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Didier Drobga and Chelsea picked up where they left off last season with a comfortable victory over West Brom.
After the ‘phony war’ that has been the summer transfer window, finally fans of the top division of English football have something concrete to talk about. The Premier League has returned.
It is always difficult to gauge any division after only one round of fixtures but based on the first weekend’s action it is fair to say that not much has changed in the land of the EPL. Chelsea are still an irresistible force at Stamford Bridge, the Champions tore West Bromwich Albion apart on Saturday evening; and while the jury is still out on the Blues (and their aging squad) they set down a marker again for the rest of the Premier League. Didier Drogba appeared to be back to his best and the intricate passing and movement from some of Chelsea’s French and English stars in the build up to Frank Lampard’s goal belied their inept World Cup appearances.
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Conversely West Brom look like they are in for another torrid season in the Premier League. For the all their neat passing in the middle of the pitch, the Baggies are still clueless at either end. Scott Carson, Albion’s much maligned number one, once again proved his doubters correct, fumbling a tame free kick on five minutes to gift Chelsea the lead. Carson and his defence never recovered. On the stroke of half time Chelsea struck for a second time, West Brom’s defensive wall crumbled as Drogba simply side footed home from the edge of the area. Albion fans must now be clamouring for Boaz Myhill’s introduction following his summer move from Hull City, Carson having made too many mistakes when it really counts.
The only real shock of the weekend came at the DW Stadium as Blackpool romped to a four goal victory over clueless Wigan. The Tangerines could conceivably have scored five or six against a Wigan side utterly lacking in quality or organisation. Wigan do not appear to have learnt any lessons from last season. One way or another one would suspect either Roberto Martinez or Wigan will be in trouble this season, come May it is realistic that neither will be in the Premier League.
Whilst it will be a long hard season for Blackpool, their opening day win will go down in club folklore. New signing Marlon Harewood snaffled two goals on his debut and it is vital that the more experienced players in their squad continue to lead from the front if the Seasiders are to have any chance at survival.
Liverpool and Arsenal battled to a feisty 1-1, both teams seeming displayed more back bone, giving hope to supporters that they could both mount a decent challenge this season. Pepe Reina’s 89th minute own-goal gifted the Gunners a well deserved point against Roy Hodgson’s side. Liverpool led following David N’Gog’s rasping opener just after half time and looked to have done enough to see off the Arsenal’s hopes of salvaging a point. Joe Cole’s controversial red card means that he will miss the Reds next game against Manchester City, a game of huge importance for both sides in their respective quests to finish in a Champions’ League birth.
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The opening Premier League game of the season also maintained the status quo from last season. Tottenham looked fluid and dangerous in their goal-less draw with Manchester City. The visitors with Joe Hart in goal appeared disjointed and unfamiliar with one another. Hart kept City in the game and seemingly Shay Given on the bench with a stunning display, the new England keeper’s performance will come as no shock to Birmingham fans who saw him perform heroics during his loan spell last season. He doesn’t seem to have missed a beat since his return to his parent club. Making world class saves to deny Crouch, Defoe and Huddlestone in the first half alone. City, however, did improve as the game went on and with Mario Balloteli and inevitably James Milner to come in the side they will only get better. However it could be weeks and months before the real Manchester City emerge, and by that point their title aspirations could already have been dashed.