Premier League Roundup: Tottenham, Arsenal, Swansea bag wins on crazy opening day

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The Premier League is back!

Rejoice!

On the opening Saturday of the 2014-15 campaign we had it all.  Stunning goals. Red cards. Late drama. Huge upsets. Missed penalties. Comebacks. Yeah, it was a belter.

In case you missed any of the action from the seven Saturday games, we have recaps, reaction and videos below.

Get stuck in!

Arsenal 2-1 Crystal Palace

Without a manager, nobody gave Palace a chance away at Arsenal. Tony Pulis walked out on the Eagles on the eve of the season but they took a shock lead when new signing Brede Hangeland headed home from a corner in the first half. However right on half time Laurent Koscielny returned the favor for Arsenal as the central defender nodded home Alexis Sanchez’s free kick. Try as they might, Arsenal could not break down a stubborn Palace side who had Jason Puncheon sent off late in the game for two yellow cards. But right at the death Aaron Ramsey tapped in from close range to score the game-winner for the Gunners.

Leicester City 2-2 Everton

A frenetic game at the King Power Stadium as Aiden McGeady curled in a beauty to give Everton the lead, but the Foxes were level inside 90 seconds as Leandro Ulloa equalized on his debut. The game ebbed and flowed as the Toffees pushed hard to get back in front and they did so just before half time as Steven Naismith finished superbly from close range to put Everton 2-1 up. Leicester came back into the game in the second half and substitute Chris Wood equalized five minutes from time to seal a point for the Foxes.

Manchester United 1-2 Swansea City

Louis van Gaal’s debut as Manchester United boss could hardly have gone worse as the Red Devils lost at home on the opening day of the PL season for the first-time in history. Swansea City took a shock lead in the first half as Ki slotted home but newly installed captain Wayne Rooney scored an acrobatic effort to make it 1-1 just after the break. United looked as if they would grab a late winner, but it was Swansea who did just that as Gylfi Sigurdsson popped up to stun Old Trafford. Not the start LVG was hoping for.

Stoke City 0-1 Aston Villa

Both teams battled hard at the Britannia Stadium on Saturday and Aston Villa prevailed in windy conditions. Andreas Weimann got the game’s only goal in the second half as he battled through two challenges and then fired an effort across Asmir Begovic and into the far corner. Stoke huffed and puffed but Villa kept a clean sheet to seal an opening day win.

Queens Park Rangers 0-1 Hull City

QPR dominated large spells of this match but Hull stuck to their task and completed a classic ‘smash and grab’ win at Loftus Road. Faurlin, Barton and Mutch all come close for QPR in the first half but the Tigers took the lead after the break when James Chester lost his marker, Rio Ferdinand, and headed home the game-winner. In the 85th minute QPR were awarded a penalty kick as Chester was adjudged to have handballed but Charlie Austin’s spot kick was saved by Allan McGregor and Hull held on.

West Bromwich Albion 2-2 Sunderland

The visitors went ahead thanks to a howitzer from Lee Catermole. It was just his second goal in 102 games for the Black Cats. But before the break West Brom equalized as Saido Berahino scored a penalty following Victor Anichebe being hauled down by Valentin Roberge. The Baggies then went ahead as Berahino scored again and it looked like new boss Alan Irvine was set to seal a debut win. However, Sebastian Larsson popped up late on to nick a point for the Black Cats in an entertaining and even match at the Hawthorns.

West Ham 0-1 Tottenham Hotspur

Spurs were up against it from the start at Upton Park but ground out a win during Mauricio Pochettino’s first game in charge. Kyle Naughton was sent off for a rather harsh looking handball decision in the box but from the resulting penalty Mark Noble put the ball wide. In the second half West Ham’s defender James Collins was sent off and in stoppage time Eric Dier slotted him after a mazy run to hand Spurs a win on the opening day.

Transfer Rumor Roundup: Arsenal close in on Leno; Man City near Jorginho signing, and more

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Arsenal looks like it will have a new man between the pipes for next season.

According to a report from German publication SportBild, Bayer Leverkusen goalkeeper Bernd Leno will be introduced as an Arsenal player on Tuesday, after a reported $23-29 million transfer fee. The 26-year-old was on Germany’s 35-man pre-World Cup squad, but was one of the last cuts as Joachim Low went with Manuel Neuer, Marc-Andre ter Stegen and Kevin Trapp in Russia.

Leno became the full-time starter for Leverkusen as a 20-year-old, and has held the position of the No. 1 for the last six seasons, earning plenty of Bundesliga and UEFA Champions League experience along the way.

It’s unclear what will happen to current Arsenal No. 1 Petr Cech. The 36-year-old Premier League legend experienced one of his worst seasons in net for Arsenal and he could begin the season as a backup, unless he moves to a new club. He reportedly has a contract through 2019.

Here’s some more transfer rumors from around the Premier League and Europe.

(more…)

VIDEO: Mertens scores wonderstrike for Belgium

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After a frustrating 45 minutes, it took only two minutes for Belgium to finally get on the board, even if it was a goal sprinkled with magic dust.

Off a partially cleared ball on the right side of the box, Belgium attacker Dries Mertens whalloped a shot that arced over Panama (and former LA Galaxy) goalkeeper Jaime Penedo, giving Belgium a 1-0 lead.

[ LIVE: World Cup scores ]

Croatia’s Kalinic sent home from World Cup

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It’s only been five days, and we have our first World Cup dismissal.

According to a bombshell report out of Croatia, Croatia National Team head coach Zlatko Dalic has sent home striker Nikola Kalinic from the team’s camp, after the AC Milan player reportedly refused to be a substitute during Croatia’s 2-0 win over Nigeria.

[ LIVE: World Cup scores ]

[Update: The Croatia FA confirmed the decision, releasing this statement from Dalic. “During the Nigeria encounter, Kalinić was warming up and was supposed to come on in the second half. However, he then stated that he wasn’t ready to come on due to a back issue. The same thing happened during the Brazil friendly in England, as well as before the practice session on Sunday. I have calmly accepted that, and since I need my players fit and ready to play, I have made this decision.”]

The report states that Kalinic refused to come on due to an injury, but Dalic had said recently that his team had no injuries that would keep players out, potentially meaning that Kalinic used the injury claim as an excuse.

Croatia’s FA is expected to confirm the news on Monday.

After a rough season at AC Milan, with just six league goals in 31 Serie A appearances, Kalinic, at 30, is likely finished with the Vatreni. He scored three goals in World Cup qualifying but hasn’t started for Croatia since a 2-0 win over Peru in March. Kalinic did score against Spain in Croatia’s shock 2-1 win exactly two years prior to Saturday’s match.

He was deemed second choice to Mario Mandzukic as the center forward up top, but was reportedly asked to spell Mandzukic during Croatia’s match against Nigeria, and Kalinic reportedly refused.

If true, Croatia will continue with 22 players for the remainder of the tournament.

VAR, Granqvist penalty lead Sweden over South Korea

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On Day 5 of the World Cup, VAR took center stage once again.

Referee Joel Aguilar of El Salvador made the trek over to the video monitor in the 63rd minute after a no-call on a South Korea challenge in its own box, eventually reversing his decision and giving Sweden a penalty kick. Sweden captain Andreas Granqvist stepped up and sent his side in front before holding on for a 1-0 victory over South Korea on Monday morning in Nizhny Novgorod.

With the win, Sweden is joint top of Group F with Mexico on three points.

[ MORE: Latest 2018 World Cup news ] 

The key moment in the match took place in the 62nd minute, as Sweden’s Viktor Claesson got his foot on a loose ball first before South Korea’s Kim Min-woo went through Claesson to clear the ball away.

Aguilar initially waved the penalty claim away, but after about 20 seconds and a word from his assistant referees in his ear, Aguilar made the sign for VAR and ran over to take a second look. Around 20-30 seconds later, Aguilar reversed his decision, awarding the Swedes a penalty.

Granqvist, who plays his club football for FC Krasnodar in Russia, stepped up to the spot and with veteran poise, sent Cho Hyun-woo the wrong way for the 1-0 lead.

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Sweden had chances in the first half to get on the board. Marcus Berg was alone on goal in the 20th minute but Hyun-woo stuck out a leg and deflected it away. Another chance from Berg led to another save from Hyun-woo as he kept South Korea in the match.

Following Sweden’s goal, Sweden sat deep and allowed Heung-Min Son to find space on the wings, where South Korea set up numerous half-chances. But the final pass was just missing, and Sweden was able to clear the ball out of the box on numerous occasions, holding on to victory.

It’s a big win for Sweden, which will face an angry and pumped up Germany side coming off a loss in its first match. Meanwhile, South Korea looks to rebound against Mexico, with its spirits higher than the clouds.