match, aided by his near post as Stuart Holden came closest to beating him. Meanwhile Fulham wobbled but never gave up, and were in the ascendancy at the end of the game. Neither team had the cutting edge required to score on the day, but each will have been happy with their overall play.

"The biggest compliment I can pay [Stockdale] is to say they didn't miss Mark Schwarzer."

Owen Coyle, Bolton manager.

They will soon!

Sunderland 2-2 Birmingham City

Birmingham came back from a two-goal deficit to earn a draw against ten-man Sunderland at the Stadium of Light, and they came perilously close to scoring a winner in injury time. Boosted by Lee Cattermole's sending off (the Sunderland captain contriving to pick up two yellow cards before halftime) Birmingham overcame a Darren Bent penalty and a Stephen Carr own goal, scoring their first with thirteen minutes to go before Liam Ridgewell bundled in the equaliser right at the end of the ninety. Before Cattermole's second yellow, Sunderland were coasting to victory; the captain's judgement has been called into question, and not for the first time.

"The ref has been fast-tracked, it was only his second or third game and he was out of his depth."

Steve Bruce, Sunderland manager.

Do you think he was talking about how Cattermole got away with putting an elbow into Lee Bowyer's eye early on?

Liverpool 1-1 Arsenal

Coverage: The Short Fuse (Arsenal)

Liverpool-Arsenal is always an engaging fixture, but this match had very little to recommend it, unless one is a fan of red cards and comedy own goals. An ineffective Joe Cole, making his Liverpool debut, was sent for an early bath after a scissoring lunge caught Laurent Koscielny just before halftime, the Arsenal defender leaving on a stretcher but coming back in no worse for the wear after the intermission. Going down to ten men seemed to energise Liverpool, who had been second best before the half. Shortly after the restart Javier Mascherano pounced on a poor attempt to play the ball out of defence by young midfielder Jack Wilshere, sending the ball to David Ngog, who unleashed an unstoppable shot past Manuel Almunia at the near post and sent Anfield into raptures. Desperately seeking to even things out, Arsene Wenger throw Tomas Rosicky and Theo Walcott into the fray, but needed help from Pepe Reina to tie the game. The Liverpool keeper lost his bearings in the sun, and then rather than picking up the loose ball shovelled it two-handed into his own net. There was still time enough in the game for Koscielny to see red, bizarrely picking up his second yellow for shielding the face with his hands as a ball was flicked towards him.

"Joe Cole is usually a fair player."

-Arsene Wenger, Arsenal manager.

Insult or compliment? You decide.

Manchester United 3-0 Newcastle United

Coverage: The Busby Babe (United)

A predictable result from United, despite a half-hour long wobble that saw the best chances fall to players in black and white. By the final whistle, Dimitar Berbatov, Darren Fletcher, and Ryan Giggs had all netted and Manchester United had wasted a bushel of chances to add to the tally, the Bulgarian striker particularly profligate as he attempted to gift a goal to Wayne Rooney, who was off the boil all game. After the first goal, a neatly taken far-post shot by Berbatov, resistance to the United attack crumbled, but before then Newcastle had put up a spirited fight, Joey Barton in particular the author of some teasing balls that asked serious questions of the United defence. In the end, though, it was not to be, and Newcastle were run ragged by the effortless passing of Paul Scholes in the centre of United's midfield.

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