Saturday, August 13, 2016

It Happened in England: Champs fall to open season, Guardiola debut successful

Hull City 2-1 Leicester City
A most interesting match opened the new season as the defending champions took on newly promoted Hull City. In the first half, Leicester played a vert familiar style. The counter attack that won them the league last season was on display, although its effectiveness seemed a bit muted. It took them 40 minutes to get their first great look on goal, and some heroic blocks by Hull defenders were the only things them off the board. It was Hull striking first, however. A corner in first half stoppage time required a sprawling save from Kasper Schmeichel, but the rebound was easy picking for Adama Diomande.

Leicester jumped on Hull straight away in the second half. A foul on the edge of the box was given as a penalty 15 seconds after the restart and Riyad Mahrez confidently hammered it home. They weren't able to enjoy level pegging for too long. A thunderous striker from the top of the box by Robert Snodgrass put the Tigers back in front in the 57th minute. Hull would proceed to fall back into their defensive shell while still remaining viable going forward. It was a defensive tactic, although not quite parking the bus.Regardless, Leicester failed to penetrate it and they didn't create any threatening chances.

In an unlikely result, newly relegated Hull City defeated the defending champions, who only lost three times last season. It was the first time the defending champions lost their opening match since Arsenal back in 1989.

Everton 1-1 Tottenham
Ronald Koeman's first match in charge at Everton was a real doozy. Welcoming in the highly talented Tottenham Hotspur is always a difficult way to start the season. Everton got their first goal right from the start. A free kick from Ross Barkley in the fifth minute managed to float its way into the net. An injury forced starting goalkeeper Hugo Lloris out of the game midway through the first half. Michel Vorm took over and was tested near the end of the half after a poor back pass put Gerard Deulofeu alone on him. Vorm did well to keep the match at 1-0.

Everton looked mostly in control at the beginning of the second half, but Erik Lamela was able to get Tottenham level against the run of play. His header connected with a Scott Walker cross in the 59th minute. The goal really turned Spurs' play around. They looked infinitely more potent once they had themselves something to build off. Everton's defense held firm amidst the new found life from the visitors and they earned the draw. 

Burnley 0-1 Swansea City
Both these sides expect to be fighting the drop for most of the season, so an early win against another potential relegated opponent at the beginning would go a long way towards winning that battle. Swansea were in firm control for much of the match, although they failed to get a reward for a long time. Leroy fer broke the lengthy deadlock in the 82nd minute by banging home a rebound off a Fernando Llorente header. That would be enough to take down lifeless Burnley in the season opener.

Middlesbrough 1-1 Stoke City
Middlesbrough returns to the Premier League with a home match against perennial mid table finishing Stoke City. It took Boro 11 minutes to find their first goal of their return to the top flight. It came from Alvaro Negredo's close range header. Boro could have gone up a pair just before halftime when Gaston Ramirez rolled one off the post. Stoke got back on level terms in the 67th minute with a gorgeous free kick that banked in off the far post from Xherdan Shaqiri. That would be it for the scoring as a draw was in the cards for Boro's return to the Premier League.

Southampton 1-1 Watford
Southampton are used to having their young players poached every offseason, this time they lost their manager. Watford present a mild, but worthy, challenge to open the season. That was proven in the ninth minute when Etienne Capoue gave the Hornets an early lead with a sliding toe poke into the top corner. They wouldn't hold the lead for long enough. It took Saints a while, but they did get an equalizer. A 58th minute corner fell to former Norwich man Nathan Redmond for an attractive volley to earn a share of the points. Southampton was unable to produce a winner despite Watford's Ben Watson being sent off in the 75th minute.

Crystal Palace 0-1 West Bromwich Albion
Palace were looking to start off strong after last season fell south awfully quickly. They held the game scoreless for a while, but West Brom took the lead in the 74th minute thanks to Venezuelan international Salomon Rondon and his flick off a free kick. West Brom was the better team after the goal and Palace stood no chance at a late equalizer. A free kick deep into stoppage time was their best chance, but nothing came of it, 

Manchester City 2-1 Sunderland
Pep Guardiola had a fairly easy test, on paper at least, to welcome him to the Premier League. His troops wasted little time getting on the board. A fourth minute penalty against Sunderland allowed Sergio Aguero to slot home for the first goal. City was firmly in control for much of the match, but they failed to find a second goal before Sunderland hit back. Jermain Defoe provided the sick equalizer in the 71st minute. They couldn't get too excited about the prospects of eating a draw in hostile territory, though. An own goal off Paddy McNair in the 87th minute rescued Pep Guardiola's England debut and gave City a first match win.

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