What have we learned from PL opening weekend?

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With seven Premier League games now done and dusted on the opening weekend of the 2018-19 season and three games coming our way on Sunday, there’s plenty to digest and look forward to.

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Following Manchester United’s nervy victory over Leicester City on Friday we learned plenty about the Red Devils. But what did we learn on Saturday as three new boys arrived and the likes of Chelsea and Tottenham kicked off their campaigns?

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Here’s a look at what stood out from the opening weekend, so far.


1. Pogba is a superstar and needs to stay at Man United
He wore the captains armband. He scored a penalty kick (after usurping Alexis Sanchez to take it) and he was deemed a “monster” from his manager Jose Mourinho. Pogba was just that against Leicester as he drove on from central midfield time and time again to show his true class and give United’s fans a glimmer of hope that he’s now found the right midfield partner in Fred and Mourinho has figured out how to get the best from him.

That said, Pogba’s comments after the game suggest he still isn’t happy at United.

“Of course it makes me proud, it makes me happy to wear this (armband) at a big club like Manchester United,” Pogba said. “Like I always say, I always give my best for the fans, for my team-mates, for the people that trust me.”

Following Mourinho’s constant critiques since he arrived in 2016 and now amid rumblings of Barcelona wanting to sign him, the World Cup winner didn’t exactly seem ecstatic after his Man of the Match display. Keeping Pogba is essential to United doing well this season as the penny seems to have dropped for the powerful midfielder and his success with France this summer seems to have returned the swagger to his game.


2. Tottenham grind out win; Kane’s drought continues
With Harry Kane, Dele Alli, Eric Dier, Jan Vertonghen and Hugo Lloris only returning back to Tottenham earlier this week, it was always going to be a disjoined display from Spurs at Newcastle. Mauricio Pochettino‘s side battled to victory on the road. Vertonghen and Alli headed home in the first half but it was a shaky display overall from Spurs as Newcastle went close on several occasions and Salomon Rondon hit the crossbar on his Magpies debut. On top of this, Harry Kane continued his weird record of not scoring a PL goal in the month of August, as it’s now 14 games all-time without scoring in August. Still, the last few times he hasn’t scored in August it worked out pretty well… 


3. Roberto Pereyra had himself a day


Watford may be quite an unfashionable team to watch at times, but Roberto Pereyra wasn’t on Saturday. The Argentine attacker scored two beauties for the Hornets as they easily beat Brighton. On the hotseat after a shaky end to last season, despite keeping Watford up after arriving in January, Javi Gracia badly needs a good start to the season. Pereyra’s beauties gave him the perfect opening weekend. 


4. Chelsea unspectacular but sturdy under Sarri
Maurizio Sarri’s Chelsea got off to a winning start to the season as they beat Huddersfield and first half goals from N'Golo Kante and Jorginho set them on their way. Don’t be fooled by the scoreline as Huddersfield played well and Steve Mounie hit the bar in the first half and had some decent chances in the second half. Chelsea weren’t fluid but they looked more solid than they did against Manchester City in the Community Shield and Sarri will be pleased with the character of his squad. Bringing on Eden Hazard shows the quality they have to come as he set up Pedro for a fine third goal. They will take time to gel together but there are signs Chelsea can click under Sarri. Huddersfield isn’t an easy place to go to on opening day under a new manager who has had little time to work with his new squad. 


5. Perfect away day for Palace; Wolves the real deal 

Crystal Palace put in a fantastic away display at new boys Fulham as Palace let Fulham have the ball and two rapid counters taught the Cottagers a lesson with Schlupp and Zaha finishing off incisive counters. Textbook Roy Hodgson, and Palace. Everton’s two-goal hero Richarlison scored in each half to cap a superb debut as the Toffees dug deep after going down to 10 men in the first half and nicked a point at new boys Wolves.

Phil Jagielka‘s red card changed the game and it was debatable as he got plenty on the ball but did catch Jota and saw red for being the last man. Ruben Neves’ subsequent free kick was an absolute beauty and the atmosphere at Molineux was bouncing as the newly-promoted team proved they belong in the top-flight. For Wolves, well, they were the real deal against Everton. They fell behind to an early Richarlison goal and dragged themselves back into the game with Neves sublime on the ball. Richarlison scored a lovely second for Everton against the run of play, but Mexico’s Raul Jimenez nodded home a late equalizer to grab a point for the home side. From the stadium (it was their biggest crowd in 37 years)  to their squad and manager, everything about Wolves is Premier League. Their first PL game in seven years didn’t end in victory but it proved that Wolves will have plenty of good times this season.

Bulgaria goalkeeper, coach on racist abuse: “England overreacted”

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Bulgaria’s goalkeeper Plamen Iliev believes their fans ‘behaved well’ in Sofia on Monday, despite the game being halted twice in the first half due to racist chants from the home fans.

UEFA’s anti-racism protocol was put into place as the racist abuse was reported to officials who then stopped the game and an announcement was made over the stadium speakers threatening to abandon the game.

Bulgaria’s prime minister has condemned the incidents of racism and called for the Bulgarian FA president, Borislav Mihaylov, to resign with immediate effect.

Speaking to reporters after the game, Iliev praised Bulgaria’s fans and said that England’s complaints were an overreaction.

“If I am honest, I believe they [the fans] behaved well today,” Iliev said. “There wasn’t any abuse [as far as I could hear] and I think they [the England players] overreacted a bit. The public was on a good level – I didn’t hear any bad language used towards their or our players.”

Despite England’s players, fans and staff all hearing the abuse, plus television microphones picking up monkey chants during the game, the fact Iliev has uttered these words is truly shocking.

His manager echoed the same views, while saying that the reason Bulgaria’s captain Ivelin Popov went over to speak to home fans at half time was probably because they weren’t playing well…

During a press conference with both managers after the game, local journalists shouted “exaggeration” when questions about the racist abuse were asked.

Bulgaria’s manager, Krasimir Balakov, said he heard nothing and he was shown having a heated exchange with Jordan Henderson on the pitch during the second stoppage as he’d shown signs of frustration that the game was paused.

“I personally did not hear the chanting,” Balakov said. “I saw the referee stopped the game but I also have to say the behavior was also not only on behalf of the Bulgarian fans but also the English fans, who were whistling and shouting during the Bulgarian national anthem. During the second half they used words against our fans which I find unacceptable.”

With UEFA launching a full investigation into the chants and England making a formal complaint, Bulgaria can expect a hefty punishment for their latest incident of racist abuse of opposition players. A section of the stadium in Sofia was shut on Monday due to racist abuse of players from both Kosovo and the Czech Republic during EURO 2020 qualifying.

We can only hope that Iliev and Balakov apologize for these comments in the coming days and weeks ahead.

Golden Boy shortlist revealed

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The top 20 players under the age of 21 in European soccer have been announced, as the famous Golden Boy award nominees for 2019 will raise a few eyebrows.

An award dished out by Italian outlet Tuttosport, previous stars to be named Golden Boy include Raheem Sterling, Kylian Mbappe, Lionel Messi, Wayne Rooney and Paul Pogba, as Matthijs de Ligt was the winner in 2018 and is nominated once again.

Nominees must be under the age of 21 and play in one of Europe’s top-flight leagues.

Four of the 20 finalists play in the Premier League with Mason Mount, Phil Foden, Matteo Guendouzi and Moise Kean all named on the shortlist.

Alongside de Ligt, the likes of Joao Felix, Jadon Sancho and Kai Havertz are all expected to be among the favorites for the award. Felix’s rise to stardom at Benfica and Atletico Madrid will likely see him win this award.

Canada’s Alphonso Davies is a finalist as the former Vancouver Whitecaps star continues to develop at Bayern Munich.

Below is the full list of nominees for 2019, with the winner announced on December 16 as media outlets across Europe vote for the winner.


Alphonso Davies (Bayern Munich)
Matthijs de Light (Juventus)
Gianluigi Donnarumma (AC Milan)
Ansu Fati (Barcelona)
Phil Foden (Manchester City)
Matteo Guendouzi (Arsenal)
Erling Braut Haland (RB Salzburg)
Kai Havertz (Bayer Leverkusen)
Joao Felix (Atletico Madrid)
Dejan Joveljic (Eintracht Frankfurt)
Moise Kean (Everton)
Kang-in Lee (Valencia)
Andriy Oleksiyovych Lunin (Real Valladolid)
Donyell Malen (PSV)
Mason Mount (Chelsea)
Rodrygo (Real Madrid)
Jadon Sancho (BVB)
Ferran Torres (Valencia)
Vinicius Jr (Real Madrid)
Nicolo Zaniolo (AS Roma)

UEFA wants to “wage war on racists”

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UEFA president Aleksander Ceferin has reacted strongly to the racist abuse of England’s players in Bulgaria on Monday.

[ MORE: England’s players react ]

During the EURO 2020 qualifier monkey chants were heard from sections of the home crowds at Sofia’s Vasil Levski stadium, while Nazi salutes were also made and the officials stopped the game twice in the first half and then followed step one of UEFA’s anti-racism protocol as a message was broadcast over the speakers that the game was in danger of being abandoned.

A section of home supporters were seen leaving their seats just before half time, covering their faces with hoods and some had shirts which said “UEFA No Respect” written on them.

UEFA will investigate the incidents in Sofia after England made a formal complaint, and this comes after section of the stadium in Sofia was shut on Monday due to the racist abuse of players from both Kosovo and the Czech Republic during previous EURO 2020 qualifiers.

Ceferin called on governments and other organizations to work with them to “wage war” on racists as incidents continue to crop up across Europe.

“There were times, not long ago, when the football family thought that the scourge of racism was a distant memory. The last couple of years have taught us that such thinking was, at best, complacent. The rise of nationalism across the continent has fuelled some unacceptable behaviour and some have taken it upon themselves to think that a football crowd is the right place to give voice to their appalling views.

“As a governing body, I know we are not going to win any popularity contests. But some of the views expressed about UEFA’s approach to fighting racism have been a long way off the mark. UEFA, in close cooperation with the FARE network (Football Against Racism Europe), instituted the three-stage protocol for identifying and tackling racist behaviour during games.

“UEFA’s sanctions are among the toughest in sport for clubs and associations whose supporters are racist at our matches. The minimum sanction is a partial closure of the stadium – a move which costs the hosts at least hundreds of thousands in lost revenue and attaches a stigma to their supporters.

“UEFA is the only football body to ban a player for ten matches for racist behaviour – the most severe punishment level in the game. Believe me, UEFA is committed to doing everything it can to eliminate this disease from football. We cannot afford to be content with this; we must always strive to strengthen our resolve.

“More broadly, the football family – everyone from administrators to players, coaches and fans – needs to work with governments and NGOs to wage war on the racists and to marginalise their abhorrent views to the fringes of society. Football associations themselves cannot solve this problem. Governments too need to do more in this area. Only by working together in the name of decency and honour will we make progress.”

Turkish players defy UEFA with another military salute

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PARIS (AP) Turkish players defied UEFA with another military salute in Turkey’s 1-1 draw with France in their European Championship qualifier on Monday.

UEFA was already looking into Turkish players’ salutes from during and after Friday’s 1-0 win over Albania. The European soccer federation prohibits political statements in stadiums.

But Turkish players lined up again to show a military salute after Kaan Ayhan’s late equalizer in Paris. Captain Burak Yilmaz was joined by goalkeeper Mert Gunok and several other outfield players in giving the salute toward the crowd – in apparent support of the Turkish forces involved in the country’s invasion of Kurdish-held regions in northern Syria.

Defender Merih Demiral urged Ayhan to salute, too, leading to what looked like a heated discussion between the two, but the goal-scorer desisted and made his way back to the pitch.

Ayhan and Turkey striker Kenan Karaman both play for German side Fortuna Dusseldorf, which had issued a statement after Friday’s game to distance itself from “politically motivated acts.”

“Both players stand for values that the club lives by,” Dusseldorf sporting director Lutz Pfannenstiel said.

More AP soccer: https://apnews.com/apf-Soccer and https://twitter.com/AP-Sports