The highest profile match of the weekend was at the Etihad Stadium where Champions Manchester City entertained Tottenham in a replay of the game of the season from last year which was a Champions League Quarter Final at the same venue. Just like last seasons encounter this one had goals drama and controversy. City again were pushing for a stoppage time winner with the score at 2-2, they thought they had it when Gabriel Jesus fired home. VAR then intervened once again to deny City due to a handball by Laporte. New rules for this season state that if the ball hits the hand of an attacking player, accidentally or otherwise and it leads to a goal then the goal should be disallowed. Therefore the VAR was following the letter of the law, as replays showed the ball hitting Laporte’s hand, however the problem is in the law itself. It is unfair to rule out goals where the attacking team have not intentionally tried to gain an advantage. I realise this brings in personal interpretation as to what is intentional however the “clear and obvious” rule should be referred to in these situations as Laporte was clearly not intentionally handballing in order to gain an advantage. The rule does make decision making black and white but it just doesn’t seem fair and the euphoria of scoring a lot of goals will be denied. Another flaw in the rules fairness is if the ball hits a defender on the hand in the box it has to be deemed deliberate for a penaty to be awarded, where is the consistency in that.
The match itself was one which Man City were the better team with Kevin De Bruyne in particular looking back to his best with two superb assists for Aguero and Sterling. Spurs though proved they know how to score at the Etihad Stadium once more with goals from Lamela and Lucas that mean they have scored more gaols than the rest of the league combined away to City. In terms of the title race this is a good result for the neutral as most people want to see the gap between City and Liverpool to the rest of the top six reduced compared to last season and to get more teams in the title race.
Elsewhere in the Premier League Arsenal made it two wins out of two at the start of a league campaign for the first time in 10 years. A staggering statistic considering they always finish in the top six. They got the win thanks to a fine goal by pierre-emerick aubameyang who ran with the ball and fired home from outside the box to make it 2-1 after first half goals by Lacazette for Arsenal and Ashley Barnes for Burnley. It was summer loan signing from Real Madrid Dani Ceballos that really caught the eye with a delightful performance from midfield. He displayed superb passing and willingness to get on the ball from all areas that Arsenal probably haven’t seen since Cesc Fabregas. Burnley can take heart from their performances so far this season as they look more like the team that finsished seventh in 2018.
Liverpool also made it two wins from two, however they were not convincing in the first half especially in beating Southampton 2-1. They took the lead through a fine strike by former Southamton player Sadio Mane just before the break but conceded chances throughout the match lacking the solidarity they had last season. This could be down to the loss of goalkeeper Allison as his deputy Adrian made several poor clearances one of which lead to Southampton’s goal as he cleared staright against Danny Ings, Who then had a great chance to level the scores at 2-2 but he couldn’t connect with a powerfull cross.
The performance and result of the weekend perhaps goes to Norwich as a superb Teemu Pukki hat trick handed them a 3-1 win against Newcastle in their first top flight match at Carrow Road in 3 years. Pukki became the first Norwich player to score a Premier League hat-trick since Efan Ekoku in September 1993. The Finnish fowards opening goal was a delicious strike from last season’s Championship top scorer, carefully watching a loose header drop before unleashing a thunderbolt volley high into the Newcastle net.
Fellow promoted side Aston Villa couldn’t repeat Norwich’s success on the return of Premier League football to Villa Park however as defensive errors lead to them falling 2-1 to Bournemouth. Tom Heaton gave away a penalty after just 45 seconds of his home debut which Joshua King converted and then 10 minutes later Douglas Luiz, on his first start for Villa following his £15m switch from Manchester City let the ball run across him in his defensive third allowing Harry Wilson, who was on loan at Derby last season from Liverpool and was making his Premier Leage debut , to let fly from outside the box and with the aid of a hefty deflection made it 2-0. Luiz did go from Villan to hero as he scored a consolation for the hosts, finding the top corner with a stunning strike from outside the box. Villa pushed for an equaliser but it wasn’t to be the dream return of home Premier League football that the Villa fans had hoped for.
Brighton followed up their impressive 3-0 win away from home at Watford with another encouraging display at home to West Ham. Although they didn’t take maximum points they were largely the better side against a Hammers side lacking fight and desire in defence. Brighton summer signing Leandro Trossard scored and saw a goal ruled out by the video assistant referee. Trossard fired past Lukasz Fabianski from the edge of the box shortly after Javier Hernandez had put the Hammers into a 61st-minute lead. The Seagulls pushed for a winner late on with Trossard, Lewis Dunk and Davy Propper all going close, but Graham Potter was forced to settle for a point at the end of his first home game in charge.
Everton got their first win of the campaign thanks to a superb long pass from deep inside his own half by Lucas Digne which was nicely finished by Bernard from outside thee area. This was Everton’s fifth straight home win going back to last season and the Toffees have not conceded at home since they lost 2-0 to Manchester City on 6 February, form which backs up many people’s thoughts that they are the favourites to finish as the best of the rest and qualify for the Europa League. Watford however are on a poor run having won just one of their last eight league matches, and have yet to score in this campaign. Troy Deeney was denied by a fine save from Jordan Pickford early in the second half, when the Watford captain went one-on-one with the Everton keeper. Everton striker Richarlison had two good chances to score against his former club with headers but missed both, while substitute Moise Kean rolled a shot just wide of Foster’s right post in second-half stoppage time.
On Sunday Frank Lampard returned to Stamford Bridge for the first time as manager to a riotous ovation from the crowd. His side got off to the perfect start, dominating the early stages against Leicester and taking the lead 6 minutes in. The goal scorer was a poignant one for Lampard, as it was the player he has showed the greatest faith in following a terrific spell together at Derby County, Mason Mount. Mount has been picked ahead of the likes of Ross Barkley by Lampard and has re-paid his manager with an impressive start to his Chelsea and Premier League Career. Chelsea were much the better side in the first half, but this didn’t continue in the second as Leicester stepped it up and Chelsea got tired. James Maddison was pivotal in this change as he played more centrally rather than wide left, and found space to create opportunities. Leicester found an equaliser from a Maddison corner, which was headed home by Wilfred Ndidi. Incidentally it was Ndidi himself who was at fault for Chelsea’s opener; as he was dispossessed by Mount on the edge of his own box before Mount finished smartly. It was Leicester who looked the more likely to win the encounter from then on with good chances for Vardy and Maddison. However the match finished 1-1, leaving Lampard still looking for his first win as Chelsea manager.
The other match on Sunday saw the return of Premier League football to Bramall Lane after 12 years in the second and third tiers. A wonderful atmosphere probably contributed to the blades nervy start, but it wasn’t long before they took control of the match and deservedly took the lead just three minutes after half time; when Luke Freeman’s shot rebounded to John Lundstram, who put it in the net to make it 1-0. United held on with relative ease to make it 4 points from two games on their return to the top flight. As for Palace they have now failed to win either of their opening league games for a third time in four seasons while also failing to score.