Liverpool & Manchester City Lay Down Major Markers in Premier League Season Openers

Raheem Sterling
via Brad Tutterow / CC-BY-2.0

Reigning Premier League champions Manchester City followed UEFA Champions League holders Liverpool in registering a big win in the first couple of matches of the new English soccer season.

Man City, who have won the title in each of the last two campaigns, enjoyed a 5-0 rout at West Ham United after Liverpool opened up with a 4-1 home victory over Norwich City.

Just one point separated the two clubs in the final Premier League table of 2018-19, and both sides looked as good as ever now back in competitive action. Starting with Liverpool, manager Jurgen Klopp felt able to rest Sadio Mane as he was only a late substitute off the bench as the Reds took on newly-promoted Norwich.

Naive Canaries defending – their defense is short on Premier League experience and that really showed at Anfield – allowed Liverpool to race into a 4-0 halftime lead. Grant Hanley’s own goal, a Mo Salah strike and Virgil van Dijk’s header effectively ended this match as a contest by a half-an-hour in.

Divock Origi, whose late goal in last season’s Champions League final secured victory over Tottenham Hotspur in Madrid, also struck against Norwich before the interval. Red goalkeeper Alisson picked up a calf injury before halftime, however, forcing substitute goalkeeper Adrian – a free transfer after leaving West Ham – into an unexpected debut off the bench.

Alisson is now out of at least the UEFA Super Cup clash between Liverpool and Europa League winners Chelsea. Teemu Pukki, who was the Championship’s top scorer last season, scored a consolation goal for the Canaries at Anfield after the hour mark.

In light of that and the Man City result, Pep Guardiola’s team remain odds-on favorites for a third consecutive Premier League crown. Liverpool, meanwhile, are at 3.75 in the futures football betting with bet365 to end a 30-year wait for the title.

VAR has been introduced to the Premier League this year and was in regular use at the London Stadium where Man City cruised past the hosting Hammers. Raheem Sterling hit a hat-trick after Gabriel Jesus opened the scoring and substitute Sergio Aguero converted a twice-taken penalty at the second attempt.

Guardiola gave a Premier League debut to City’s record signing Rodri in midfield, while West Ham – managed by former Etihad boss Manuel Pellegrini – included £45,000,000 French striker Sebastien Haller from the start.

He had precious little service, however, as Man City dominated. But for VAR ruling out another Gabriel Jesus goal due to an offside in the buildup, the final score would’ve been 6-0.

It’s an early dent to Pellegrini’s hopes that summer spending of around £80,000,000 has improved the Hammers, who finished tenth last season. They looked no closer to the so-called big six of Liverpool, Man City, Manchester United, Spurs, Arsenal and Chelsea.

On this evidence, the gulf between the top Premier League sides and the rest looks wider than ever. Last year’s top two remain the teams to beat, though sterner tests lie ahead.