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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.

Napoli fans wear Koulibaly masks to support defender after racial abuse

NAPLES, ITALY - FEBRUARY 07:  Fans of Napoli  during the Serie A match between SSC Napoli and Carpi FC at Stadio San Paolo on February 7, 2016 in Naples, Italy.  (Photo by Maurizio Lagana/Getty Images)
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Napoli fans showed their support for Kalidou Koulibaly on Sunday after the Senegalese center-back was the subject of racial abuse in a match against Lazio last week.

[ MORE: La Liga & Serie A roundup ]

The Lazio match was temporarily stopped in the second half as Lazio supporters hurled racial insults at Koulibaly.

At Napoli’s match against Carpi on Sunday, fans wore Koulibaly masks and painted signs in his honor to show their support for the 24-year-old defender.

A statement from Napoli’s supporters’ group read: “Everyone in Naples is offended by what happened to our young star. Because of this, we want to show our full support to Koulibaly.”

[ VIDEO: Van Gaal rips journalist who questions his Manchester United future ]

Lazio was fined more than $50,000 and will be forced to close certain sections of their stadium for the next two league matches because of the incident.

Afobe says he scored 15 goals a game with Harry Kane at the Arsenal academy

during the Barclays Premier League match between Crystal Palace and A.F.C. Bournemouth at Selhurst Park on February 2, 2016 in London, England.
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Benik Afobe and Harry Kane are Premier League foes, but as kids, they were teammates.

Now Afobe is at Bournemouth and Kane at Tottenham, though both strikers played together with the Arsenal U-9 team as children.

[ RECAP: Bournemouth 0-2 Arsenal ]

While Kane left Arsenal at 10 and eventually settled at crosstown rivals Tottenham, Afobe stayed under contract with the club until 2015 despite never making an appearance for the Gunners.

Afobe went on six loan spells before moving to Wolverhampton last season, then joining Bournemouth in January.

[ VIDEO: Premier League highlights ]

With three goals in his first five Premier League matches for the Cherries, Afobe is no stranger to scoring, as he said he would combine with Harry Kane for 15 goals a game back in the day.

I’ve got pictures of us from Arsenal.

He was so small at the time, a bit of a late developer, but he’s always loved scoring. The scores used to be 17-15 and stuff – we just knew we’d score in every game.

But it’s weird because he used to play in goal sometimes, and wasn’t bad actually. You wouldn’t think it – remember that goal he let in for Tottenham a couple of years ago (against Asteras Tripolis in the Europa League) when he had to play in goal.

I think Mauricio Pochettino and Spurs’ supporters are happy Harry Kane chose to play striker over goalkeeper…

[ MORE: Deficiencies visible on both sides as Chelsea draw Manchester United ]

Kane has proven that he is an elite goalscorer in the Premier League, and Afobe is off to a fine start himself. With both players just 22-years-old, we’ll likely be seeing many more goals to come from the duo.

Gary Neville under pressure as Valencia without a win in nine

EIBAR, SPAIN - DECEMBER 13:  Head coach Gary Neville of Valencia CF reacts during the La Liga match between SD Eibar and Valencia CF at Ipurua Municipal Stadium on December 13, 2015 in Eibar, Spain.  (Photo by Juan Manuel Serrano Arce/Getty Images)
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Gary Neville was appointed manager at Valencia on December 2. He is still yet to win a La Liga match.

After falling 1-0 to Real Betis on Sunday, Neville is now winless in nine league matches at Valencia as pressure grows on the new boss.

[ MORE: La Liga & Serie A roundup ]

Some have called for Neville to step down from his position, as the club has fallen from 8th to 13th and now sit just four points clear of the drop.

However, the former Manchester United legend has said he has been judged too quickly and will work hard to turn things around.

I said before I came that I would be judged in five months. I have been judged in six weeks.

There’s no doubt that at times like this everyone needs to stay together.

Everyone suffers. It’s just not going for us at the moment. I continue to work, I continue to have belief.

Conversations with the owners are between me and the owners. We have to turn it round quickly, I understand that. It is hard to explain the defeat. It will turn.

Not only has Neville struggled in La Liga play, but he has also seen Valencia bounced from the Champions League and saw his side smashed 7-0 by Barcelona in the Copa del Rey semifinal.

[ MORE: Player ratings from Chelsea’s 1-1 draw with Manchester United ]

Valencia’s next league match is on Saturday against Espanyol, who sit three points below Valencia and haven’t won a match since December. If Neville fails to win again, there could be some real trouble at the Mestalla.

PSG down Marseille 2-1 for ninth-straight Le Classique win

HARRISON, NJ - JULY 21:  Zlatan Ibrahimovic #10 of Paris Saint-Germain is congratulated by teamamte Maxwell #17 after Ibrahimovic scored a goal in the second half against AFC Fiorentina during the International Champions Cup at Red Bull Arena on July 21, 2015 in Harrison, New Jersey.Paris Saint-Germain defeated ACF Fiorentina 4-2.  (Photo by Elsa/Getty Images)
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France’s biggest rivalry has been quite one-sided, as Paris Saint-Germain defeated Marseille 2-1 on Sunday to take their ninth-straight Le Classique.

Marseille’s last win over PSG in Ligue 1 play was in November of 2011.

[ MORE: Juve win 14th straight ]

PSG got off to a dream start in Sunday’s Classique as Zlatan Ibrahimovic scored in the opening two minutes to give the Le Parisiens an early lead. It was Zlatan’s league-leading 21st goal of the season.

On loan from Newcastle, Remy Cabella equalized for Marseille in the 25th minute. Cabella scored on a brilliant individual effort, taking the ball from his own half on a solo run to the PSG box before firing a low shot into the bottom corner.

[ RELATED: Lewandowski’s agent confirms contract talks with Bayern Munich ]

However, PSG pushed on and claimed the win thanks to a 71st minute goal from Angel di Maria, who has been impressing in his first season in Paris. With eight goals and ten assists in Ligue 1 play, only Zlatan has been involved in more goals than di Maria.

Through 25 matches, PSG hold a ridiculous 24-point lead at the top of the Ligue 1 table.