Sun | Dec 5, 2021

Goal feast for fans as Man U, Chelsea, Liverpool win

Published:Sunday | August 15, 2021 | 12:11 AM

Manchester United’s Bruno Fernandes (centre) scores a goal during the English Premier League soccer match against Leeds United at Old Trafford Stadium, Manchester, England, yesterday. Fernandes scored a hat-trick in United’s 5-1 victory.
Manchester United’s Bruno Fernandes (centre) scores a goal during the English Premier League soccer match against Leeds United at Old Trafford Stadium, Manchester, England, yesterday. Fernandes scored a hat-trick in United’s 5-1 victory.

LONDON (AP):

The return of near-capacity crowds fuelled a barrage of goals and a bunch of home wins on the first Saturday of the English Premier League season.

Fans at Old Trafford particularly enjoyed themselves.

More than 72,000 spectators – Britain’s biggest soccer crowd since the pandemic – saw Bruno Fernandes’ hat- trick and Paul Pogba’s four assists sweep Manchester United to a 5-1 thrashing of fierce rival Leeds, a statement of intent from a team whose last of its record 20 top-flight titles came in 2013.

It was the highest-scoring encounter on a day featuring 25 goals across seven matches, at an average of 3.57 – much higher than a typical season’s average. The presence of fans may also have contributed to there being five home wins, an immediate swing from last season when there were more away wins (40 per cent compared to 38 per cent for home teams).

Chelsea, the European champions and a big title contenders like United, flexed their early-season muscles by overwhelming Crystal Palace in a 3-0 win that could have been heavier in front of nearly 39,000 fans.

Liverpool were the other expected title challengers to begin their league campaign and Mohamed Salah set up two goals before scoring himself – the fifth straight season he has netted in the opening round – in a 3-0 win at promoted Norwich.

There were also wins for promoted team Watford and Everton, who beat Aston Villa 3-2 and Southampton 3-1, respectively, and Leicester, which defeated Wolverhampton 1-0, thanks to a goal by 34-year-old striker Jamie Vardy.

Aside from Liverpool, the only away winners were Brighton, who came from behind to beat Burnley 2-1 at Turf Moor.

The British government lifted social-distancing measures on July 19, paving the way for clubs to allow fans back in force after they were shut down for almost the entirety of last season and the end of the 2019-20 season. Capacities are not quite at their maximum, though, because certain areas of stadiums have limited access around players and officials.

Manchester City, the reigning champions, begin the defence of their title at Tottenham today.

CHELSEA CRUISE

Chelsea are looking to follow up winning the Champions League title with capturing another Premier League trophy and the team did not need new signing Romelu Lukaku to overpower Palace.

Defenders Marcos Alonso and Trevoh Chalobah – with his first goal for Chelsea, on his Premier League debut – scored either side of a close-range strike by United States forward Christian Pulisic in a dominant display by Thomas Tuchel’s team.

The victory came three days after Chelsea won the UEFA Super Cup by beating Villarreal in a penalty shoot-out.

It was a sobering result for Palace’s newly hired manager, former Arsenal midfielder Patrick Vieira, who was taking charge of a competitive game for the first time in English football.