Chelsea v Hull City - Premier League

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


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…


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


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.


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.


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.


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.


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.”


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.

Serie A: Napoli go top for first time in 25 years; Inter a close 2nd

Gonzalo Higuain, SSC Napoli
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A quick roundup of Monday’s action in Italy’s top flight…

Napoli 2-1 Inter Milan

For the first time since the final day of the 1989-90 season, Napoli are top of Serie A all by themselves after a top-of-the-table clash with previous leaders Inter Milan.

Gonzalo Higuain bagged both goals for the Azzurri, the first of which came after just 65 seconds. His tally on 62 minutes held up as the game-winner after Adem Ljajic pulled one back for Roberto Mancini’s side in the 67 minute. The opener (below video) was a powerful finish from inside the penalty area which served as a strong reminder as to why a club like Arsenal is consistently linked to the Argentine striker.

Sassuolo 1-1 Fiorentina

Fiorentina, who had a chance to stake their own claim to the top spot, dropped two points away to seventh-place Sassuolo earlier in the day, opening the door for Napoli to go top with their victory. After shooting out of the gates red hot (6 wins in their first 7 games), the Viola have now drawn back to back games — to Empoli and Sassuolo — and find themselves third, two points behind Napoli.

Borja Valero put Fiorentina ahead after five minutes on Monday, but Sassuolo equalized through Sergio Floccari just before halftime to keep their own dreams of European qualification alive.

Serie A table

Matchup by matchup: Picking a favorite for MLS Cup 2015

Portland Timbers FC
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We’re T-minus 137 hours to the kickoff of MLS Cup 2015, between Columbus Crew SC and the Portland Timbers.

[ FOLLOW: All of PST’s MLS coverage ]

When the two sides meet at MAPFRE Stadium on Sunday (4 p.m. ET), the general public will have picked a slight favorite to hoist MLS Cup, just like any other game. Only, this one’s a bit tougher to call — there’s no clear-cut favorite as is usually the case in MLS Cup, so we’ll do our best to explore a few key matchups that might slant Sunday’s title tilt in one direction or the other…

Crew SC width (Waylon Francis, Harrison Afful, Justin Meram, Ethan Finlay) vs. Timbers width (Jorge Villafana, Alvas Powell, Rodney Wallace, Dairon Asprilla)

  • Pinning the wingers back — There’s two ways to beat Crew SC: 1) sit with eight or nine men behind the ball and frustrate them through a lack of space to attack; or, 2) pin Finlay and Meram deep inside their own half, defensively, by getting your full backs forward and forcing them to defend. It’s doable, but it’s not easy. On the other side, best of luck to Wallace and Asprilla with the tracking back they’ll be forced into with perhaps the best attacking right back in MLS, Afful, and Francis overlapping on either side. Fanendo Adi could find himself on an island very quickly if the Crew SC full backs get forward as often as they’d like.
  • Where the help comes from — That’s the biggest issue for Portland, who ever since dropping Darlington Nagbe into midfield, play with a lone defensive midfielder, Diego Chara. He’s great at covering the entire field and providing help to blow up an opposing attack, but he can only be on one side of the field at a time. This means Borchers and Ridgewell will be stretched wider and forced to defend Finlay and Meram in space, where they’re oh so deadly.
  • Advantage: Crew SC

[ MORE: Crew SC announce MLS Cup sold out 15 hours after qualifying ]

Kei Kamara vs. Nat Borchers and Liam Ridgewell

  • All it takes is one chance — Neither one of Borchers or Ridgewell can physically compete with Kamara’s rare combination of speed and athleticism — to be fair, few center backs this side of the world can. Therefore, 90 percent of “defending” Kamara will be staying tight to the 22-goalscorer during the regular season and, with any luck, not losing track of him once the ball gets out to the wings. Once Kamara gets that yard of space in any direction and the ball goes up on the cross, the center backs’ chances of winning the next ball are much, much lower. That said, Kamara will find far less space against Borchers and Ridgewell (and Diego Chara) than he enjoyed against Montreal and New York thus far in the playoffs. There’s very few center back duos with the experience and nous of the Timbers’ backbone.
  • Advantage: Timbers

[ MORE: Beckham group abandons yet another stadium plan, site in Miami ]

Timbers midfield three (Diego Chara, Darlington Nagbe, Diego Valeri) vs. Crew SC midfield three (Tony Tchani, Wil Trapp, Federico Higuain)

  • Nagbe the key to balance — Darlington Nagbe will, one day, be an MLS Best XI central midfielder. Today is not that day, though. He’s still a work in progress, and probably the most exploitable individual on the field in Crew SC’s eyes. Tchani and Trapp are, in my opinion, the best deep-sitting midfield duo in the league, and they’ll press, harry and harass Nagbe for 90 (0r 120) minutes, probably starting a fair few of those deadly counter-attacks in the middle third of the field.
  • Advantage: Crew SC

[ MORE: Timbers reach first MLS Cup | Crew SC to host MLS Cup 2015 ]

Gregg Berhalter vs. Caleb Porter

  • Lineups set themselves — Neither coach is likely to throw out a huge surprise before kickoff — dance with one that brought you, or something like that. Up until recently, I was completely convinced that Porter was vastly overrated and didn’t understand the constant adoration that surrounded the man his first two or three years in charge. Everything was a bit stale and rigid, organized, but lacking flair. Then he moved Nagbe into midfield to allow his biggest game-changer more opportunities on the ball to affect the game much more. This leads me to believe Porter is a bit more flexible in seeing his team and system operate in slightly different ways, but only barely.
  • Advantage: Timbers

Crew SC announce MLS Cup 2015 sold out 15 hours after qualifying

Wil Trapp, Columbus Crew SC
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The building formerly known as Crew Stadium has hosted its fair share of famous soccer games since it opened in 1999 — dos a cero, anyone? — and Sunday’s MLS Cup 2015 looks set to rank right up there among them.

[ FOLLOW: All of PST’s MLS coverage ]

Roughly 15 hours after advancing to this year’s MLS Cup, which they will host this Sunday (4 p.m. ET), Columbus Crew SC announced on Monday that MAPFRE Stadium is officially sold out.

Crew SC president of business operations Andy Loughnane addressed the fanbase in a blog post on the club’s official site Monday afternoon and said, “As of late this morning we are sold out of the extra capacity seating that was created for MLS Cup at MAPFRE Stadium. While there is a small chance that additional seats could be released for purchase as a result of MLS holds being returned, we are sold out of all known available seats.”

[ MORE: Beckham group abandons yet another stadium plan, site in Miami ]

Crew SC, making their second MLS Cup appearance in club history (2008 champions), will host first-time MLS Cup contestants, the Portland Timbers, on Sunday.

PL clubs combined to pay out $200 million in agent fees in 2015

Liverpool Unveil New Signing Christian Benteke
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What a time to be an agent in the footballing world, eh? The rich just keep getting richer and richer and richer.

[ FOLLOW: All of PST’s PL coverage ]

The steady increase in transfer fees being paid for players — bad, good, great and amazing alike — has made quite a few “selling” clubs rich reach over the last decade or two, to be sure, but it’s also made another group of people obscenely rich: player agents.

As the soccer world has gone crazy with its “now, now, now” approach — managers must win now, or they’re fired; new signings must become stars now, or they’ll be sold; etc. — agents are the ones making out like bandits — no losses to be sustained on players who turn out to be flops; no future loss of wages due to taking “too long” to settle in and being labeled a flop — at the expense of clubs and, most cruelly, the players.

More than $195 million was paid out agents by Premier League clubs across the January and summer transfer windows, with Liverpool — ever the club in constant change — paying out $21.5 million in agents fees to remain top of the table for a second straight year. Manchester United, Manchester City, Chelsea and Arsenal were the four other clubs to top $15 million.

[ MORE: Premier League Payback — The Diego Costa era over at Chelsea? ]

Agents not only receive a fee when players change clubs through transfers, but can only be compensated again and again when one of their clients signs a new contract with their current club.

For instance, Wayne Rooney has signed at least four new contracts since joining Manchester United in 2004, the latest of which came barely three years after he was given a new five-year deal in Oct. 2010 upon handing in a transfer request in an attempt to force a move to Manchester City. Rooney’s current weekly wage is reported to be in the neighborhood of $450,000. His agent, Paul Stretford, will have received a sizable payday upon negotiating the deal in Feb. 2014.

At the end of the day, sports are little more than a business, and it’s the ones who play the game — the political game, that is — the best, and most ruthlessly, who are making out like bandits.