NBC analysts break down opening day

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We’re just seven matches into the 2013-2014 Premier League season, and it’s already been a bit of a wild ride. 18 goals were tallied over the course of Saturday’s matches, yet West Brom, Stoke, Cardiff City and Sunderland all failed to get on the scoresheet. Just one match, Norwich vs. Everton, ended in a draw, and that one’s four goals still keep things exciting. NBC could hardly have asked for a better day to launch their coverage of the Premier League.

The matches featured on NBC and NBCSN were some of the better ones as well, each featuring their own behind the seasons storyline. The day started off with Liverpool beating Stoke 1-0, a scoreline that belies just how out of their depth the visiting Potters looked. It seems Mark Hughes may have been too ambitious in thinking he could change Stoke’s traditional long-ball style, and if it hadn’t been for a string of spectacular saves by Asmir Begovic, Liverpool could have easily had five or six goals. And that was without Luis Suárez, who may not even have made the bench, but caused a stir by showing up in a Reds’ shirt with a smile on his face.

The next match brought the most surprising result thus far this season, with Aston Villa beating Arsenal 3-1 at the Emirates. The Villa, who flirted with relegation for much of last season, were down a goal by the tenth minute, and looked unlikely to stage a comeback. But then Gabriel Agbonlahor drew a penalty to put his side even before the half, and then drew another in the second half. The Arsenal fans were outraged when Anthony Taylor sent off Laurent Koscielny in the 67th minute, but turned their anger on Arsene Wenger, and his lack of signings, after new Villa signing Antonio Luna put in a third with five minutes left to play. Rebecca Lowe, host of pre- and post-match show Premier League Live, summed up the match perfectly: “It [The Premier League] certainly is back and what a start for [manager] Paul Lambert and Aston Villa’s season.”

The final match of the day saw Manchester United beat Swansea 4-1, with the scoreline flattering United’s play just a bit.  Arlo White, NBC’s voice of the Premier League, did well to set the scene before the match:

Hello, welcome to the Liberty Stadium. We’re in the city of Swansea in South Wales, 187 miles to the west of London, and Manchester United, the champions, begin the defense of their Premier League title. This is where they begin a whole new era under David Moyes. Sir Alex Ferguson, of course, ended his 26 and a half year reign with retirement in May, and we are underway. The rain pouring from slate grey skies, Wayne Rooney on the bench for Manchester United.

In just those few sentences, it was clear this match would about more than whether Robin Van Persie could better his goal tally of last season. Robbie Earle drew attention to this on the Premier League Live segment prior to Swansea vs. Manchester United:

They lose today at Swansea, the media will start, Jose Mourinho will start, and the whole of the football world will be saying, it’s not quite the same. And that’s the pressure that’s on David Moyes and his team to get off to a good start. It’s a huge day because the eyes of the football world are on David Moyes and how he starts his reign as Manchester United manager.

Fortunately for Moyes, his side won, with a convincing scoreline at that. Yet the focus remains on Wayne Rooney, who came in for Ryan Giggs with around 30 minutes left to play. Rooney played a crucial role in van Persie’s second goal, timing his run to draw away Swansea players and allow the Dutchman space to run into, and provided the assist on Danny Welbeck’s second, the fourth and final goal of the match. Yet questions about his future are still ever present. In the final Premier League Live segment of the day, Robbie Mustoe had this to say about forward: “It’s all business for Wayne Rooney. When he’s out there, he’s going to play the game, but we all know he doesn’t want to be at this football club.”

With less than two weeks remaining in the transfer window, there’s not much time for Rooney to make a move. The saga will still be a talking point whenever Moyes speaks to the media, but at least the new United manager has three points and the spot at the top of the table to point to.

Top Premier League story lines – Week 2

Photo by Keith Tsuji/Getty Images for Premier League
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The Premier League hits its second match day on Saturday, beginning with Manchester United’s trip to the Liberty Stadium to face Swansea City.

That match isn’t even in our top five as a pair of Top Four battles await Sunday and Monday.

[ MORE: Another American teen making Bundesliga name ]


Can heated rivalry help Chelsea find its form?
Tottenham – Chelsea (Sunday, 11 a.m. ET, NBCSN) [ STREAM ] 

The Blues took a long time to recover from Gary Cahill‘s early red card as Chelsea lost 3-2 to Burnley on Opening Day, and know they could find themselves six points behind Tottenham after just two weeks of the Premier League season. The rivalry between Spurs and Chelsea has risen several notches in the past couple years, and Chelsea will also be hampered by suspensions to Cahill and Cesc Fabregas.

Everton starts murderer’s row of fixtures at the Etihad
Manchester City – Everton (Monday, 3 p.m. ET, NBCSN) STREAM ] 

Man City, Chelsea, Spurs, Manchester United: Those are Everton’s next three matches following a win over Stoke and Thursday’s Europa League win over Hajduk Split (The Toffees head to Croatia on Aug. 24). The good news, if there is any, is that Man City didn’t look terrific in its win over Brighton and Hove Albion. The bad news? Everton’s top men, aside from new boy Gylfi Sigurdsson, almost all played in the win over Hajduk.

Arsenal’s beleaguered defense heads to the road
Stoke City – Arsenal (Saturday, 12:30 p.m. ET, NBC) – [STREAM]

The Gunners may boast wins over Chelsea and Leicester City this month, but Arsenal conceded thrice to the Foxes and needed drama to boost three points from Opening Day. Stoke fell 1-0 at Everton but was far from a pushover.

Can Town make it 2-for-2 versus the Toon?
Huddersfield Town vs. Newcastle United (Sunday, 8:30 a.m. ET, NBCSN) – STREAM ]

Rafa Benitez’s Opening Day plans were shuttered by Jonjo Shelvey‘s poor red card, and the Spaniard won’t have his best midfielder at The John Smith’s Stadium when Newcastle faces a Town team that won 3-0 at Crystal Palace. The road sides won when these two met in the Championship last season.

Liverpool’s stumbling defense meets old pal Benteke
Liverpool vs. Crystal Palace (Saturday, 10 a.m. ET, NBCSN) – STREAM ] 

Jurgen Klopp‘s men stumbled out of the gates, even if their last minute concession against Watford in a 3-3 draw arguably shouldn’t have stood up to the linesman’s view. Benteke scored twice as the Eagles won at Anfield last season, and will certainly be up for irking his old boss once more.

VIDEO: Giovanni Reyna stars for USYNT with goal, assists

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Seldom is a U-15 match truly worth national attention, but it certainly deserves eyes when the player who stars in the Stars and Stripes happens to be the son of USMNT royalty.

Giovanni Reyna is going to be known as Claudio Reyna’s son for some time, but if he keeps up starring roles like his goal and two assist performance against Panama in the CONCACAF U-15 Championship, Claudio will move into “Giovanni Reyna’s dad” status at some point.

[ MORE: Another American teen making Bundesliga name ]

That’s way down the line considering “Dad” is an American pioneer with 112 caps, eight goals and a career with Manchester City, Rangers, Sunderland, Bayer Leverkusen, Wolfsburg, and New York Red Bulls, but worth noting nonetheless.

Reyna’s goal was an absolute stunner:

And here are his two assists, putting Mexico on notice for Saturday morning’s final.

Europa wrap: Milan runs riot; Everton wins; USMNT’s Horvath posts clean sheet

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The matches were plentiful as clubs from around Europe angled for a spot in the UEFA Europa League group stage in the first legs of playoff round ties.

[ MORE: Schalke’s American teenager ]


Panathinaikos 2-3 Athletic Bilbao

Ageless Aritz Aduriz just keeps scoring, and La Liga’s visitors erased a 2-0 deficit with a pair of goals from the 36-year-old — he’s not really ageless, guys and girls — sandwiched around a De Marcos tally.

Everton 2-0 Hajduk SplitRECAP

Stylish assists from Leighton Baines and Wayne Rooney set-up Michael Keane and Idrissa Gana Gueye for rare goals, and Everton could’ve had many more in the first leg. Hajduk, however, showed some danger late and a raucous, disruptive, and even violent visiting crowd showed the second leg will be anything but simple for Ronald Koeman‘s men.

Club Brugge 0-0 AEK Athens

USMNT backstop Ethan Horvath kept a clean sheet with a two-save performance for Brugge, and the Greek visitors won’t take any away goals home for the second leg.

AC Milan 6-0 Shkendija

In another realm, Milan is still scoring goals. Andre Silva netted twice in the first 28 minutes, Fabio Borini and Luca Antonelli also scored. And how about Riccardo Montolivo?

 

UEFA Europa League playoff first legs
Utrecht 1-0 Zenit — Weds.
BATE Borisov 1-1 Oleksandriya
Apollon Limassol 3-2 Midtjylland
Krasnodar 3-2 Red Star Belgrade
Dinamo Zagreb 1-1 Skenderbeu
FH 1-2 Braga
PAOK 3-1 Ostersund
Vardar Skopje 2-0 Fenerbahce
Viktoria Plzen 3-1 AEK Lamaca
Altach 0-1 Maccabi Tel-Aviv
Ludogorets Razgrad 2-0 Suduva
Domzale 1-1 Marseille
Osijek 1-2 Austria Wien
Viitorul 1-3 Red Bull Salzburg — 2:45 p.m.
Ajax 0-1 Rosenborg
Legia Warsaw 1-1 Sheriff
Partizan 0-0  Videoton
Maritimo 0-0 Dynamo Kyiv

Everton 2-0 Hajduk Split: Toffees cruise in Europa League first leg

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  • Keane nabs first EFC goal
  • Baines, Rooney with classy assists
  • Gueye scores rare goal
  • Second leg Aug. 24 in Croatia

Michael Keane and Idrissa Gana Gueye scored as Everton took a 2-0 lead over HNK Hajduk Split in a UEFA Europa League playoff round first leg at Goodison Park on Thursday.

Leighton Baines and Wayne Rooney had assists for the Toffees, while Jordan Pickford, Ademola Lookman, and Davy Klaassen also posted lively performances for the hosts ahead of next week’s second leg.

The Toffees could’ve scored four or five if not for questionable offside calls alone, and the match was interrupted in the first half when the Hajduk support section got out of hand.

[ MORE: Full lineups, stats, box score ]

Ademola Lookman won an early corner for Everton that led to nothing, and played a terrific ball into the center of the box that Davy Klaassen just missed with a sliding effort.

Hajduk had a moment in two in transition, but the Toffees handled it well. Baines in particular broke up the earliest sign of danger.

The breakthrough goal was splendid, with Baines scooping up a punched corner kick and darting past a defender to dink an aesthetically-pleasing ball into traffic for Keane to head home. 1-0, 30′.

The match was stalled for 5-10 minutes after riotous behavior from visiting Hajduk Split supporters, who tossed bottles onto the field and charged at the stewards (one appeared to punch a security guard).

The Toffees went up 2-0 off a classy assist from Rooney, who was moving away from the defense when he cut a ball to a darting Gueye. The Senegalese engine provided a rare goal in the 45th minute.

[ MORE: Europa League schedule ]

The chances were at a premium for both sides in the second half, with Everton still having the better of play. But Jordan Pickford had to get horizontal to make an outstanding two-handed parry on a Hajduk rush in the 61st minute.

Hajduk really found its game late as Everton seemed to rest on its laurels. Pickford was livid, and called into duty to make some big stops and preserve an important home clean sheet.