Photo: Mo Salah scored his third Liverpool hattrick to steer the Red to a 4-3 win over Leeds United at Anfield. (Getty Images)
The marquee game of the opening day, on the opening weekend of the highly anticipated English Premier League season, lived up to all the hype and all the expectations as Liverpool and Leeds produced a seven goal thriller at Anfield, with the defending champions running out 4-3 victors, in an enthralling game of football that became an instant classic.
Mo Salah’s third Liverpool hattrick ensured that the defending champions avoided a potential opening day banana skin as the Championship champions refused to go away in their first game back in the premiership in 16 years.
The defending champions were off the mark as early as the 4th minute when Salah fired home from the penalty spot, punching the ball right down the middle and into the roof of the net after Robert Koch had handled his goal bound shot inside the box.
But the Leeds players did not drop their heads and drew level when Jack Harrison took down a long raking diagonal pass with one touch to get by Trent Alexander-Arnold and then Gomez before firing past Alisson, into the corner of the goal for 1-1 in the 12th min.
Virgil Van Dijk powered home a header from an Andy Robertson corner kick to restore the champions advantage in the 20th minute, as he was allowed to attack the ball without a challenge.
Henderson’s shot from distance was a clean strike in the 25th minute but fired directly at Illan Meslier
Pascal Struijk stuck out a leg from a Robertson cross and Meslier had to be at his athletic best to retreat and parry the ball over the crossbar for a Liverpool corner kick as the champions threatened to run riot.
However, it was Marcelo Bielsa’s men who would draw level again in the 30th minute after a Van Dijk error. A weak effort by the centre half to clear the ball fell into the path of Patrick Bamford who took one touch before steering the ball into an unguarded net to make it 2-2.
Salah got his brace with a beauty, calmly controlling with the bottom of his right boot before putting the laces of his left through the ball which flew into the roof of the net from 14 yards to restore Liverpool’s advantage for a third time in the 33rd minute as the Reds went into the break with a 3-2 lead.
Wijnaldum should have increased Liverpool’s advantage in the 49th minute as a ball from Firmino made it all the way across goal and came to his feet, but his tame effort was saved on the line by Meslier.
Leeds then got their third equalizer of the match when Mateusz Klich was picked out inside the box by Costa and after a neat control, fired on the volley past Alisson.
A Calvin Phillips bender in the 76th minute was always curling away from Alisson’s right post, although not very far.
Substitutes would then have a big impact on the final outcome of the game as Rodrigo caught Fabinho with an extended leg inside the box to give away penalty.
Salah converted his second penalty of the game, to complete his hattrick in the 88th minute, scoring to the keepers right as Meslier dived to his left for a 4-3 Liverpool lead with two minutes plus added time to play.
Arsenal made sure there was no fairytale return to the premier league for Fulham when they vanquished them 3-0 at Craven Cottage. A close range strike from Alexandre Lacazette put the Gunners ahead early, before a debut goal for Gabriel shortly after the restart doubled the Gunners lead. Arsenal talisman Pierre-Erick Aubameyang then made the game safe shortly after.
Arsenal came into the new season on a high having won trophies in their last two competitive games, the FA Cup Final and the season opener, the Community Shield and they took that to the pitch against their London rivals with Lacazette benefitting from a fortuitous bounce after a shot from Willian was parried by Marek Rodak in the Fulham goal, to prod home from 2 yards.
The early goal settled the visitors who went on to dominate the half without anymore reward to show for it. But they didn’t have to wait long after the restart as Gabriel headed home a right sided Willian cross for 2-0 four minutes after the resumption.
Aubameyang then sealed the deal with a trademark finish. He was picked out by a lovely long range pass from Willian out on the left flank, then cut inside the box to bury the ball in the far corner to end the game as a contest with less than an hour played.
Wilfred Zaha put his team a goal to the good in the 13th minute with a calm finish, steering the ball that bounced at an awkward height, inside the near post from five yards out with Alex McCarthy well beaten in the Southampton goal. It was a good cross from the right from Andros Townsend to pick out the Ivorian striker.
Kyle Walker-Peters was sent off in the 50th minute but the decision was overturned after a VAR check by referee Jon Moss. The red card seemed harsh at the time it was produced.
A beautifully floated free kick from James Ward-Prowse from the left was headed back into the mix by Jannik Vestergaard and a shot from Che-Adams who swiveled and fired on the volley was brilliantly saved by Guita who was perfectly placed in the 53rd minute
Zaha had a chance to seal the points for Palace in the 4th minute of added time, but after tricking his was past Jack Stephens and driving into the box, could only manage to fire into the side netting at the near post.
Southampton then went up the other end and crated a chance of their own, but Guita came up big again for his team with another brilliant save to deny England international, Danny Ings from close, to gift his manager Roy Hodgson who celebrated his third year in charge at the club, a proper anniversary present.
In the final game of the day, Newcastle got a strong start to their campaign, defeating West Ham 2-0 at the London Stadium.
Two Newcastle debutants were responsible for their team’s victory as both goals came in the second half.
Callum Wilson broke the deadlock in the 56th minute when he bundled the ball home after running on to a flick from Jeff Hendrick.
Hendrick then took Newcastle to the giddy heights of second in the league when he thundered the ball home to make it 2-0 with four minutes left on the clock. It was the perfect start for Steve Bruce and his team, while David Moyes who just managed to keep the Hammers up at the end of last season, will know that he has his work cut out for him this term.