Premier League Playback: Youngsters, United keep calm, Spurs’ PK drought

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Something that fell by the wayside this weekend; Southampton had three 18-year-olds in their starting lineup and four academy products on the pitch on the opening day.

And they completely dominated West Bromwich Albion to win 1-0 at the Hawthorns. So many youngsters on a team winning in the Premier League, what’s going on?

Much has been made of the lack of young English talent playing in the Premier League in recent seasons, with the huge influx of foreign players being blamed for the English national teams failure.

But upcoming clubs like Southampton have invested heavily in youth development over the years. (Gareth Bale, Theo Walcott, Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain et al.)

Premier League Schedule – Week 1

Result Recap & Highlights
Arsenal 1 – Aston Villa 3 Recap and watch here
Chelsea 2 – Hull City 0 Recap and watch here
Crystal Palace 0 – Tottenham 1 Recap and watch here
Liverpool 1 – Stoke City 0 Recap and watch here
Norwich City 2 – Everton 2 Recap and watch here
Sunderland 0 – Fulham 1 Recap and watch here
Swansea City 1 – Man Utd 4 Recap and watch here
West Brom 0 – Southampton 1 Recap and watch here
West Ham United 2 – Cardiff 0 Recap and watch here

Eighteen-year-old left back Luke Shaw was the pick of the bunch, but 18-year-old right back Calum Chambers and 18-year-old central midfielder James Ward-Prowse both acquitted themselves superbly as the Saints should have eased to victory.

In the end it took Shaw to conjure up the game-winning moment, as the teenagers surging left flank run saw him taken down in the box in the 90th minute, and England international Rickie Lambert (yes, you read that correctly) slammed home the PK.

Maybe England will start looking to clubs like the Saints, Aston Villa and Everton for their next crop of young talent?

Lots of young English stars shone on opening weekend…

STANDOUT PERFORMERS

But one man who stood head and shoulders above the rest, again, was Dutch international striker Robin van Persie. RVP, 30, was in menacing form in Swansea on Saturday evening, scoring twice and tormenting the Swans defense.

Elsewhere Everton youngster Ross Barkley continues his rise through the ranks, as the 19-year-old midfielder spanked in a beauty at Carrow Road and bossed the midfield with his strength and power. At the heart of Liverpool’s creativity was Brazilian Philippe Coutinho. It took the former Inter Milan star a while to settle last season after his January move, but the tiny trickster weaseled his way in and out of Stoke’s backline masterfully. Cutting in from the left flank, he’s sure to create plenty of problems this season. Watch out for the boy from Brazil as he pushes for a place in the World Cup squad.

We’ve already mentioned Shaw, but the Southampton youngster burst forward time and time again from left back. It’s only a matter of time before he gets an England call up. While Aston Villa were brave and bold at the Emirates, as Belgian striker Christian Benteke scored twice. But he wasn’t just his goals, the Villa forward held up the ball to ease the pressure when Arsenal were hammering at Villa’s door. Another dominate display from Benteke.

Premier League Star Performers

Player Reason
 1. Robin van Persie (Man Utd) 2 goals, sublime passes
 2. Ross Barkley (Everton) 1 goal, MF powerhouse
 3. Philippe Coutinho (Liverpool) Creative genius, tireless
 4. Luke Shaw (Southampton) Driving runs, pace
 5. Christian Benteke (Aston Villa) 2 goals, beast up top

BEST GOALS OF THE WEEKEND

There were some top contenders for goal of the weekend. Ross Barkley smashed home a stunning left foot howitzer to draw Everton level against Norwich, while both of RVP’s goals were sublime in their own way. An instinctive, acrobatic finish for his first and a driving run finished by a hammered left foot shot from outside the box. Frank Lampard weighed in with a screamer and Danny Welbeck’s deft chip rounded off United’s rout.

Great goals. Just glad to have the season back so we can talk about them.

BIGGEST FLOP

Arsenal’s players did not read the script ahead of the new season.

With Arsene Wenger under pressure after failing to add star players in the transfer market, the Emirates was not a happy place to be on Saturday afternoon.

Paul Lambert’s unfavored Aston Villa strolled into North London with many people predicting a hiding. They strolled back to Birmingham with all three points after a 3-1 win thanks to two Benteke penalties (one he missed but finished off the rebound, the other he scored) and an inspired display from USMNT ‘keeper Brad Guzan.

The Gunners looked devoid of ideas and their cause wasn’t helped when French defender Laurent Koscielny was sent off for a second bookable offense. Back to the drawing board for Wenger, tactically and in terms of his transfer targets.

Nervous tension will continue to rise at Arsenal as the transfer deadline nears.

THE NEARLY MEN

Stoke City. They were played off the park against Liverpool at Anfield on Saturday in the early kick off.

But Mark Hughes’ side had three or four tremendous chances to score and punish Liverpool for all their wasted chances.

German defender Robert Huth smashed a thunderous volley against the crossbar at the Kop end in the first half. (The crossbar is probably still shaking now.)

While Jonathan Walters was denied in the second half thanks to a fingertip stop from Simon Mignolet.

And then of course came Stoke’s big chance in stoppage time. A daft handball from Daniel Agger gave Walters the chance to snatch an undeserved point for the Potters. But he fluffed his lines as Mignolet saved his PK and then the rebound from Kenwyne Jones.

Opportunity missed by Stoke’s American contingent.

STOP THE WORRYING…

Manchester United fans. David Moyes’ men will be fine this season. They showed that and more on Saturday after clinically dispatching Swansea City 4-1 at the Liberty Stadium.

Many were predicting United would suffer a huge fall from grace this season after winning the title last year. Moyes has had no major upheaval over the summer but he’s also had no major additions.

Wayne Rooney coming off the bench for the final 20 minutes or so is a relief for United fans. We’ve heard nothing from Rooney all summer long and while his future remains uncertain at Old Trafford, he made a tremendous decoy run for RVP’s second goal and set up Welbeck for the final goal.

All in all, a great start to the season for Moyes. The pressure is off… for now.

STAT ATTACK

Tottenham were awarded a penalty kick on Sunday at Crystal Palace. “So what?” your probably thinking. Well, it was kind of a big deal. Spurs didn’t get a penalty kick in the favor during the entire 2012-13 Premier League. And they haven’t scored a penalty in the league since May 6, 2012 when Emmanuel Adebayor dispatched a spot kick in the 1-1 tie with Aston Villa at Villa Park.

Quite remarkable. I spoke with Andre Villas-Boas after the game-winning goal had been scored by Roberto Soldado at Selhurst Park, on his Premier League debut. AVB had a wry smile plastered across his face.

“Today we celebrate one official penalty, especially after last season.”

GOAL-LINE TECHNOLOGY WATCH

This will be a regular feature in the Monday morning review, but don’t worry ladies and gents, this will get more interesting.

After costing each club over $400,000 to implement at their Premier League stadium this season, goal-line technology was only used twice this weekend.

First the goal decision system (GDS) was used as Fabian Delph’s shot for Villa against Arsenal hit the post and rolled along the line. The referee didn’t receive a message on his wristwatch and the game continued.

While at Stamford Bridge on Sunday for Chelsea vs. Hull City, Branislav Ivanovic’s header was under the scrutiny of the many cameras. But Alan McGregor kept his shot out as the hawk-eye system was used.

Let us know what you think of the goal-line technology. The jury’s still out for me. How often will it actually be used?

Join us every Monday as we recap the best moments from the past weekend in Premier League Playback.

Roma boosts bid for 2nd in Serie A by beating Pescara 4-1

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PESCARA, Italy (AP) Roma boosted its bid for second place in Serie A and automatic entry into the Champions League with a 4-1 win at Pescara, which was mathematically relegated on Monday.

[ MORE: Newcastle joins Brighton in promotion to Premier League ]

Roma moved four points clear of third-placed Napoli, which drew against Sassuolo 2-2 on Sunday. Third place in Serie A receives a Champions League playoff.

Pescara remained 15 points behind Empoli. There are only five matches left and Empoli has the better head-to-head record, which is the deciding factor if two teams finish level on points.

There were 48 goals in total in the 33rd round, matching the record set in October 1992.

Roma took control shortly before halftime, with Kevin Strootman breaking the deadlock after Stephan El Shaarawy unselfishly rolled the ball across the area.

Radja Nainggolan, who earlier hit the bar, doubled Roma’s lead two minutes later.

Mohamed Salah extended Roma’s advantage three minutes after the break and the winger doubled his tally on the hour following a swift counterattack.

Ahmad Benali got a consolation for Pescara and a Cristiano Biraghi free kick also hit the post for the home side.

Frank Yallop resigns as Phoenix Rising coach shortly after Drogba arrival

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The timing is a bit sudden and certainly leaves many questions up in the air, but Phoenix Rising will have to look for a new manager.

[ MORE: Chicharito talks heating up with LA FC ]

On Monday, head coach Frank Yallop resigned from his position with the United Soccer League (USL) club less than one day after former Chelsea legend Didier Drogba joined the organization as a player-owner.

With Phoenix seen as one of several lower-level clubs with ambitions of making the leap to MLS over the coming seasons, Yallop’s departure is surely a shock to many.

According to ESPN FC, Rising lead owner Berke Bakay was quite surprised by Yallop’s decision to step down, as was Drogba.

“Didier was as surprised and disappointed as we were that Frank is unable to continue coaching our Club,” Bakay told ESPN FC. “But, we all respect his decision to put his family first.

“Didier’s focus will remain on improving our team as a player and assisting our MLS expansion team ownership group as a co-owner. Frank will be helping with our international search for a new head coach.”

Rick Schantz, the current Rising assistant coach, will head the team’s managerial duties for the interim while the club completes a full search for a new manager.

Conte praises Hazard’s style, wouldn’t want him to be “more selfish”

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Antonio Conte made two bold decisions on Saturday afternoon as his Chelsea side prepared to take on Tottenham in their FA Cup semifinal.

[ MORE: Oriol Romeu shines with Saints as he prepares for Chelsea return ]

The Italian manager has been known for his innovation and risk-taking in the past, but many were critical of the 47-year-old when his team sheet came out ahead of the match.

Conte left key attacking duo Eden Hazard and Diego Costa on the bench, allowing out-of-favor striker Michy Batshuayi and Pedro to get the starting nod.

Although Hazard nor Costa saw the field for the opening hour, the former made his presence known when he was summoned by Conte in the second half.

Often times Hazard has been known as a facilitator, someone that can pick apart defenses with his tremendous foot skills and clever passing. But the Belgian international has also shown his capabilities of scoring on a regular basis as well, which has prompted great interest from other giant clubs around Europe.

When Conte was asked about Hazard and if his attacker should be more selfish, the Italian gave an emphatic “NO” as his response.

“No, no, no, absolutely not,” Conte said. “I don’t think that a player like Messi is a selfish player. The first target for every great champion is to play for the team and to put your talent into the team. If you do this, the team [increases] your talent.

“The best players in the world don’t exist without a team. For me, it’s sad to listen to this, that a player must ‘be more selfish’ to reach the top level. That’s very sad. It’s not my idea of football and I will never understand this. Never, never. In my team, I don’t want selfish players.

“I prefer to lose a game than to have a selfish player. For me, I don’t want this and I can’t accept this. I don’t want my club to buy me a selfish player one day. Never. No.”

Newcastle joins Brighton in promotion to Premier League

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Two sides have now booked their trips to England’s top flight after Newcastle United rattled off its 27th win of the season.

[ MORE: Oriol Romeu — The perfectly poised destroyer ]

The Magpies earned a decisive 4-1 victory over Preston North End on Monday afternoon at St. James’ Park as the second-place side ensured its finish inside the top two in the English Championship.

Newcastle joins already-promoted club Brighton & Hove Albion, who currently sit atop the Championship on 92 points.

Ayoze Perez paced the hosts with goals on both sides of halftime, while Christian Atsu and Matt Ritchie also converted for Newcastle.

U.S. Men’s National Team defender DeAndre Yedlin was on the bench for the Magpies but didn’t feature in Monday’s match.

The third and final team to be promoted from the Championship will be decided by the league’s annual promotion playoff, which is held at the end of the season and contested by four sides that finish third through sixth position.

As it stands, Reading, Sheffield Wednesday, Huddersfield Town and Fulham occupy the four playoff positions.