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Premier League: Three of the best

Editor: Zhang Jianfeng 丨CCTV.com

08-18-2016 11:14 BJT

By CCTV.com reporter Colin Robinson

  

After an agonizing 12-week wait, the Premier League is back. The opening round of matches is in the books; all 20 teams have played. But a lot has changed in the intervening three months, with new coaches leading new teams of new players. In such times of uncertainty, it’s natural to search for answers: Can any team go the whole season unbeaten? Will Derby’s record low number of points be broken? Who will be the first coach sacked? 

It’s customary for fans and pundits to wait 10 matches or so before trying to answer these questions and rank the highlights of the ongoing season with some semblance of knowledge and context. But why wait weeks for something that can be done today? Let’s talk about the best from the opening round.

Best game: Arsenal vs. Liverpool

This match was not the sort that purists of possession-based football would enjoy. It wasn’t even a game that included many spells of high-quality play, despite being between two of the division’s strongest sides. But of all the opening matches, it was the best (at least, for everyone except Arsenal fans).

It stood out because of two factors: brilliant goals and exciting changes in momentum. A full quarter of the 28 goals scored in this first week of matches were scored in this game. In fact, goals were so easy to come by that it’s easy to forget that Arsenal missed a penalty.

But apart from the sheer number of goals scored, the goals themselves were great displays of skill and technique. Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain had a brilliant solo run through three defenders, followed by a powerful shot. Adam Lallana looked sharp as he finished an inch-perfect pass from Georginio Wijnaldum, and Phillipe Coutinho used great technique to volley home Nathaniel Clyne’s cross.

As the goals flowed, the momentum swung one way and then the other. Arsenal dominated the first 20 minutes before taking the lead through Theo Walcott, who had just moments earlier missed from the penalty spot. But as the half wore on, Liverpool began finding their way around Arsenal’s weakened defense, which was missing its three first-choice central defenders—Per Mertesacker, Laurent Koscielny and Gabriel Paulista—and went on to equalize just before halftime.

Liverpool really turned up the heat after the break, racing ahead to a 4-1 lead in the first 20 minutes of the second half. But within a minute of the away side’s fourth goal, Arsenal pulled one back. The Gunners added their third after 75 minutes and chased a late equalizer right up until full time.

Best upset: Hull beats Leicester

Last season Leicester City defied all the odds, winning games it was never expected to win against teams that were much stronger on paper on the way to the most stunning league championship win in living memory.

Meanwhile, Hull City battled its way into the division via a playoff. But the club had very few reasons to be optimistic during the close season. The owners’ popularity sank to an all-time low, manager Steve Bruce quit, and no major signings were made. Then, an injury crisis struck, leaving the Tigers with just 13 senior players available.

Leicester’s close season was comparatively trouble-free. Though the Foxes couldn’t keep midfielder N’Golo Kanté, who was sold to Chelsea, other stars of last season’s title triumph—Riyad Mahrez, Kasper Schmeichel and Jamie Vardy—are staying in the East Midlands. 

But once you get to the top, everyone is out to knock you down. And in the match that kicked off the season, Hull stunned bookmakers, fans and pundits by downing Leicester 2-1.

What’s perhaps most surprising is that Hull deserved the win. The Tigers were better organized and outworked their opponents on their way to victory.

Leicester lacked the cohesion that made for such a strong team last season and barely threatened before Hull took a lead on the stroke of halftime through a goal by Adama Diomande. They drew level early in the second half from a penalty kick by Mahrez, but Hull went back in front just 10 minutes later, enough for the relegation favorite to defeat the reigning champion.

Best goal: Coutinho’s free kick against Arsenal

The most spectacular strike of the opening weekend goes to Coutinho’s outstanding free kick at the end of the first half at Emirates Stadium.

After being was brought down about 30 yards from goal, the Brazilian midfielder—nicknamed the “Little Magician”—struck the free kick perfectly, with power and precision, and the ball sailed into the top left corner of the Arsenal goal beyond the reach of a fully stretched Petr Cech.

Not only was it the most memorable moment of the weekend’s most exciting game, it was also a vital goal, bringing Liverpool back level with the Gunners to set up an impressive and crucial win.

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