Rolling Stone India Pitch: City Drop Points Due To VAR, Norwich’s Flying Finn and More
We also look ahead to this weekend’s mouthwatering clash between Liverpool and Arsenal
With the Premier League back in full swing, matchday two witnessed some stellar performances and plenty of talking points especially between Manchester City and Tottenham Hotspur at the Etihad Stadium.
It was déjà vu for Pep Guardiola. The Manchester City manager found his team at the end of the wrong side of a VAR (video assistant referee) decision one more time against Tottenham Hotspur only four months after the title holders were knocked out of last season’s UEFA Champions League at the hands of Spurs due to VAR. While City had 30 shots to Tottenham’s three, the champions only found the back of the net twice (Raheem Sterling and Sergio Agüero) with Spurs replying from goals by Erik Lamela and impact substitute Lucas Moura.
Spurs’ World Cup-winning French goalkeeper Hugo Lloris kept the London club in the game right till the end even as City were denied a last-minute winner by Gabriel Jesus as the move had been preceded by a handball from City defender Aymeric Laporte. As VAR repeated history, it left City dropping points early this season as they look for a third straight Premier League title. Guardiola said after the game that City “have to accept” the decision and move on.
If you happened to follow last season’s English Football League Championship, the name Teemu Pukki would stand out. The newly-promoted Norwich City striker netted 29 goals in the Championship and is off to a flyer in the Premier League with four goals in two games including a hat-trick against Newcastle United this past weekend. Keeping Pukki fit for the season is key for Norwich avoiding the drop back to the Championship. After the game against Newcastle, the Finnish striker said, “Of course this is one of the best games I’ve had in English football. A hat-trick in the Premier League I wouldn’t even have dreamt about a couple of years ago.”
This past weekend also witnessed Frank Lampard return to Stamford Bridge as Chelsea manager against Leicester City. The Blues were looking for their first win of the season after losing to Manchester United 4-0 on matchday one and to penalties against Liverpool in the UEFA Super Cup. Lampard’s Chelsea looked strong in the opening moments against Leicester and capitalized quickly after Mason Mount’s pressing put Wilfred Ndidi under pressure only for Mount to find the back of the net. Leicester managed to stay in the game for the rest of the first half and found a goal in the second half through guess who? Ndidi of course! The Nigerian scored a fine header off a James Maddison corner to give Brendan Rodgers’ side a hard-earned point at the Bridge. For Lampard, a first win as Chelsea boss still eludes him. After the game, he said that his team still needs more time to be at their best.
Matchday three this coming weekend, will see the two teams with two wins from two go head-to-head; Liverpool against Arsenal at Anfield. (Manchester United is yet to play their second game at the time of publishing this article). Anfield has not been a happy hunting ground for the Gunners in recent years with them conceding nine goals in total from their last two visits. Arsenal have strengthened their defence with the acquisition of David Luiz from Chelsea and will look to break Liverpool on the counter-attack with the likes of Alexandre Lacazette, Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang and £72m signing Nicolas Pépé. Midfielder Dani Ceballos who is on a season-long loan from Real Madrid impressed Arsenal fans during their 2-1 win against Burnley and will hope to carry his fine form against Liverpool.
The European Champions and recent Super Cup winners Liverpool have their eyes set on firmly winning the league this season, having not done so for 30 years. Jurgen Klopp’s side is back to full strength barring goalkeeper Alisson Becker whose stand-in Adrián has become a fan favorite at the club after he saved Chelsea striker Tammy Abraham’s penalty in the shootout of the UEFA Super Cup final last week. Liverpool’s front three of Mohamed Salah, Roberto Firmino and Sadio Mané are already firing on all cylinders having scored or assisted four of the Reds’ six goals so far this season.
Also, this weekend will see Pukki and Norwich City go up against Lampard’s Chelsea at Carrow Road, Spurs take on Newcastle United at home, Bournemouth host Manchester City, Crystal Palace travel to Manchester United and more.
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