They had to be patient and persistent, but Liverpool deservedly got the better of bogey side Crystal Palace in their first Anfield assignment of the season. Anxious home fans were kept waiting until the 73rd minute before the ball fell kindly to Sadio Mane to finish past Wayne Hennessey, that goal proving sufficient to give the Reds a first Premier League win for 2017/18. Chances were at a premium, although Joel Matip and Christian Benteke will both feel they should have scored for their respective sides before Mane showed them how it’s done. Liverpool made hard work of it, but they were good value for the win as the Eagles carried very little threat and failed to prey on their opponents’ well-documented set piece deficiencies. It certainly wasn’t a thing of beauty, but Liverpool fans were not choosy about the manner of victory so long as three points were added to their tally around 4:50pm on Saturday afternoon.
The Reds’ need for victory was amplified earlier in the day when league leaders Manchester United recorded a second successive 4-0 win, this time putting Swansea to the sword. As with the defeat of West Ham, Jose Mourinho’s men blitzed their opponents in the final 10 minutes to give the final score a dominant feel, but there was little disputing the Red Devils’ superiority at the Liberty Stadium. Admittedly things might have worked out differently had Eric Bailly not pounced to give United the lead just before half-time, but further goals from Romelu Lukaku, Paul Pogba and Anthony Martial, all of whom netted against the Hammers as well, proved that Mourinho’s men have a more clinical edge about them than last season and that they aren’t reliant on a single source of goals, having seemed so blunt without Zlatan Ibrahimovic in 2016/17.
The headline game of the weekend saw under-fire Chelsea get back on track with a morale-boosting win over Tottenham in the first Premier League fixture to be held at Wembley. The Blues may have spent big on Alvaro Morata during the summer, but it was another Spaniard who fulfilled the role of two-goal hero as Marcos Alonso delivered with a sumptuous free kick and a coolly-dispatched late winner after Michy Batshuayi had inadvertently steered the ball into his own net from yet another pinpoint Christian Eriksen delivery. Antonio Conte’s delight at the full-time whistle spoke volumes, while the question mark over Spurs at the national stadium remains as prevalent as ever.
While Manchester United, Liverpool and Chelsea had a good weekend, Arsenal came unstuck away to Stoke once again. In times of yore it was the Potters’ set plays which undid Arsene Wenger’s men, but on Saturday it was a sumptuous goal from the superb Jese Rodriguez that made the difference. The newly-arrived loan signing gave Stoke a much-needed attacking spark, although the Gunners had legitimate grievances over a couple of key decisions from officials. Hector Bellerin definitely seemed to be caught in the penalty area by Mame Biram Diouf on 20 minutes and Alexandre Lacazette later had a goal incorrectly ruled out for offside. Nonetheless, having had 77% possession, Arsenal must look at themselves when analysing why they sank to defeat.
Another London team to return home empty-handed were West Ham, beaten 3-2 by Southampton in a very eventful game at St Mary’s. Having not scored in their previous six home matches, the Saints didn’t take long to rectify that on Saturday, striking on 10 minutes through Manolo Gabbiadini. A Dusan Tadic penalty and a stupid red card for Marko Arnautovic had Southampton in firm control, but two goals from Javier Hernandez either side of half-time surprisingly drew the Hammers level and they seemed set for a share of the spoils until conceding an injury time penalty that Charlie Austin converted. It was a much-needed boost for Mauricio Pellegrino, who would have been seething had his team left this one behind them from such favourable circumstances. Indeed, they ought to have been playing against nine men, with Mark Noble extremely lucky not to see red for a disgusting lunge on Mario Lemina.
After holding Liverpool to a draw last week, Watford picked up another good result on Saturday, defeating Bournemouth 2-0 at the Vitality Stadium. The Hornets were dull to watch under Walter Mazzarri last season but look revitalised with Marco Silva in charge. It still took them until the 73rd minute to make the breakthrough, Richarlison remaining alert to finish off the second ball after an Asmir Begovic save. Etienne Capoue then made sure of the points with a long-range strike in the final five minutes as Watford surged into the top four positions.
Also enjoying a splendid start are West Brom, who made it two wins from two against Burnley on Saturday. The Clarets hit the headlines with their opening day win at Chelsea but were disappointing in their first home fixture of the season, having been so reliant on results at Turf Moor to keep them up last term. The two main incidents of the match both involved Hal Robson-Kanu, who netted the game’s only goal a few minutes before a debatable red card for catching Matthew Lowton with a stray arm. Despite that body blow, Tony Pulis will be delighted with the Baggies’ first couple of results, a brace of 1-0 wins.
West Brom are joined on six points by Huddersfield, who collected their second win of their debut Premier League campaign at home to Newcastle on Sunday. It was a decidedly average encounter between two newly-promoted sides, but it was settled by a piece of quality from Aaron Mooy, whose firm finish gave the Terriers the win they deserved. David Wagner will know that far harder fixtures await, but he can still be ecstatic with his team’s start to the season. By contrast, Rafa Benitez knows that he and Newcastle are in for a tough few months unless they improve rapidly.
Maximum points, then, for Huddersfield, but fellow Premier League newcomers Brighton are still waiting to get off the mark after they were beaten 2-0 at Leicester. Shinji Okazaki put the home side in front after just 52 seconds and Harry Maguire doubled the lead after half-time. It was a day to forget for Seagulls goalkeeper Mat Ryan, who should have done much better with both goals. The Australian will need to be at his best if Brighton are to avoid falling behind the rest of the Premier League as autumn approaches.
It was mission accomplished for Liverpool on Saturday and if they can finish the job in the Champions League play-offs against Hoffenheim on Wednesday night, there will be an overdue feel-good factor around Anfield ahead of the visit of Arsenal next week. Win both of those and the Reds will be in a far healthier place going into the international break than they had been this time last week.