MIDDLESBROUGH 0-4 ARSENAL (2001)
Having been pipped to the title by Manchester United that May, this would be the season that saw The Gunners score in every game without fail, win the title with something to spare, and win the FA Cup by beating their up and coming rivals Chelsea. It could not have got off to a better start, a 4-0 demolition job in the backyard of Middlesbrough, a team against whom Arsenal have not enjoyed a completely stellar record in the Premiership.
However, the scoring would not be opened until the 43rd minute, when a poor clearance by Ugo Ehiogu was missed by Dean Windass, and converted with ease by Thierry Henry. In the second half, Ray Parlour was sent off after a second yellow card, and this gave Middlesbrough the opportunity to push forward in an effort to equalise and possibly win. However, the game was sealed when (after soaking up pressure) Robert Pires converted a penalty in the 87th minute.
Middlesbrough fell apart, and a third was added a minute later by the legendary Dennis Bergkamp. Remarkably, he scored again two minutes after his first, to wrap up a memorable afternoon for the Gunners as they embarked on a remarkable season.
ASTON VILLA 3-1 MANCHESTER UNITED (1995)
This was the game which precipitated a world of infamy on steel-eyed pundit Alan Hansen, who claimed that “you don’t win anything with kids” following a massively disappointing 3-1 defeat at Villa Park. Aston Villa survived their final day relegation dogfight with Crystal Palace in May 1995, and although Manchester United had been de-throned by new champions Blackburn Rovers, few doubted that United could reclaim the crown.
The “kids” towards which Hansen was referring would become legends in their own time – names such as Scholes, Beckham and Giggs roll off the tongue when United fans reminisce about the glories of the past fifteen years. On a blistering day in the Midlands, United were scorched when Ian Taylor opened the scoring with a snap conversion from a cross. Mark Draper then added a second, before Dwight Yorke made it 3-0 at half time with a penalty.
Although United pulled a goal back, there was never any doubt about the result. Aston Villa would have a strong season, finishing fourth – while Manchester United’s young guns overhauled a twelve point Christmas deficit to Newcastle United, and once again lifted the Premier League title.
BIRMINGHAM 1-0 TOTTENHAM (2003)
After finishing 13th (three places above rivals Aston Villa) in their inaugural Premier League season, Birmingham City fans were fearful that the dreaded “second season syndrome” could strike at St Andrews. They needn’t have worried, as they challenged for a UEFA Cup spot during most of the 2003-04 season, and defeated a strong Tottenham side on day one.
New signing David Dunn cost The Blues £5.5m, but proved his mettle in a game of high stakes against the likes of Jamie Redknapp and Robbie Keane. In front of a capacity crowd, Dunn kept his nerve to convert a 35th minute penalty past American international Kasey Keller. The introduction of Bobby Zamora in the second half would see Tottenham pile on the pressure, but Dunn bravely held off many stinging attacks to bring victory to his side on the opening day.
BLACKBURN 5-1 WOLVES (2003)
On the same day, UEFA Cup contenders Blackburn Rovers played host to Wolverhampton Wanderers, it was a greatly anticipated clash at a sun soaked and sold out Ewood Park – but The Wolves’ first season of Premiership action would be a chastening lesson in how to defend. It didn’t take long for Blackburn to get going, when debutant Lorenzo Amoruso powerfully headed a corner (from fellow new signing Brett Emerton) past the hapless Matthew Murray.
The lead was doubled after half an hour when midfielder David Thompson lashed home a thunderous half volley into the net to put Blackburn firmly in control at half time. Just minutes into the second half it was 3-0, Dwight Yorke evaded a clueless Wolves defence and picked out Brett Emerton who dispatched a rocket into the corner of the net.
Wolves did pull a goal back soon after, with ex Tottenham striker Steffen Iversen heading home. The result was never in doubt however, and with ten minutes to spare, Andy Cole powered an effort into the well worn net with a slick assist from Kermioglu Tugay. A repeat performance resulted in a fifth soon after to make it an afternoon both Blackburn (and Wolves) fans will never forget.
LEICESTER 0-1 BLACKPOOL (2007)
The opening day of the season always throws up a surprise somewhere, and thus it was that newly promoted Blackpool rocked the second flight with a victory against Leicester at the Walker’s Stadium. Many pundits and neutrals expected a season of toil for Blackpool, who had not so long before been languishing in the bottom division of the league.
On a day when the sun shone literally and metaphorically, 29 year old “Everton reject” Keith Southern successfully converted a Stephen Crainey cross to stun the Leicester faithful. Throughout the second half (after Blackpool impressed in the first), Leicester debutant DJ Campbell attacked ferociously in search of an equaliser.
However, Blackpool goalkeeper Paul Rachubka was equal to everything; particularly impressive was a point blank double save near the end, when James Wesolowski and Campbell combined in an attempt to score. However, despite nerves being shredded in injury time, Blackpool held out to win.
Look out for Part 2 tomorrow, Liverpool get six and the Mourinho revolution begins…
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