Manchester City

Opening Day Classics – Manchester United, Newcastle and Sunderland

Five goal haul as United maul

WEST HAM 0-2 MANCHESTER CITY (2007)

When Manchester City became one of the world’s richest clubs overnight, the long suffering fans could hardly believe their luck. With Sven Goran Eriksson appointed manager soon after, it seemed nothing could go wrong for a side which until that time, had more often than not struggled to survive in the Premier League. Although the season would eventually fizzle out in disappointing fashion, the early days of the 2007-08 season would show great promise and an unusually lofty position in the fledgling table. Their opening day win at Upton Park was arguably the most comprehensive.

In the spring of 2007, West Ham United were staring death in the face with each passing game, and but for a run of seven wins in nine – including wins at Arsenal and Manchester United on the last day – they would have been ignominiously relegated. With a plethora of new signings, an interesting game was to ensue. However, City were dominant from the off at a difficult hunting ground, and it was no surprise when new signing Rolando Bianchi put them ahead after just eighteen minutes. The Italian converted a low, evasive cross from Brazilian midfield maestro Elano to quite literally set the ball rolling for City.

The pressure didn’t let up all afternoon with artistry all over the pitch, and City were able to add a deserved second when defender Nedum Onuoha delivered the perfect cross for a low shot which Giovanni took with aplomb. Four days later, their seven month spell without an Eastlands goal came to an end against stress relief side Derby County, followed up by (appropriately) a home derby win against Manchester United.

MANCHESTER UNITED 5-1 FULHAM (2006)

Although Manchester United often open the season in front of their own fans these days, they don’t always achieve the result they want (e.g. draws against Reading and Newcastle). However, this was anything but one of those occasions, as after only twenty minutes, United genuinely looked as though they were going to smash the record Premiership win of 9-0, demolishing Fulham in the early stages of this season opener.

They wasted no time, and the season was only eight minutes old when Ryan Giggs crossed expertly for Louis Saha to rise and nod home, signalling the start of the rout. Minutes later, Saha’s low cross for Wayne Rooney was turned past Anti Niemi by Ian Pearce for a rueful own goal. Fulham just couldn’t live with United, and it was 3-0 a minute later, when Niemi’s impressive save from a Gary Neville volley fell to Rooney for him to side-foot. Cristiano Ronaldo then delivered another devastating blow, blasting home a half volley from a Rooney cross.

United could have made it five just minutes later, but Niemi saved on the goal-line after Scholes hit the post. Fulham then pulled one back through Heidar Helguson’s shot deflecting off Rio Ferdinand for a meaningless own goal. The second half was a much more sober affair, but Wayne Rooney scored his second and United’s fifth with a powerful drive after the hour mark to put United top – and keep them there all season.

NEWCASTLE 4-0 WEST HAM (2002)

Back in the days of Sir Bobby Robson repeatedly challenging for a Champions League spot (before it all came crashing down after his sacking in 2004), Newcastle United had a particularly good opener eight years ago against West Ham United, who were eventually relegated themselves that season.

The first Monday night’s action of the season was about as one sided as a match could be, with Newcastle looking every bit the title contenders. Particularly, it was Congolese striker Lomana LuaLua who grabbed the limelight, in a performance where he looked as lithe and talented as ever, scoring twice.

However, it took Newcastle a little over an hour to chalk up their first goal, with LuaLua reacting brilliantly as a flick on from new boy Jermaine Jenas was belted past a helpless David James. He scored again as Nolberto Solano’s cross field ball for another debutant, Hugo Viana, was successful and resulted in a magnificent cross from which LuaLua expertly headed home.

Four minutes later it was 3-0 and game over, Alan Shearer scoring an eye-catching goal born of Solano and Viana’s interchange. And goal number four came from the impressive Solano, who converted with ease after Shearer evaded the defence to provide the goal which capped a fantastic team performance. It was a sign of things to come – Newcastle finished third from top, and West Ham finished third from bottom.

STOKE 2-0 BURNLEY (2009)

Not such a journey through time, as Stoke beat Premier League new boys Burnley on the opening day last year, in an impressive performance at the Britannia Stadium. Burnley certainly drew the short straw when the fixtures were announced, as Stoke had a stellar home record despite being tipped by many as the favourites for relegation the previous season. They surprised everyone by surviving comfortably, and now looked to hand Burnley a lesson.

That is exactly what they did. Everyone expected Burnley to play well but come up short, and there can be no denying that the claret clad men gave it their all against a strong, physical side like Stoke. The result however, was never truly in doubt once potential future England defender Ryan Shawcross headed powerfully past Brian Jensen, after a momentary lapse of concentration in defence allowed Liam Lawrence’s free kick to find its target.

It got worse before half time, and there was no going back when Stephen Jordan became yet another victim of a “Rory Delap Special”, the schoolboy javelin champion launching his deadly throw-in to the penalty box, and the attempted clearance painfully sliced past Jensen for 2-0. With Stoke’s win assured, they finished mid table with even greater comfort, as they continued to put in strong performances at home.

SUNDERLAND 1-0 ARSENAL (2000)

The new millennium promised great things for a Kevin Phillips led Sunderland, after being in the top five for most of the previous season, only to fall away from a European place towards the end. They would show similar form in the 2000-01 season, starting it encouragingly by beating the previous season’s runners up Arsenal. Despite finishing well behind the incorrigible Manchester United on points, The Gunners were in fine form ahead of this clash at the Stadium of Light.

Niall Quinn was a proven talent in his days playing for the Black Cats, and he provided the only goal of this game after Michael Gray lofted a good cross for the Irishman to head home. During this game, Sunderland faced an Alamo type bombardment at times, owing their victory to the outstanding form of new signing Stanislav Varga.

Sunderland also used two goalkeepers – Thomas Sorensen and Jurgen Macho, both of whom had solid performances between the sticks. Make no mistake however, Sunderland were full value for this victory, having created chances of their own in a gutsy performance to kick start another decent season.

Look out for Part 4 tomorrow, Spurs edge seven goal thriller and Hammers emerge with derby day spoils…

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