Cristiano Ronaldo headed the winning goal nine minutes from the end to help Manchester United come from two down to beat Atalanta 3-2 in the Champions League at Old Trafford.
The international break is over and normal service can be resumed in the Premier League. This weekend saw some wonderful debuts, a number of records being set and a sad injury. Lots to talk about so let’s get stuck in…
Romelu Lukaku becomes Stamford Bridge weapon
The Belgian striker has broken his Stamford Bridge duck and shown that he’s a very different, and much improved, player to the Chelsea version of old.
His goals in the 15th and 93rd minutes against Aston Villa this weekend were his first at Stamford Bridge in 14 appearances during his career and in scoring them he has become the highest scoring Chelsea player at their home ground in the Premier League since Thomas Tuchel took over.
Lukaku debuted for Chelsea back in 2011 but never really became a first team regular. ten years on he is a very different player. The striker commented earlier in the season that he’d learned a lot under Antonio Conte at Inter Milan especially about the importance of being able to receive the ball and hold up play while teammate s surge forward.
Chelsea hero Andy Townsend said on Optus Sport “Lukaku looks like… you provide me with the ammunition, and I will produce. He looks like he has that sort of confidence about him now.”
It wasn’t all good news though for Tuchel as his new loan signing from Atletico Madrid, Saul Niguez, had a poor game in midfield and was brought off at halftime. The coach didn’t duck the tough question when asked about the midfielder’s performance saying “I had the feeling he struggled. He had some big mistakes, passing mistakes and errors.”
Things are surprisingly stable at Man City
Man Utd might be grabbing the headlines with the return of Cristiano Ronaldo and the Red Devils taking top spot in the Premier League, but that hasn’t caused any panic across Manchester at City – in fact things seem very calm.
Pep Guardiola set a new record for his time at the club by starting the same XI for the third consecutive Premier League game. That might sound like an odd stat but it’s been a feature of Guardiola’s time at Man City that he keeps rotating, tinkering and adjusting his line-up – partly out of a desire to find the perfect line-up, partly to protect his players and partly because he has a stable jam packed with talent that he needs to share the minutes around to keep big names happy.
After their opening day loss, City have put together three wins in a row in the past three matches – all with that same starting XI.
It’s also been exciting to see Bernardo Silva perform so well under the pressure of Jack Grealish joining the club. Many thought that the Portuguese attacker would struggle to get game time when City set a new UK transfer record and brought Grealish into a set up that already included the likes of Raheem Sterling, Phil Foden, Kevin De Bruyne, Riyad Mahrez and Ferran Torres.
But Silva has been playing well and scored the only goal against Leicester City this weekend to add another three points to City’s campaign.
Odsonne Édouard’s debut double
In a weekend of impressive debuts, Odsonne Édouard might take the title for best Premier League debut as he scored twice to give Crystal Palace the points against a disjointed and disappointing Tottenham.
Patrick Viera has only been in charge for six games and got his first win of the season thanks to Wilfried Zaha and Édouard. The $26 million striker scored within 30 seconds of coming onto the pitch and then topped off his debut with another just before the final whistle.
Spurs fans might try and point to the red card their man Tanganga received but the reality is that the North London side were out of form all game long. They didn’t manage a single shot at goal in the first half and their midfield struggled throughout to create any sort of rhythm or go forward. Overall match stats of just 37per cent possession, one shot on goal and two corners shows how weak the Spurs attack was all afternoon.
It’s not time to panic at all for Nuno Espírito Santo but he will want to make sure his team bounce back straight away after such a weak performance.
For Viera, the former Arsenal legend who has never lost to Spurs as player or manager, will want just more of the same. Palace played with pace and enthusiasm and showed that they have some serious goal scoring weapons now in their ranks. Their support was incredible as ever, and included taunting the Spurs fans with the song: “Patrick Vieira, he’s won more than you.”
Ronaldo same, same but different
Of course he was going to score on his debut. But it was the style of his performance that has made many sit up and think that this 2021 version of Ronaldo is importantly different and could be a crucial part of Man Utd’s attack on the Premier League title.
His two goals against Newcastle helped United to an impressive 4-1 win overall and earned them top spot in the Premier League for the time being.
But it was the nature of the goals that will have caught the attention of many. He’s always been able to score the impressive goals that leave teammates and opponents left wondering what just happened. But this weekend he also showed that he has that killer instinct of a striker in the 6 yard box. His first goal was all about his reactions and finding space in a busy box as he tapped away a deflection and sent Man Utd to the shed 1-0 up at halftime.
There it is. The moment that 76,000 people came to Old Trafford to see.
Cristiano Ronaldo scoring on his return. Inevitable.
— Optus Sport (@OptusSport) September 11, 2021
His second showed defences around the league that he still has enough pace to make them look silly – he sprinted away from the chasing Newcastle defence and fired in his 120th goal for the club. Not bad for a 36-year-old.
There are still question marks about whether Man United are a classic team of champions or a champion team but for now the Disney-esque storyline has the football world smiling.
Salah the Centurion
Only 30 players have scored 100 Premier League goals and now that list includes Mohamed Salah. Against Leeds he became the fifth fastest player in league history to reach the milestone and started Liverpool on their way to a convincing 3-0 win and third spot on the table.
Salah’s 100 goals have come from 162 appearances and he’s scored eight of them in the past 12 League games. This has helped Liverpool put together a 14-game unbeaten run and show the rest of the competition that they are back after a tough last season and are genuine title contenders again.
Liverpool fans will also be excited by the performance of Thiago Alcântara and the partnership he is striking up with Fabinho who has been able to return to the midfield having spent a lot of last season in defence to provide cover for the club’s injury crisis.
Sadly for the team, the game did have some sad news as Harvey Elliott sustained a dislocated ankle in just his third Premier League start. Whilst Liverpool walked away with a 3-0 win, another three points and their teammate in the Centurion Club, Jürgen Klopp said that the injury to the 18-year-old had completely overshadowed everything.
Reports suggest that Elliot is recovering well but will still face several months out as he recuperates.