Everton 1-0 Man United:
Unfortunately my viewing experience of the game consisted mainly of a frustrating cycle between a buffering screen and desynchronised commentary alongside fast-forwarded action. On the occasion that my broadband allowed me to follow the game in a regular temporal pattern, I saw a United team dominate possession but seeming quite uninterested in actually attacking the Everton goal. Ever the pragmatists, Moyes’ team took the opposite approach, looking dangerous whenever their 31 per cent share of possession allowed them to counter-attack. (Incidentally, this stat was taken from the Guardian match report, while the BBC write-up showed 44 per cent. What’s that about?)
De Gea won plaudits last night as a ‘composed shot stopper’ (Phil McNulty) and he certainly kept them in the game during the first half, but the hyper-critic in me (well, me, essentially) still thinks he emits a pretty fragile presence to his defence, causing indecision during set pieces and in-swinging corners and free-kicks in particular. He saved well from a close range effort from Osman though, and then made a decent over-elaborate camera save from a deflected Baines free-kick.
After half time the signs were that Fergie’s blow dryer treatment is nowadays more akin to something provided by a friendly hairdresser, as Everton took the game by stranglehold after the break. Fellaini – who I think Gary Neville may at some point have mentioned was playing well- bossed aerially as well as, um, during ground-based operations.
On 57 minutes the Toffees deservedly took the lead through a Fellaini header from a corner. The remainder of the game involved further United dominance of possession (mostly in buffering-screen form) without any real end product, with a decent shot from Anderson providing the closest effort towards the end. Van Persie had been unleashed from the bench immediately after the goal but, like Rooney and Welbeck before him, found the strength, speed and anticipation of Jagielka and Distin too much to allow any real breakthrough.
So, in the battle of the traditionally slow starters, it was Everton who started the least slow and emerged with a famous victory. United will hardly panic but having already slipped three points behind their increasingly noisy neighbours (who now leave Oasis blaring out from floor standing speakers even when they’re out) and Chelsea.
… and the rest I watched from my barbecue
Back during the hottest weekend in Britain since the beginning of time, the season kicked off to a pretty entertaining start. Two 5-0 wins (or two 5-0 losses, in the parlance of Alan Hansen) proved again, as with last season, that recruiting new players in bulk during the summer creates ridiculously amateurish defensive units until squad members eventually stopped comparing cars begin to listen during defensive drills in training.
The rest of the weekend’s games:
Wigan 0-2 Chelsea: This Eden Hazard fella does look rather good doesn’t he? After only one minute in his league debut he twisted and turned before sending a seemingly lost Ivanovic through on goal, who, despite taking the first touch of a goalkeeper, never mind centre-back, stumbled his way toward goal and fired in beyond Al-Habsi. Despite the warning provided for all defenders on the back of his shirt, the new Belgian sensation enticed a hapless Ramis into giving away a stone-wall penalty, the Spaniard showing about as much defensive subtlety as a stone-wall in the process.
Man City 3-2 Southampton: See Man City vs QPR last season for full details. In addition to the carbon copy of last season’s final match, Tevez and Nasri decided to tweet via their T-shirts during goal celebrations (as is becoming essential for all ego-maniacal strikers). The Saints also appear to have forgotten their humble two-striped roots, relegating the white in their shirts to pin-stripe status after promotion to the big leagues. They’ve changed…
West Brom 3-0 Liverpool: Steve Clarke is certainly showing promise as the next dour, always-slightly-angry Scottish managerial sensation to follow in the footsteps of David Moyes and Kenny Dalglish. Fit-again Zoltan Gera’s technically virtuosic half-volley to make it 1-0 could actually make it into the goal of the season shortlist, although this was soon balanced out by Sean Long’s entry for worst penalty of the season. Suarez displayed a comical inability to finish from a series of excellent chances, despite his unconventional pre-season training involving repeatedly hitting a barn door with a banjo.
Arsenal 0-0 Sunderland: As standard, Wenger bemoaned his oppositions’ lack of ambition as the main reason for his team’s impotence. No doubt Giroud and Podolski will offer more goal-scoring threat than Chamakh and Bendtner though and in Carzola Arsenal finally have an able replacement for Fabregas, but a struggle for Champions League football does look likely.
QPR 0-5 Swansea: I don’t even know what colour Mark Hughes’ hair can go next. With QPR owner Tony Fernandes looking on from his seat at Loftus Road like a displeased Bond villain, running his finger over the managerial trap door button by his side, a string of poor results could signal end of Hughes at QPR. The new signings seem like a mixed bag too; while Junior Hoilett and Man United leftovers Ji Sung Park and Fabio will add experience and raw ability, Rob Green usually makes at least one sizeable mistake per game, and managed to over-fulfil his quota on his debut.
Newcastle 2-1 Spurs: Ba: he’s not just the only Premier League footballer to share a name with an element from the periodic table, but also a fine footballer who has just reminded everyone that he will not rest quietly in the shadow of his Senegalise strike partner Papiss Cisse. His sublime opener set the game rolling, with the score unreflective of Spurs’ overall dominance. Alan Pardew managed to deflect the seriousness of his actions by offering a light-hearted apology after pushing the assistant referee, but I actually thought this was additionally irresponsible, with his credibility now undermined to all his players who barely need an excuse to act out like petulant children. And… I’ve off my high horse.
Fulham 5-0 Norwich: Chris Houghton gained immediate acceptance from the Canary faithful, but this result just didn’t cut the mustard. (Tenuous Colman’s pun there…) Fulham’s new signings Kancalalacikivicivic (not to be mistaken for Ba) and Mladen Petric flourished on their debut, although Norwich’s ridiculously disorganised defence probably did flatter the home team.
West Ham 1-0 Aston Villa: Quite why Paul Lambert chose to leave a small but financially secure club for a large but financially non-secure club is beyond me, but… oh right, I forgot that large but financially non-secure clubs have a habit of overpaying their managers. Kevin Nolan hammered the Hammers ahead, and the claret and blues (of the West Ham variety) cruised to victory without much trouble.
Reading 1-1 Stoke: Reading’s usually reliable Adam Federici made a mess of a looped shot from Michael Kightly to make it 1-0. News that Man City perennial bench warmer Stuart Taylor has been bought on a one year contract is surely only a coincidence, but Taylor may suddenly develop an ambition to actually play again, so you never know…