Early Doors

City-Saints clash kicks season off in style

Early Doors

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The opening weekend of the season traditionally sees more hasty conclusions drawn than anywhere else in sport - even more so than a Chinese teenager storming to a swimming gold medal.

After a summer devoid of football - apart from Euro 2012, London 2012 and the myriad pre-season friendlies - fans everywhere are champing at the bit to deliver their damning verdict on all 20 teams in the Premier League after they have all played just 90 minutes apiece.

Ignore the fact that Luis Suarez scored a perfectly reasonable 18 goals last season - including one from almost the halfway line - and was top scorer at the Copa America last summer. A few missed chances against West Brom are all the confirmation needed that he is overrated and rubbish in front of goal.

Arsenal, England's third-best team last season, were held to a goalless draw at home to Sunderland. They may well have only taken one point from their final three home games last season with Robin van Persie in the team, but Saturday's stalemate is conclusive proof that they are goosed without the Dutchman.

Jack Rodwell may have had a pretty decent Manchester City debut, but his misplaced pass which led to Southampton taking a 2-1 lead against them means the £12m signing has already been filed under 'waste of money' by some.

For Early Doors, Sunday's game at the Etihad was when it really felt like the new season had gotten under way.

While there was fun to be had in watching a post-RVP Arsenal fire blanks, the AVB era at Tottenham begin in defeat and various clubs having their backsides handed to them on Saturday, Sunday delivered a far more enjoyable clash by virtue of its competitive nature.

If it was not a fully-fledged barn burner then the 3-2 win for the defending champions against the side returning to the top flight after seven years away was at the very least a shed scorcher.

Even after Sergio Aguero left the game on a stretcher — an injury scare that rocked fantasy football mini-leagues everywhere — and City only went into the break a goal up, the second half produced more than enough ebb and flow to help dispel those post-Olympic blues.

City may have spent the GDP of a small country on their squad over the past four years, but they looked in danger of being undone by goals from Grant Holt 2.0 (otherwise known as Rickie Lambert) and Steven Davis, a player who only joined the club following the collapse of Rangers.

Seeing Eden Hazard orchestrate Wigan's downfall in less time than it takes to hard-boil an egg earlier in the day was interesting, but Lambert was the Premier League new boy who is set to become a cult hero this season.

Goals from Edin Dzeko and Samir Nasri may have secured a win for City and led to dozens of awkward comparisons with their victory by the same scoreline on the final day of last season, but it gave rise to the hope that Southampton will be able to compete this season after leaping up two divisions in as many years.

No sooner had the anticipated comfortable home win turned into something of a ding dong, however, then broadcasters and pundits began to wheel out the old 'best league in the world' schtick once again. It's the kind of footballing hubris which so many sports fans found they could live without over the summer and which led to something of a backlash against the national game.

The Premier League has now moved back in to reclaim its territory and declare itself the greatest show on earth, but let's wait for the season to be fully up and running before we jump to any hasty conclusions.

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QUOTE OF THE DAY: "If it was local to my house, excellent. I want to play more often but that's not written in the contract. I don't really want to play in the Championship. I know I can still play in the Premier League and can still score goals. Obviously the question mark for any potential buyers is injuries but I just need a run of games. There has been interest from all corners of the Earth, every nation you can think of — Germany, Italy, Spain, Turkey." — He may be 32, out of contract and with a history of injuries, but Michael Owen still calls the shots.

FOREIGN VIEW: "It has been a difficult time and it is nice to be back. I am pleased to be able to say I can forget about the injury now. I have had five weeks training at the maximum level but my body still struggles to reach the levels necessary to play more minutes. I'll keep on working until I can eventually play a full game again." - David Villa made his first competitive appearance for Barcelona since he broke his leg in a World Club Cup tie last December, the injury forced Spain's all-time record goal scorer to miss Euro 2012. He came off the bench on 75 minutes and scored seven minutes later to round off Barcelona's 5-1 rout of Real Sociedad at the Nou Camp. The striker celebrated by removing his jersey to reveal a t-shirt bearing a picture of his wife and children and the message "Impossible without you". He was booked.

COMING UP: If the Premier League is back, then so are our video highlights. You can watch individual highlights of every one of this weekend's matches online right now, or our round-up of every goal in one 90-second burst.

Later today Jan Molby will be giving us his thoughts on the weekend's action and you can also check out our Team of the Week.

This evening it's the final game from the opening round of Premier League fixtures, and it promises to be a good'un. Follow live coverage of Everton v Manchester United at 20:00.

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