We're three matches into the 2018-19 English Premier League season, and Spurs fans couldn't possibly be more hyped.
I know. I'm one of them.
They're 3-0-0 after Monday's 3-0 win over Manchester United at Old Trafford.
This is like watching the Cubs or pre-2004 Red Sox jump out of the gate with a fantastic record. You just sense that this is finally the year, and for Tottenham Hotspur, it would be their first English football first-division title since 1960-61. What makes Tottenham Hotspur even more intriguing a potential champion this season is the fact that they made no changes to the primary club under manager Mauricio Pochettino, an Argentinian version of "Friday Night Lights" coach Eric Taylor.
I'll let my colleague Richard Clark walk you through the details of the Spurs-Man. U match. Because it was played at 2 p.m. Central Time on a Monday, we weren't able to pay a ton of attention to it, and I'm headed on vacation straight away after election coverage Tuesday night. However, I know that Harry Kane scored his second August goal after getting off the schneid against Fulham last week.
And Brazilian star Lucas Moura was a beast in the middle for Spurs, scoring twice in the second half after a scoreless first between the two perennial Champions League finishers.
There's no sound with these videos, but they show Moura's two scores.
This one made it 2-0:
And this one made it 3-0:
Anyway, let's hear from Richard Clark, who happens to be a Manchester United supporter.
This game took place while I was at work, so I was caught between trying to completely shut out any knowledge of it until I could watch it at home OR sneaking a peak every few minutes. Because social media figures so prominently in my job I gave up trying to ignore it and watched a couple minutes here and there.
It played out pretty much as I feared it would. I expected Spurs to win and when I saw that it was 0-0 at the half I foolishly thought my prediction would turn out wrong. Then that second half happened. I didn’t see any of the goals scored in my intermittent viewing, but I did see the replays. I can’t blame United for allowing the third goal, because the team was pressing to score and was open to a counterattack.
Tottenham’s first two goals? Not so much.
I can fault United for missing great opportunities. It’s fascinating how some teams are clinical when it comes to putting the ball in the net while other teams struggle and miss wide open goals. I feared Spurs would be clinical in this game and they were. Manchester United was not.
I saw Jose Mourinho walk out of his postgame news conference in a huff. I can understand his frustration because so many of the questions he gets are stupid, but that seemed over the top to me. He has an excellent record as a manager, but he has not won the league with United so it’s a waste of time to keep mentioning how many trophies he’s won with other teams.
One of the saddest sights in the game was the empty seats in the stands with several minutes left to play. Mourinho’s walking over to thank the fans who remained after the game seemed genuine, but the commentators made a big deal out of it, saying he was just trying to save his job. Surely a manager as wily as Mourinho realizes the only results that count are the won-loss record.
With so much talent, United is demonstrating why it’s so hard to win consistently in the Premier League. In the few minutes I watched I saw several instances of players not paying attention to the fundamentals of soccer. It’s as though they’ve forgotten that they have to work hard every minute of every game, especially when facing a quality opponent like Tottenham. Pass to the open man. Make accurate, properly-weighted passes. Don’t set your teammate up to have the ball easily stolen. Put the ball in the (opponent’s) open goal.
Both Richard and I started the weekend by watching Wolves-Manchester City. If you're not familiar with the Premier League, Wolves are the Wolverhampton Wanderers, located in Wolverhampton, which is in what they call the West Midlands. It's pretty much in the middle of England, just a little west.
Hence, ahem, West Midlands.
But everybody calls them Wolves, and they're back in the Premier League for the first time in six years. They have an awesome little stadium, cool-looking kits and they're super easy to root for, especially when they're taking on EPL giant Manchester City.
The match ended 1-1, and it wasn't without controversy. Willy Boly gave Wolves the lead in the 57th minute, but the video replay clearly showed a handball on the play. It was inadvertent, but a handball nonetheless.
Here's Richard's look at the match, which ended 1-1, a draw but essentially a victory for Wolves. By the way, Richard digs the Wolves' look, too! Aside from Spurs, I make it a point to watch every Wolves home match that I can.
It’s 6 a.m. on a Saturday and I’m watching Premier League soccer because I love it. This morning, I’m pulling for a Wolverhampton win mostly because I’m a Manchester United fan.
I actually like the Wolves for a couple reasons. One, they were just promoted this season so it’s fun to root for the underdog. Two, they’re the favorite club of Robert Plant, the legendary lead singer of Led Zeppelin. How can a fan of rock music not feel some sense of duty to support Wolverhampton based on that? Wolves also have a cool logo; a black wolf’s head in a yellow hexagon.
Now to the game. This game was controversial because of Wolverhampton’s goal and because a penalty kick was NOT given for a supposed foul on City player David Silva.
Willy Boly scored for Wolves in the 57th minute, diving after a perfect cross from Ruben Neves. The replay showed the ball grazed his head then hit his outstretched hand which knocked it into the goal. Yes, Premier League tradition dictates that it’s an automatic handball, but the laws of the game say a handball must be deliberate and Boly clearly had no intent. He’d simply put his arm out because he was diving at the goal. At game speed no one could see the ball come off Boly’s arm, so the goal will likely help hasten the arrival of video replay to the PL.
On top of that, replays also showed that Wolverhampton defender Matt Doherty barely got a piece of the ball before it got to Boly, which would’ve made Boly offside when he played the ball. That’s actually a better argument for disallowing the goal.
One minute later, David Silva earned a yellow card for dissent, after failing to get a penalty kick at the other end of the field. A Wolves defender was marking him so tightly that when he swung at the ball his leg hit the back of the defender’s leg, causing Silva to fall down. I didn’t think it was a foul, much less a penalty kick, but the commentators thought differently.
Aymeric Laporte tied the game in the 69th minute with a crashing header on a free kick from Ilkay Gundogan. City made that goal look easy, and it felt as though it may open the City flood gates in terms of scoring, but it was the end of scoring for the day.
The game was very entertaining, especially the last 20 minutes of regular time and 5 minutes of added time as both teams created chances and either side could’ve earned a victory. Adama Traore caused headaches for City when Wolves subbed him on late, making several charging runs down the right wing and sending some excellent balls across City’s goal.
City could’ve won it in the 95th minute when Sergio Aguero earned a free kick from about 25 yards out. He hit the top of the cross bar with the shot and the game ended a few seconds later.
The atmosphere in Molineux Stadium was absolutely electric the whole time, another reason why I love watching Premier League games.
Questionable goal aside, Wolverhampton deserves a lot of credit for standing up to City, the defending league champs. Wolves were organized on defense, eager to attack and didn’t sit back and let City’s midfield and strikers take long shots or play the intricate passes they’re so fond of. Well done, Wolves.
Last but definitely not least, I watched Arsenal put a whipping on West Ham, 3-1. The Hammers got up on the Gunners 1-0 before Arsenal collected themselves and won their first match of the season. Compared to Wolves-Manchester City, it was a pretty dry match.
Richard tuned in to Crystal Palace-Watford on Sunday, a match won by Watford, 2-1. The win leaves Watford in a four-way tie atop the EPL table with Liverpool, Tottenham and Chelsea. The Hornets take on Spurs this coming Sunday, so as they say in the playbook of sports cliches, "something's gotta give."
For now, here's a quick look back at the Crystal Palace-Watford match from Richard:
This was a very entertaining game, even though I’m not a fan of either team. All the goals came in the second half, but the first half still produced drama.
Watford should have been down to ten men about 10 minutes in, thanks to a foul on Wilfried Zaha. With absolutely no chance of playing the ball, Etienne Capoue stepped on the back of his leg. It happened right in front of the referee, who did call a foul, but Capoue was so far from the ball his intent was clear. Clear red card.
A few minutes later Zaha picked up a yellow card for what the referee thought was a similar foul, but Zaha came in from the front, didn’t make contact with his studs and got only the ball. Not even a foul.
Roberto Pereyra opened the scoring in the 58th minute when he received a pass from Capoue on the left side of the penalty area, cut to his right and curled a shot around two Palace defenders and just inside the far post.
Jose Holebas put Watford up 2-0 with a cross that turned into a perfectly placed shot. He received the ball on the left wing and placed a wonderful, looping pass to the far post. The ball kept curling and dipping, clearing Palace goalkeeper Wayne Hennessey’s valiant effort to reach it, nestling just inside the upper right corner of the goal.
Zaha brought Palace back into the game with a goal in the 77th minute. From the left side of the penalty area he passed to Max Meyer who returned the ball to him as he broke toward the goal. He fired a low shot that nutmegged keeper Ben Foster.
Palace had several chances to tie the game, but the most dramatic came in the final minute of the five minutes of stoppage time. Joel Ward found himself unmarked on a corner kick, but his strong header went just wide of the right post. Should’ve scored.
Watford has won its first three games of the season while Crystal Palace has won one and lost two.