Welcome to the first edition of the News 9 soccer blog. Several of us at News 9 and the News On 6 are fans of the beautiful game, and we wanted to make sure the sport was covered on our websites and apps. Each week, we'll do our best to cover the sport, starting with the beginning of the 2018-19 English Premier League season.
The first week of the Premier League gave few surprises after a brief post World Cup holiday.
Newly promoted Fulham and Cardiff City were handily beaten 2-0 in their respective games, both dominated in what acted as reminders of the level of play they would be encountering all season in the top flight of football in England. Wolverhampton, fresh off a league title in the Championship battled back for a draw against new-look Everton who looked sharp with a debut brace from Richarlison but suffered an early red card ejection in the first half that reduced them to 10 men for the rest of their match.
The big clubs all looked slightly World Cup-fatigued but still managed to start the season with wins. Manchester United and Tottenham pulled away with 2-1 victories while Liverpool and Chelsea eased their way to 4-0 and 3-0 victories respectively. Defending champions Manchester City started their title defense with a dominating 2-0 victory away at revamped and rebuilding Arsenal, who look set for a difficult season of transition as fans and players alike prepare for the post-Arsene Wenger era in North London.
Manchester United started the English Premier League season with a 2-1 victory over Leicester City that was needlessly dramatic, at least for us United fans. Paul Pogba, fresh off his World Cup victory with France, looked comfortable and confident as captain. The defense played well, but overall the team seemed content to let Leicester dictate the tempo.
Pogba scored a penalty kick in the 3rd minute after a silly handball by Leicester’s defense. United’s left back Luke Shaw scored in the 83rd minute with an unexpected left-footed shot from a narrow angle. Jamie Vardy scored for Leicester in the 92nd minute, when a cross bounced off the United goal post and he headed it home while alertly running toward the goal.
United showed moments of real imagination and creativity, a real change from last season, but too often just sat back and let Leicester possess the ball. The result was several great chances for Leicester to score, including two shots that I thought were sure goals until David De Gea saved them.
Marcus Rashford made excellent runs but the ball either never came or was too late. If United’s midfield figures out how to get the ball to him, watch out. He may score 25 goals this season.
I’m encouraged by United’s play. The team still has work to do, but it’s clear it is more attack-minded than it was last season.
The Gunners welcomed a new era as Unai Emery took charge of Arsenal FC. Small problem, it was tough task as they faced defending champions Manchester City at the Emirates.
The first half was one-way traffic for the Blues. Petr Cech was not at his best and had some wobbly moments, to put it mildly. Arsenal was fortunate to go down only 1-0 at the Half. City put it away in the second with a nice strike from Silva. In the last 10 minutes, Arsenal were wasteful with its chances. Lacazette and Ozil still showing the lack of quality against top-notch competition. The Emery era looking more of the same from the Wenger era, but he still needs time to get this team to a standard of where it should be -- a Top 4 finish at worst.
The excitement of a new Premier League campaign is especially hyped for fans of Tottenham Hotspur. Hopes of a spot in the Champions League have turned from dream to expectation, and now Spurs fans are dreaming of an EPL title.
I've been supporting the boys from north London since the days of Gareth Bale and Jermain Defoe, and now with Harry Kane and Dele Alli and a club that hasn't changed from last season, I think they've got a shot. They looked strong against Newcastle United in a 2-1 season-opening win at St. James Park.
All the goals came in the first 18 minutes.
Jan Vertonghen headed a ball into the top goalpost, and it fell just inside the line. It didn't look like a goal at first, but the refs were quick to rule -- and video replay corroborated the score.
Newcastle's Joselu scored in the 11th minute, and the Dele Alli answered in the 18th minute on a header from Serge Aurier.
Spurs looked sharp in the first 20-25 minutes. Newcastle had several offensive surges between 30' and 40' that made you think it would get tied, but Tottenham Hotspur held them in check.
To be perfectly honest, as a fan and supporter, you could sense some World Cup hangover on the part of Harry Kane and Eric Dier. Alas, I wouldn't call myself a soccer expert, just a guy who enjoys watching the beautiful game. Dier had a couple sloppy fouls, and it just felt like Kane was routinely getting beat on the ball.
Then again, his struggles in the month of August have been much written about by the London press.
Anyway, a win is a win, and three points is important at any time of year. In all, eight clubs won their opening Premier League matches: Manchester United, Manchester City, Liverpool, Chelsea, Bournemouth, Crystal Palace, Watford and Spurs.
Tottenham takes on Fulham at Craven Cottage at 9 a.m. this Saturday. Fulham lost to Crystal Palace 2-0 to open their Premier League season.
But before we go for the week, did anybody watch the D.C. United-Orlando City MLS match last night? Did you see Wayne Rooney's incredible hustle play?
Tied 2-2 and in urgent need of a win and three points, D.C. United went empty net with stoppage time running out. Then the unthinkable happened. Orlando City's Will Johnson took a breakaway kick and was headed to the empty net.
And then amazing happened.
Wayne Rooney chased him down, made the tackle and then kicked a beautiful ball to Luciana Acosta on the other side of the field. Acosta headed the ball in for a 3-2 win.
Anybody who tells you soccer isn't exciting didn't see that.