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Premier League Opening Day Wrap: Liverpool Shocked, Arsenal Held, Goals Galore

Neri SteinFeatured ColumnistAugust 18, 2012

Premier League Opening Day Wrap: Liverpool Shocked, Arsenal Held, Goals Galore

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    The 2012-2013 Premier League season kicked off with quite a bang on Saturday, with seven games on the docket—and only one of which ended in a goalless draw. 

    Nineteen goals were scored among 14 teams, two red cards were given out, five penalties were awarded and there were plenty of surprises among the results. 

    Brendan Rodgers and Andre Villas-Boas had debuts to forget, Fulham sent a message to their star man, West Ham returned to the top flight with style and Arsenal stuttered in their first match without Robin van Persie.

    Here's what happened on Matchday 1 in England...

Arsenal Need Time to Adjust

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    Arsene Wenger had three new signings to promote to help ease the pain of losing Robin van Persie just a few days ago—but unfortunately for the Gunners, they didn't do a great job of it. 

    German international Lukas Podolski struggled to keep up for much of the game, but Spaniard Santi Cazorla fared much better. The pacey winger created several chances and caused plenty of problems for Sunderland's defense, but he couldn't do enough. 

    Frenchman Olivier Giroud replaced Podolski and he missed a chance or two of his own late on, but in the end it just wasn't the Gunners' day. 

    For all their dominance, Arsenal failed to really trouble Simon Mignolet in goal and it was a deserved 0-0 draw—the first of hopefully not many this season. 

Dempsey Who?

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    Clint Dempsey has refused to play for Fulham in hopes of forcing a transfer somewhere, but probably won't have liked what he saw on Saturday. 

    The Cottagers were rampant in their opening day victory over Norwich City, winning 5-0.

    New signing Mladen Petric notched two goals either side of the break and had it not been for some great goalkeeping from John Ruddy, it would've been even worse for his side under new manager Chris Hughton. 

    Norwich aren't the strongest side in the Premier League, but Fulham were dominant, attacking right from the get go. 

    Dempsey might be feeling a little foolish right about now. 

QPR Haven't Changed Much

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    Last year on opening day, Queens Park Rangers lost 4-0 to Bolton. This year, they went one worse.

    QPR were demolished 5-0 by Swansea, at home, leaving Mark Hughes with quite a bit of work to do. 

    In their first match under Michael Laudrup, the Swans came out with a real purpose and didn't let up from the first whistle. 

    Summer signing Michu opened the scoring for the entire season on the eighth minute with a powerful low shot, and we all know Rob Green has trouble with those!

    The Welsh side kept the foot on the gas for the second half and ran away with a deserved victory. 

    Meanwhile, QPR fans will be bitterly disappointed in their team's start after all the players Hughes brought in over the summer. 

Kevin Nolan and Controversy Return

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    Kevin Nolan is back in the Premier League, this time with West Ham, and he stuck out on Saturday. Nolan scored the only goal of the game in the 40th minute, but it came with quite a bit of controversy.

    Nolan poked the ball home from a cross by Ricardo Vaz Te, but Simon Long initially flagged the Hammers for offsides. There were protests, some discussion, but eventually Mike Dean awarded the goal. 

    The sides were pretty even up until then, and after the goal, neither produced many chances—though the Hammers had the best of them.

    Most importantly, West Ham are still hoping to be awarded the Olympic stadium, and the team and their fans put on quite a show Saturday.

Oh Liverpool

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    The only thing that could console Liverpool fans after their side's opening day performance is that it is just one game. 

    The Reds were too much like the Reds of late at West Brom on Saturday; and Brendan Rodgers' side paid for it in a big way. 

    Liverpool controlled the game in the first half without creating many chances and then, with West Brom's first real chance, Zoltan Gera unleashed a wicked shot into the left corner of the goal—the Baggies never looked back. 

    Shane Long was the real hero for Steve Clarke however. The Irishman caused problems for Daniel Agger and Martin Skrtel all day and he won a penalty off each in the second half.

    Agger was sent off for preventing a goal-scoring opportunity just before the hour mark, and even though Long missed the penalty, the result was set. 

    Luis Suarez had bright moments, but too often, he was on his own for the Reds. 

    Clint Dempsey might be rethinking a few things at the moment.

Newcastle Back in the Mix

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    Tottenham had a similar performance to Liverpool's Saturday on their visit to Newcastle, but they can look back on it with a little more to smile about. 

    Spurs dominated a scoreless first half, twice hitting the woodwork, but both teams came out with a point to prove after the whistle. Demba Ba ended his very long goal drought in the 55th minute thanks to some poor defending by Tottenham. 

    However, Spurs didn't give up and Jermaine Defoe poked the ball into the back of the net in then 76th minute. And 1-1 draw probably would've been a fair result. 

    With Alan Pardew being sent to the stands after shoving the assistant referee just before the equalizer, you wondered how the Magpies would react. 

    It wasn't really about them though as a clumsy challenge from Rafael van der Vaart gave Newcastle a penalty which Hatem Ben Arfa duly slotted home for the win. 

    After a poor finish to last season, Newcastle has a lot to spur them on this year. 

Same Old Stoke

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    Reading and Stoke City played out a 1-1 draw that thankfully, ended with much more excitement than it started with. 

    Stoke's typical physical tactics were on display in the first half and new boys Reading struggled to deal with them.

    Stoke's opening goal was just as sloppy as their play. Reading failed to properly clear the ball and it fell to Michael Knightly, who was for some reason not closed down.

    Even so, his tame and deflected shot should've been stopped, but it went straight through keeper Adam Federici's hands. Not exactly how you want to start life back in the top flight. 

    The Royals got what they deserved eventually though. Dean Whitehead was sent off for Stoke and substitute Garath McClearly made all the difference for Reading.

    Adam Le Fondre slotted home a penalty in stoppage time to earn his side a deserved draw and save his goalkeeper and manager some blushes.  

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