By Paul O'Donnell
EPL Kicks Off
Chelsea's Jose pitched a shutout and didn't even use Ballack, Joe Cole or Gallas. Frankly, Man City barely made them sweat while losing 3-0 at the Bridge. Oh, not that that was a surprise; Chelsea was the only club in the top four divisions in England that did not lose on their home pitch last year.
Man United showed that they'll be there too and will challenge Chelski all the way with their emphatic 5-1 win over a hapless Fulham at Old Trafford. The Cottagers are on my list to play in the Championship next year and this match showed why.
Liverpool was very fortunate to get a draw 1-1 at Anfield over newcomers Sheffield United. Despite the money splashed around by Benitez this team will again disappoint its followers. The two points lost here will come back to haunt them. Frankly, they got the benefit of the doubt on the penalty call and the truth is United was robbed. On top of their poor effort in this one, they also lost Riise and Carragher who were both carried off on a stretcher in the opening half. As a fan of Liverpool I really do hate saying this but their failure to score from the run of play only emphasizes the disastrous result of signing Morientes and Cisse who now both play elsewhere. In other words, this team is still in search of a reliable striker despite Benitez three years of effort to settle that issue.
Despite Liverpool's poor start the disappointment of the weekend was Tottenham's horrendous effort (if you can call it that) at the Reebok in their 2-1 loss to Bolton. Spurs rarely threatened goal and looked as if they were still suffering from that virus that got them before the final game last season.
At the other end of the spectrum Reading's first ever match in the EPL was a wonderful example of why the EPL is the attraction it has become. Reading got off to a terrible start as Boro pinned their ears back and sprinted to a 2-0 lead within 21 minutes. It looked like a rout was on. The Royals found their legs and steadily got back into the game proving that the old adage about that 2-0 lead is not an illusion. Reading goes on to win it 3-2 off a goal mouth scramble and the tenacity of Lita thrilling the full house at the Madjeski stadium. The game of the weekend for certain.
No Owen, no Shearer but they still have their old man. Who? Solano steps up to lead the Toon to a hard won 2-1 victory over Wigan. Frankly, Newcastle played over their heads in this one, but they'll have to get used to doing that this year.
West Ham proved their a team to watch closely with their 3-1 victory over Charlton. Not only that they are one of the most watchable teams in the EPL when they play their game. I'd rather watch them than Arsenal any day.
Speaking of Arsenal they played their very first EPL match at the new digs and struggled to get level with Aston Villa finishing 1-1.
Everton got a deserved win over Watford 2-1 with a goal from AJ in his debut as a Toffee. Will his addition on the blue side of Mersey be enough to get them back in the top half? Will Johnson show that his not being on the England World Cup squad was a gigantic mistake? I'd bet on it.
The answer won't come for a long time but a lot of great soccer to come before we get there.