Winners and Losers from the weekend: Return of the Premier League, US Open & more
Michael Johnson | 14 September 2020
Here’s who was making headlines for both the right and wrong reasons this weekend.
The Premier League returned this weekend as Liverpool and Leeds went at it in unforgettable fashion, though all three promoted sides lost their first match of the season.
In tennis, a stunning US Open comeback saw the first new male grand-slam winner since 2014, while an all-time NFL great had a debut to forget.
Here are the weekend’s winners and losers…
While they didn’t claim any points, Leeds can walk away from their 4-3 loss to Liverpool with their heads held high. While their fellow promoted sides floundered in the top-flight, Leeds flourished, putting in one of the best away performances at Anfield in recent years.
Leeds were eventually undone by defensive naivety, while both debutants – Robin Koch and Rodrigo – made significant errors, with the latter giving away the needless penalty that sealed the tie.
But, their efficiency in front of goal and the way they clearly rattled Liverpool’s defence is what impressed the most. Next up is Fulham and a chance to turn plaudits into points.
Everton seemingly rebuild their squad every season, as one of the league’s biggest spenders in recent years, but their signings have never quite pushed them to the level you’d hope for after such big investment.
But with Carlo Ancelotti at the helm, there’s a sense that this time, they may just have gotten it right. Against Tottenham their new look midfield dominated proceedings, with James Rodriguez’s sublime passing backed up with the hard work of Allan and Abdoulaye Doucoure.
Their goal came from a more familiar outlet – the superb delivery of Lucas Digne and a bullet header from Dominic Calvert-Lewin whose post-lockdown goal drought was brought swiftly to an end.
So, another false dawn, or can they push for one of the European spots this season?
While none of the Big Three were challenging for the US Open title after Novak Djokovic’s disqualification, Thiem showed that he’s now the best prospect in the next generation of men’s tennis, with a stunning comeback win to beat Alexander Zverev in a five-set-thriller.
While an achilles problem limited his mobility, Thiem shone when he was able to bring the big-serving German into longer rallies, where errors crept into his game. Thiem eventually triumphed in a tense tie-breaker, wasting two match points, before a weary, wayward backhand from Zverev sealed the title for the Austrian. He is now the first new men’s Grand Slam winner since 2014. At 27, he’ll hope there are plenty more to come.
A hat-trick in this Premier League opener had Fantasy Premier League managers across the country either celebrating or sighing, but the stats always suggested Salah would be ready for this. He has scored on the opening day of the last four Premier League seasons now, with only Teddy Sheringham able to boast the same record.
Two well-taken penalties sandwiched a sublime second and made up for Liverpool’s sloppy defending. Some reports are suggesting Salah would be interested in a move to Barcelona, but Liverpool simply can’t afford to let him go.
An insipid display from Jose Mourinho’s men suggested further recruits are required if they’re to challenge of honours this season. Pierre-Emile Højbjerg was added to Spurs’ midfield to add some bite, but he and Harry Winks were simply bypassed for much of the match, while Dele Alli looked lost before being substituted at half-time.
There’s no doubt that in Heung-Min Son, Harry Kane and Lucas Moura, Spurs have some potent attacking tools in their arsenal (if you’ll forgive the wording), but if the ball never arrives to them in dangerous areas, they’re limited to counter-attacking football, and an over-reliance on the pace of their wide players.
West Brom & Fulham
Early signs suggest that it’s going to be a long season for both these sides.
Fulham’s failure to put up any kind of resistance made Arsenal look like world-beaters as Scott Parker’s side lost 3-0 in the league’s opening game and there will be worries already that they don’t possess the quality to survive in the Premier League.
It’s a similar story for West Brom, who only managed a single shot on target against Leicester, despite their focus on reinforcing their frontline with Matheus Pereira, Grady Diangara and Callum Robinson all arriving in the summer.
West Brom will need to show more against Everton in their next league outing, while Fulham face fellow promoted side Leeds – who will be keen to highlight the perceived gulf in class between the two.
The legendary quarter-back is now 43-years-old and made his debut for Tampa Bay Buccaneers on Sunday, after leaving New England Patriots behind after a 20-year stint that saw them win six Super Bowls (the most of any player in NFL history).
And things got off to a decent start for Brady against the New Orleans Saints, with a two-yard rush to bring the first touchdown of the game mid-way through the first quarter. But then the errors started to creep in, with miscommunication and a clearly telegraphed pass from Brady that allowed Saints cornerback Janoris Jenkins to intercept and stride home for a 36-yard touchdown.
Those errors continued throughout the game and while Brady is far from the only culpable player, he’s certainly the highest profile.
Brady remains and will always remain one of the true greats of the NFL. But he may have bitten off more than he can chew by joining a team with a lot of work to do if they hope to be serious contenders in the NFL this season.
While Leed’s attacking play on Saturday was excellent at times, there are questions to be asked of the Liverpool defence.
Trent Alexander-Arnold, Joe Gomez and Virgil van Dijk all made errors that led to goals, while goalkeeper Alisson failed to save all three of Leeds’ shots on target. It was possibly Van Dijk’s worst display in a Liverpool game defensively (he still popped up at the other end to score an imperious headed goal).
In truth, Saturday’s game felt like a throwback to Jurgen Klopp’s early days as Liverpool manager, where they’d try to outscore the opposition with ‘heavy-metal’ football. Wisely, Liverpool have since invested heavily in reinforcing a brittle backline, with Van Dijk and Alisson working wonders in bringing a new defensive stability to the club. A stability that was almost entirely lacking on Saturday.
One game is nothing to worry about, but Liverpool will know just how difficult it is to defend the title. They cannot afford their best performers to have many more off days like this.
All odds and markets correct as of date of publication