Arsenal and Chelsea pull out wins as Utd lose Rooney
Why were these games played on Sunday? The three top teams in the league, as if to give them advantage of seeing how everyone else would do on their respective starting days. Even Arsene Wenger has made comment in regard to the schedules, where Man Utd and Chelsea play in midweek in the league as the Gunners and Liverpool go to their Champions League qualifiers. Playing on Saturday or Sunday would have made little difference where Wayne Rooney is concerned, as he broke his left foot. Not only is he a doubt for this side of the campaign and for the Euro2008 qualifiers, but there has been a crescendo of "Oh No!!!" around from those who have entered fantasy football competitions. Obviously those who had not chosen Rooney rub their hands with glee.
Arsenal 2 Fulham 1
The Gunners began their first game in The Emirates with a last-gasp draw after going behind to a 53rd min Olof Mellberg header last season. Skipper Gilberto Silva was on hand with the 84th min equaliser then, but is currently on a break after the well-earned performance in the Copa America of himself and the Brazilian team. Therefore new skipper was William Gallas, though I would have looked on Kolo Toure or even young Cesc Fabregas, or even Jens Lehmann. Had it been the German keeper it would have not gotten off to a good start when he aimed to clear a Gael Clichy back-pass and instead spilled the ball to the oncoming David Healy. The Northern Ireland forward put away the ball to give the visitors the lead.
Arsenal came at Fulham for the equaliser, which called for replacement Tony Warner to perform numerous saves to deny Tomas Rosicky, Fabregas and Robin Van Persie particularly. Fulham looked to a penalty claim as Steve Davis fell in the box but that was before Chris Baird was cleared after his challenge appeared to have brought down Alexander Hleb. It was hard to believe Arsenal were to lose their first game following on from drawing their first last season, but as Toure came hurtling through challenge after challenge he was stopped by Carlos Bocanegra to give the Gunners a chance to level from the spot. Van Persie step up to deliver and curl the effort away from Warner.
So instead Arsenal were to come from behind again to draw 1-1, it seemed, until a timed ball over the defence found Hleb, and with seconds remaining of normal time the Belarussian turned inside to slot past Warner.
Chelsea 3 Birmingham City 2
Chelsea fielded three debutants in Tal Ben-Haim, Florent Malouda and Claudio Pizarro and it was the Frenchman and the Peruvian who came to the cause as the Londoners were pushed to their victory by the newcomers. Gary McSheffrey delivered a freekick that was nodded on by recent signing and new captain Liam Ridgewell onto the head of Mikael Forssell, to go pass the wrong-footed Petr Cech for Birmingham's opening Premier goal. Chelsea equalised when Shaun Wright-Phillips combined with Malouda to pull back for Pizarro's first on his debut.
Malouda started and finished a short move when his ball made its way to Salomon Kalou and Kalou slipped a through ball for Malouda to score, though I felt the keeper should have closed down better than he did. Birmingham were not finished. Sky Sports showed before the game how Olivier Kapo could shoot and shoot well from distance, and when the Ivorian-born forward leapt on the mis-control of Glen Johnson, he ran on at goal and smacked a fierce drive past Cech.
Potentially Birmingham keeper Colin Doyle could have been at fault for Chelsea's goals as he got two hands to Pizarro's goal and should have done better. Having not closed down enough on Malouda for Chelsea's second, he was inept for the third Chelsea goal after the break. Wright-Phillips laid the ball back for Michael Essien to smack it first time, the ball curling but at a good height to stop though Doyle's positioning made the keeper flap at the effort as it went in.
Manchester United 0 Reading 0
Not the start Sir Alex Ferguson would have enjoyed but it was not a defeat. The telling moments were Ryan Giggs' volley off the post, though Marcus Hahnemann looked in a good position to cover it nonetheless. Reading seemed defensive, keeping a tight watch and shadow over key players Wayne Rooney, Christian Ronaldo and Giggs. Rooney was participating for the half but suffered a setback when he went into a challenge with Michael Duberry. Not emerging for the second 45, it was confirmed Rooney had broken his left foot, which means he will be out for a considerable length of time. Carlos Tevez, anyone?!?
As Utd aimed attack after attack at Reading's resolve to defend every Utd movement, Steve Coppell brought on Dave Kitson for Kevin Doyle in what was an incredibly short appearance. As Patrice Evra threw the ball froma throw-in, he received it back and then played it down the line immediately as Kitson came in to tackle. As the tackle came in it was late, high and so off target that not only did it make contact Evra's ankle area, but the referee gave no other sanction than a straight red. I understood such tackles were sufficient of a dismissal and as such the referee was right, though Jamie Redknapp on Sky Sports seem to be of the opinion Kitson should have received a booking. Kitson lasted something like 30-35 seconds, adn the last thing Reading wanted was to be a man short at Old Trafford with a quarter of an hour to go.