Week 2 of the English Premier League sees both Manchester clubs, Chelsea, and Hull remain the only clubs to take maximum points from their first two games.
The bookmakers got it horribly wrong last season. Leicester took the applecart, ate all the apples, and then turned the cart into a rocking chair. Two games into the 2016/17 English Premier League (EPL) Season and things are back on track.
Pep Guardiola’s 4-1 victory at Stoke’s newly named Bet365 stadium was a slightly exaggerated scoreline, but it was also an emphatic message that the former Barcelona and Bayern Munich coach is settling in very nicely thank you.
It will be a game remembered as the day referee Mike Dean laid down a marker for the rest of the season. Dean loves giving penalties. He has pointed to the spot 16 times since the beginning of last season, and nobody can match that figure. It will rise. Dean was taking a no-nonsense approach to shirt pulling in the penalty area giving two penalties for infringements on both sides.
The first penalty kick went the way of City. Ryan Shawcross later told the press that he was ‘stupid’ and had ‘let his side down’ after his penalty box wrestle with Nicolas Otamendi was deemed a foul.
Despite missing two penalties in midweek in the 5-0 thrashing over Steaua Bucharest, Sergio Aguero stepped up to make amends. It was the seventh goal in seven games against Stoke, four of them penalties. Aguero made it five goals for the week in the 36th minute after getting on the end of a Kevin De Bruyne free kick to nod the ball home at the near post. We had better amend that statistic to eight goals in seven games.
Stoke didn’t give up immediately. Phil Bardsley made Willy Caballero work after an excellent volley, Joe Allen was quickest to the rebound only for Aleksandr Kolarov to bowl him over for a clear penalty that the officials missed, and Mame Biram Diouf headed wide from six yards.
Then four minutes after half time the teams were level, once again thanks to referee Mike Dean. Stoke lined up for a corner, Raheem Sterling faced Shawcross instead of the ball, proceeded to get in the big defender’s way, and Dean pointed to the spot.
“I didn’t think it was a penalty,” Shawcross would later tell the press.
Bojan Krkic equalised from the spot, and it was game on.
With Xherdan Shaqiri missing through injury, Stoke lacked that ability to pull a rabbit out of the hat. Allen had a superb debut in his place, but he isn’t capable of scoring the goals that the Swiss midfielder has in his arsenal.
Stoke pushed forward for the equaliser nevertheless, and City finally punished them at the back. The impressive Kelechi Iheanacho, who recently signed a contract to stay at the Etihad until 2021, came off the bench to have a hand in two late goals finished off by the other substitute Nolito.
The 4-1 victory sent Man City to the top of the table, and it’s going to take some doing to kick them off.
The Mourinho Effect
Not since Newcastle United paid £15m to gazump Manchester United and take Alan Shearer away from Blackburn has the EPL housed the world’s most expensive player. That changed a few weeks ago when Paul Pogba returned to his former home at Old Trafford for a world record fee of £89m and man did he look at home.
Marouane Fellaini learned first hand how a central midfielder should play. United fans will be hoping that Michael Carrick, Morgan Schneiderlin, and Ander Herrera, were also paying attention.
It was Jose Mourinho’s home debut, but nobody cared. A packed Old Trafford came to watch one man – Paul Pogba. He didn’t disappoint. Sir Alex Ferguson spoiled United fans with free-flowing, fast-paced football for years. Mourinho will not provide that at United, but a player like Pogba can.
He was a giant in midfield; the ball seemingly stuck to his foot. And Pogba isn’t the only star man at United these days. Zlatan Ibrahimovic is also parading around Old Trafford in Eric Cantonaesque style. The Swede once again roamed around the pitch without bursting into a sweat, only to finish the match as the star with both goals in a difficult home win for the Reds.
Ibrahimovic’s first goal came against the run of play. Just before half time, the ball was played out to the right-hand corner flag. Wayne Rooney took control, picked his head up, and floated the ball into the penalty area where the big Swede thumped a header home Alan Shearer style. His second was a converted penalty after Jordy Clasie had somewhat dubiously brought down the impressive Luke Shaw.
So Manchester United also won two out of two, what about Southampton. The Grim Reaper hangs over St Mary’s after Ronald Koeman, Sadio Mane, Victor Wanyama, and Graziano Pelle all left the club in the summer, but they were much the better team in the first 45-minutes, and had the better chances.
The Saints have improved every season since 2012/13 finishing 14th, 8th, 7th, and 6th, but that ends this year. They only finished three points behind both Manchester clubs in last season’s race for the Champions League qualifying spot, but that hope flew to Goodison Park in the summer.
Mike Phelan Odds On For Hull Post
The most successful Assistant Manager in Premier League history is the odds-on favourite to take over the abandoned managerial spot at Hull after the Tigers became only the fourth side to win their first two matches after a successful trip to South Wales.
Mike Phelan is now 1/2 to be appointed as the new boss, although something tells me there will be one or two more managers in that seat by the end of the season.
Sir Alex Ferguson’s former wingman has managed to pull off the miraculous thus far in his position as temporary coach. He started the campaign with a stunning upset against the champions Leicester, and he now has two wins out of two after a shock 2-0 win at Swansea.
Two late goals from Shaun Maloney and Abel Hernandez secured the points for Hull against the run of play. Phelan only has 13 fit senior players and has only made one substitution in the past two games, and that was to bring on Maloney against the Swans. Top quality management decision or pure luck Maloney scored the first, tapping the ball into the net after a Curtis Davies header flashed goalward from a corner, and he then set up Fernandez to finish smartly with time running out.
Palace Look to Benteke For Salvation
Alan Pardew will be the first EPL manager to face the chop if Christian Benteke doesn’t start putting the ball into the back of the net quickly after his switch from Liverpool to Crystal Palace this week.
Palace has now won only two of their previous 21 games, after losing by a goal to nil at White Hart Lane, and that is sacking form in anyone’s book. The sale of Yannick Bolasie to Everton only weakens their position. They can’t score goals. Benteke has been brought in to rectify that situation. My only concern is morale after a series of crushing defeats.
Can they provide him with the bullets?
I don’t think so.
Tottenham, on the other hand, looked decent with Harry Kane playing just behind Vincent Janssen in the No. 10 spot. Dele Alli started the game on the bench after suffering from a bug in midweek but came on to inspire Spurs to victory. The newcomer Victor Wanyama scored the winning goal in the 82nd minute after ending a spot of head tennis between him and Kane in the penalty area after a corner swung in from the right.
Costa Escapes Punishment Again; Chelsea Prosper
Chelsea also has a 100% record from their first two games, but only thanks to the ineptitude of the officiating.
The man who used to wear black should have sent Diego Costa off, for two bookable offences, during the Week 1 tie with West Ham. That didn’t happen, and Costa went on the score a late, winning goal.
Watford was exceptional against Chelsea and deservedly took the lead in the 55th minute after Etienne Capoue beat Thibaut Courtois at his near post. Then with a yellow card already brandished Costa clearly dived in an attempt to win a penalty, and the referee told him to get up without showing him a second yellow card for simulation.
Antonio Conte sent Cesc Fabregas and Michy Batshuayi onto the pitch in the 70th minute as it looked increasingly likely that Watford would see the game out. They were an inspired couple of changes. Eden Hazard fired a long-range shot at the Watford goal in the 80th minute. The dodgy looking Heurelho Gomes fumbled the ball into the path of Batshuayi, and the game was all square.
Then in the 87th minute, Fabregas picked up the ball on the edge of his penalty area, threaded a beautiful ball through to Costa, and the Spaniard raced down on Gomes from the halfway line and scored his second late winner in successive weeks.
Possession is overrated.
Leicester won the EPL last year without having the lion share of the football, and Burnley proved you sometimes need to park the bus to significant effect against Liverpool this weekend.
Burnley won 2-0.
It was an incredible result considering the scintillating form Jurgen Klopp’s men showed in their 4-3 win over Arsenal in the opening game of the season. Burnley doesn’t expect to win these matches. Call it a bonus.
3 shots v 26 shots.
Burnley created a new EPL record for winning a football match with the lowest possession stats ever.
Sam Vokes and Andre Gray scoring their first-ever EPL goals in a smash and grab victory. It was a chalk and cheese day for Gray, who was playing non-league football for Hinckley Town a few years ago. He was the hero at 5 pm and the villain a few minutes later after a Tweet emerged, sent by Gray when playing for Hinckley, that said:
“Is it me or are there gays everywhere? #Burn #Die #MakesMeSick”
Gray quickly deleted the tweet and sent out an apology to everyone explaining that he ’is not that man anymore.’
Arsenal & Leicester Stop The Rot
Ok, it’s a little dramatic to suggest that a rot needed stopping, but neither of these clubs wanted to lose both of their opening two games, and a goalless draw ensured that didn’t happen.
You could have tossed a coin to find a winner, although Leicester was incredibly unlucky not to be awarded a penalty in the last minute of the game after Hector Bellerin tripped Leicester’s big money signing Ahmed Musa but the referee waved play on.
Arsene Wenger is 16/1 to get the boot by the end of the year. Those odds would have been a whole lot shorter had that penalty been awarded and dispatched with the accuracy we know Riyad Mahrez possesses in that left foot.
Here are the rest of the weekend’s results:
EPL Week 2 Results
Manchester United 2 v 0 Southampton
Stoke City 1 v 4 Manchester City
Tottenham 1 v 0 Crystal Palace
Watford 1 v 2 Chelsea
West Brom 1 v 2 Everton
Swansea City 0 v 2 Hull City
Burnley 2 v 0 Liverpool
Leicester City 0 v 0 Arsenal
Sunderland 1 v 2 Middlesbrough
West Ham 1 v 0 Bournemouth
EPL Table (Week 2)
EPL Title Odds (Courtesy of Bodog)