Insanity Abounds Early In EPL Season


The English Premier League is in rare form on its opening weekend, and I'm not just talking about that Arsenal match. The first Saturday of the new campaign was full of surprises, upsets, comebacks and homecomings. If the season continues along at this pace, we're in for quite a ride.

Nine-man Chelsea shocked by Burnley


On a day when at least four matches generated storylines that would dominate the headlines on a typical Premier League weekend, reigning champions Chelsea's loss at the hands of lowly Burnley was the most notable.

The Blues became the first defending champions to concede three goals in their first match of the next season. Two red cards forced Chelsea down to nine men by the end of the match, and Burnley took advantage, winning 3-2 at Stamford Bridge in what will go down as one of the upsets of the season.

The trouble for Chelsea began 14 minutes into the match, when Gary Cahill was shown a straight red after taking out Steven Defour with a clumsy challenge. Without Cahill, the most reliable defender in the league's best backline a year ago, Burnley saw a chance to nick a goal from from the champs. They did that and more.

With Chelsea at 10 men, Burnley went on a tear to close the first half, scoring three unanswered goals to put Chelsea in a deep hole, and the goals conceded were caused by woeful defending as much as they were by playing a man down. Sam Vokes nabbed a brace with goals in the 24th and 43rd minutes, and Stephen Ward added one of his own off an absolute rocket across the face of goal in the 39th. It's the first time ever Chelsea has trailed 3-0 at the half at Stamford Bridge.

The Blues did manage to rally and threaten to come out the other side with a draw. Newly-acquired Alvaro Morata proved his value with a textbook run in the box and diving header on a picture perfect Willian cross to pull a goal back.

Chelsea suffered another setback in the matches final 10 minutes. In the 82nd, Cesc Fabregas earned the champs their second red of the game, receiving his marching orders after be handed his second yellow card for a late challenge on Jack Cork.

Despite being down to nine men and trailing by two, Chelsea still had a glimmer of hope they could pull out a draw, thanks mostly to an 88th minute goal from David Luiz. The Brazilian defender finished off a fantastic counter-attacking move, as Morata headed on a long ball from the halfway line into the path of Luiz, who volleyed it in to draw back to 3-2.

Chelsea continued to press for another goal, but nine players simply weren't enough to break down Burnley for a third time, and the Blues suffered one of the Premier League's most inglorious season-opening losses in recent memory.

Controversial goal hands Watford 3-3 draw with Liverpool

Had it not been for Chelsea's debacle/Burnley's triumph, Liverpool's draw at the hands of Watford would be the story of the day. Miguel Britos scored a controversial goal in extra time to hand Watford a 3-3 draw with the boys from the Merseyside.

Although Watford are considered lightweights by Premier League standards, the match had the feeling of a heavyweight bout, as the two clubs traded blows all afternoon, with Watford landing the final punch that secured the draw. But the hornets also landed the opening punch, with a goal from Stefano Okaka in the eighth minute.

With uncertainty over the future of Philippe Coutinho, the mantle of best player at Liverpool will fall to either Sadio Mane or Roberto Firmino, both of whom scored on Saturday. Mane sped around the Watford box and curled home a give-and-go with a couple of his teammates to the far-post in the 29th. That lead didn't last long, however, as Abdoulaye Doucouré brought Watford back ahead three minutes later. On the other side of the half, Firmino scored from the penalty spot following a foul on new boy Mohamed Salah to bring the score level again at 2-2.

It was Salah, a player with a bright future at Anfield, who scored two minutes after Firmino to give Liverpool its first lead of the match. On the counter, Firmino chipped the keeper, but the shot was on trajectory to land well short of the goal line. But Salah charged onto the ball as if it were a pass and put a boot on it to score on the open net.

With two goals in quick succession, Liverpool seemed to have weathered the storm and were set to take three points from the match at Vicarage Road. But Britos headed the match-tying goal in off the line after the Reds failed to clear a corner that ricocheted around the box and to the Watford man. There were calls for offside, but the referee swallowed his whistle and the goal stood.

Liverpool has the right to feel aggrieved in this draw, considering both the controversy on the last goal, as well as an offside Watford player in the buildup to the Doucouré goal. But plenty of this draw was created by their own faults. The main criticism of the Reds last season was that, while they could score with the best of them, their defense was broken down far too easily far too often, especially on set pieces. That doesn't seem to have changed in the offseason, as Jurgen Klopp never bought another defender to reinforce his back line. If he doesn't change something soon, this trend of excellent attacking and atrocious defending could continue for the next nine months.

Wayne Rooney scores in second Everton debut

Rooney is back in blue, and he's also back to his goal-scoring ways. In his re-debut for his boyhood club Everton, Rooney scored on the edge of halftime at Goodison Park to give the Toffees a 1-0 win over Stoke City.

ROOOOONNEYYYY for Everton! pic.twitter.com/uJJG4q7D0M

- NBC Sports Soccer (@NBCSportsSoccer) August 12, 2017

His goal on Saturday was the 300th Premier League goal Rooney's been involved in during his career. Alan Shearer is the only player in Premier League history to have been involved in more, with 324.

Huddersfield Town -- yes, Huddersfield Town -- lead the league

Although it wasn't on the same scale as Chelsea-Burnley, Huddersfield Town also secured an upset in the club's first ever match in the Premier League, and they did it by a large margin.

The Terriers defeated Crystal Palace to open the season. A Joel Ward own goal and two from new signing Steve Mounie gave Huddersfield a 3-0 win away from home at Selhurst Park. It's a dream start for one of the club's favored for relegation this season.

With three goals and a +3 goal differential, Huddersfield Town is top of the league.

The beginning of the Premier League season is weird, man.

Other Premier League results

Brighton 0-2 Manchester City

West Brom 1-0 Bournemouth

Southampton 0-0 Swansea City


Cy Brown writes about soccer and other stuff for Sports on Earth. Follow him on Twitter @CEPBrown.

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Source : http://www.sportsonearth.com/article/248005576/chelsea-liverpool-shocked-in-epl-openers

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