Wigan 0 Chelsea 2
Chelsea still looks like an enigma. The Blues jumped all over Wigan and took a 2-0 lead before Sunday morning audiences in America could pour their Bloody Marys. Wigan has lost to Chelsea by scored of 6-0 and 8-0 in recent seasons and it looked like this was going to be more of the same. Then the offense suddenly evaporated and the final 83 minutes of the match were a goalless snoozefest. Wigan even had a few chances and Chelsea was somewhat fortunate to keep a clean sheet.
The 80+ minutes of squad complacency aside, Eden Hazard made himself the star of the day. The 21-year old Lille transfer struggled a bit in the Community Shield but he looked perfectly comfortable in his first Premier League match, setting up Branislav Ivanovic for the opener only two minutes into the contest. Hazard also drew the penalty that Frank Lampard converted from the spot that remarkably proved to be the last goal of the match at the seven-minute mark.
David Luiz got the start over Gary Cahill, although don’t be surprised if Roberto Di Matteo makes a switch in the mid-week match against Reading. Ramires was a surprise omission with a knock whereas Juan Mata did play even though Di Matteo strongly hinted that he wouldn’t. (Hazard definitely won Round 1 of the Hazard v. Mata fantasy decision.) Fernando Torres was quiet for most of the first half but came within inches of getting a goal in a second half. Oscar got his Chelsea debut as a sub for Hazard and it didn’t take him long to fire a shot that went just wide of the post. He’s still a ways away from regular playing time, but the talent is apparent.
There isn’t much to say about Wigan. In some regards they were unfortunate to not find at least one goal in the match but had they been given the opportunity to sign up for a 2-0 defeat after the 7th minute they probably would have taken it and gladly moved on to next week.
Manchester City 3 Southampton 2
The encore proved to be the most entertaining match of the weekend, not to mention a great reminder of just how fantastically entertaining the EPL can be. The end result was a replay of last season’s dramatic finale with City fighting their way back from 2-1 down to secure a 3-2 victory against a team they were expected to beat with ease. There was a lot of drama en route.
It started when Sergio Aguero went to the ground with severe knee pain after a Nathaniel Clyne challenge. It will be a long 48 hours of waiting to hear word on the extent of the injury, but the words “cruciate ligaments” are being thrown around a little too much for Roberto Mancini’s comfort. Aguero was in considerable pain and he could be looking at extended time on the sideline.
It really started to look like it wasn’t going to be City’s day when Tevez drew a penalty and David Silva did his best Shane Long impersonation. Kelvin Davies easily made the save on the weakly taken spot kick and the match remained scoreless. If Aguero misses time, Tevez is a solid bet to take penalties from this point forward making him an even bigger fantasy upgrade.
Edin Dzeko got the early substitution call for Aguero and scored one of his trademark “right place, right time” goals. He does it too often to call it luck and he’s an obvious upgrade if Aguero misses time. Mario Balotelli wouldn’t make an appearance until late and he uncharacteristically missed on a golden opportunity, putting the ball into the side of the net. He’ll probably remain a sub, but given the competitions on multiple fronts he should get his share of time on the pitch.
It was somewhat surprising that City made such a huge investment in Jack Rodwell. The Everton transfer was thrown right into the fire and included in the Starting XI. He held his own for the first half, but he did the soccer equivalent of throwing a “pick-six” in the second half. The Saints intercepted the lazy pass in full stride, took it to the other end, and Steven Davis beat Joe Hart to give Southampton a shocking 2-1 lead in the 68th minute.
In related news, Adam Johnson was left out of the squad, making space for Rodwell’s first start. Mancini confirmed Johnson may leave on transfer. He has been rumored to Liverpool as part of a Daniel Agger exchange so that will likely again fuel those rumors. Ultimately, it was the player who went through his transfer drama last summer who got the game winner. Samir Nasri scored the 80th minute goal on a beautiful strike from just inside the top of the box. While Silva had a day he’d rather forget, Nasri turned in a solid performance from start to finish.
It’s tough to say enough about Southampton. They stood toe-to-toe with the defending champs and sent a message about their intentions of staying up and competing. Jay Rodriguez was a surprise start over Rickie Lambert, but it was Lambert who took only minutes to score after coming in as a second half sub. There are always questions about a player’s ability to make the leap from the Championship to the top flight but apparently the goal looks just as big to Lambert this season as it did last.
The next 37 games won’t be away matches against the defending champs, so if Southampton can hold their own in this one, fantasy outlook looks bright for Lambert and some of his teammates for the remainder of the season. In addition to the prolific striker, Adam Lallana could be a value midfield player, Nathaniel Clyne looked like a nice bargain fantasy defender to stash on the bench for the right match-ups, and Kelvin Davies stood tall in goal.