Quick out the blocks! Ten classic opening day matches from the Premier League era
12:00 GMT, 15 August 2012
Whatever level your team plays at, it’s crucial to get a
new season off to a good start. And with this is mind, the opening day can
produce some unforgettable matches and moments.
To get you in the mood for nine solid months of football,
Sportsmail has picked ten classic opening day games from the Premier League.
Dion Dublin (left) celebrates an opening day hat-trick against Chelsea in 1997
1992-1993: Arsenal 2 Norwich City 4
This was Genesis – the first afternoon of football in the
new Premier League, and while Brian Deane of Sheffield United will always have
the distinction of scoring the first goal in the re-vamped top flight, the real
drama unfolded at Highbury.
Goal-happy Arsenal had gone 17 matches unbeaten at the
end of the previous campaign, lifting them to fourth as the league’s top
scorers. Consequently, many bookmakers had them favourites to win the inaugural
And everything was going so well on a glorious August
afternoon as goals from Steve Bould and Kevin Campbell in front of a packed
North Bank put them two up against Norwich City.
But the Canaries – sporting one of those awful kits that
seemed to be all the rage circa 1992 – mounted the kind of stunning comeback
that shows why they finished the season in third under Mike Walker.
New signing Mark Robins pulled one back before David
Seaman flapped at a deep cross, allowing David Phillips to level. Ruel Fox put
a by now dominant Norwich into the lead before Tony Adams dithered on the ball and was pick-pocketed by Robins, whose delightful first-time lob was the icing on the
1994-1995: Sheffield Wednesday 3 Tottenham Hotspur 4
The summer of 1994 had been one of turmoil at White Hart
Lane, with the FA throwing the book at Spurs for financial irregularities by
previous owners. They were fined 600,000, deducted 12 points and expelled from
the FA Cup, though Chairman Alan Sugar eventually managed to get the last two
overturned in exchange for a heftier fine.
On the field, manager Ossie Ardiles defiantly instructed
his team to attack, attack, attack and this ploy was certainly in evidence at
Hillsborough on the opening day. Twice they breached the Wednesday defence in
the first half-hour with strikes from Teddy Sheringham and Darren Anderton.
Wednesday were a different side in the second-half and
drew level thanks to Dan Petrescu and a quite brilliant top corner own goal
from Colin Calderwood. But Tottenham’s five-pronged attack sprung back into
life with goals from Nick Barmby and new acquisition Jurgen Kiinsmann, who
performed the first of many celebratory dives on Premier League pitches.
David Hurst set up a grandstand finale with a cracker
from the edge of the box, but seven goals was enough. Both sides would have
safe seasons, with Spurs seventh and Wednesday 13th.
1995-1996: Aston Villa 3 Manchester United 1
This one is more famous for a withering put-down by a
certain Scottish pundit afterwards than the actual action. In the hangover from
their last day Premier League collapse which allowed Blackburn to win the
title, Alex Ferguson had axed Paul Ince, Mark Hughes and Andrei Kanchelskis and replaced them with talented ‘kids.’
Gary and Phil Neville and Nicky Butt started at Villa
Park, with David Beckham and John O’Kane introduced in the second-half for a
United team not only uncomfortable in a 5-3-2 system that Fergie quickly
dropped but also an awful grey kit that was binned mid-season.
A Villa side that would eventually finish fourth ripped
United apart in the first-half with goals from Ian Taylor, Mark Draper and
Dwight Yorke settling the game before Beckham gave a glimpse of his abundant
talent with a glorious hit late on.
Alan Hansen’s infamous ‘You can’t win anything with kids’
remark on Match of the Day that night actually had a grain of truth. The
youngsters were only in the side because of suspensions and injuries to bigger
names, and only Butt, G Nev and Beckham would feature regularly in winning the
1996-1997: Wimbledon 0 Manchester United 3
This would have been merely a routine opening day win for
the defending champions – two ahead thanks to Eric Cantona and Denis Irwin –
had a 21-year-old with boyish looks, floppy hair and a number 10 shirt a little
too big for him not glanced up and spotted goalkeeper Neil Sullivan off his
Though it wasn’t his first game in the Premier League,
this was the moment that propelled David Beckham into the limelight. Perfectly
pitched, the ball soared before dropping at the right moment and angle to fall
gracefully into the net to settle all Goal of the Season contests before they had even opened.
1997-1998: Coventry City 3 Chelsea 2
Cosmopolitan Chelsea arrived at Highfield Road on a high
having ended their 26-year trophy drought with an FA Cup win over Middlesbrough
three months earlier and with Ruud Gullit at the helm, fans believed more
silverware would follow.
World-class continental players like Frank Leboeuf, Roberto
Di Matteo, Gianfranco Zola and Gianluca Vialli were in the line-up, but they
were just no match for hat-trick hero Dion Dublin. The striker was to have one
of his best seasons, scoring 23 goals in all competitions and winning the first
of his four England caps.
Zola put Chelsea in front, only for Dublin to immediately
respond with a header. The points looked to be London bound when new signing
Tore Andre Flo restored Chelsea’s lead with just eight minutes remaining.
But Dublin, on his 100th Coventry appearance,
swung the game – first with a header and then by capitalising on a Leboeuf
mistake to score a last-minute winner.
2000-2001: Chelsea 4 West Ham United 2
Fast forward three years and Chelsea again had title
ambitions – they still had Zola’s magic as well as the goals of Jimmy Floyd
Hasselbaink and, they hoped, new 5.6m buy from Parma Mario Stanic. And what better than a blood and thunder
London Derby to get the season started
Only the West Ham fans were left disappointed by a brilliant
first-day game at the Bridge. On the half-hour, Shaka Hislop clattered into
Hasselbaink and though the contact was outside the box, referee Graham Barber
awarded a penalty, which the Dutchman converted.
Just a minute into the second-half, Paolo Di Canio
equalised, before a superlative free-kick from Zola restored Chelsea’s lead. It
was then the Stanic show as the Croat introduced himself to the Premier League
by juggling the ball twice and lashing home a volley from 30 yards.
Freddy Kanoute gave West Ham hope, before Stanic capped a
man of the match performance with a late header.
2003-2004: Liverpool 1 Chelsea 2
‘There’s a wind blowing through Anfield,’ said Martin
Tyler on the final whistle. ‘Maybe it’s the winds of change’
Roman Abramovich could spend as many millions as he
liked, but Chelsea still had to deliver on the pitch and so burdened manager
Claudio Ranieri must have breathed a big sigh of relief when Hasselbaink won
this opening weekend match with seconds to spare.
With the Russian billionaire in the stands to watch his
new toy in action, 15m Juan Sebastian Veron rounded off a sweeping move to
give Chelsea the lead. But they weathered plenty of Liverpool pressure
and the hosts deservedly equalised through a re-taken Michael Owen
penalty with ten minutes to play.
But Chelsea kept going and, with about two minutes left,
Hasselbaink controlled a Frank Lampard pass and calmly slid the ball into the
bottom corner. Chelsea had the money, but proved no match for Arsenal’s ‘Invincibles’.
The winds of change would blow, however, as Chelsea won the next two titles.
2008-2009: Aston Villa 4 Manchester City 2
Just days before the Abu Dhabi United Group would walk
through the front door at Eastlands, and City have made a shocking start to the
season. They are humiliated by the Danish side Midtjylland in the UEFA Cup and
then sunk by Gabriel Agbonlahor’s hat-trick on the opening afternoon at Villa.
The young striker, perhaps chastened by being omitted
from Fabio Capello’s latest England squad, runs riot with a triple as Mark
Hughes begins to fear for his job. All six goals in this thriller came in the
second-half, with John Carew grabbing reward for Villa’s dominance with a
header on 47 minutes.
City, who at the time were bemoaning the absence of their
three potent strikers Darius Vassell, Jo and Benjani Mwaruwari (what difference
money can make), equalised through an Elano penalty before being destroyed by
Agbonlahor in seven minutes of madness.
Vedran Corluka’s late consolation hardly raised a cheer,
but who could have known what was around the corner for City.
2009-2010: Everton 1 Arsenal 6
Every football fan greets the new season with a glimmer
of hope and optimism, so to then be ripped to shreds by an opponent superior in
absolutely every department is pretty damn demoralising.
This happened to Everton on season’s start 2009, as rampant
Arsenal produced an exhibition of fluent, passing football at Goodison Park
which hinted that they might be able to end their six-year title drought. It
wasn’t to be – they finished third.
Having taken 26 minutes to open the floodgates, Arsenal were
three to the good at half-time courtesy of Denilson, Thomas Vermaelen and
William Gallas. A double from Cesc Fabregas and a late sixth from Eduardo
followed, though it could have been any number. For the record, Louis Saha
scored Everton’s one.
2010-2011: Wigan Athletic 0 Blackpool 4
Newcomers to the top flight would be forgiven for showing
a little caution in their opening game as they adjust to the higher standard –
not so Blackpool.
Ian Holloway’s side had caught the eye with their
counter-attacking style in gaining promotion, and they made quite a statement as
to how they would continue to play against Wigan.
Gary Taylor-Fletcher was completing his rise from
non-league football and opened the scoring, before a brace from Marlon Harewood
had the points banked before half-time. Alex Baptiste rounded off an afternoon of
Tangerine dreams with 15 minutes to play.
But the result did not prove a good barometer of things
to come – Blackpool continued to play their attacking football but were
ultimately relegated, while Wigan stayed up.