The Best Opening Day Fixtures in Premier League History

The longest Premier League season on record ended less than a month ago, but the 2020/21 season is already almost upon us and the fixtures have now been released ahead of the new campaign.

There is plenty to look forward to over the coming ten months as things slowly began to return to a degree of normality. But, in the meantime, here's a look back at some of the best opening day/weekend fixtures in Premier League history...

Arsenal 2-4 Norwich, 1992

Back in August 1992, when the Premier League was brand new, Arsenal had been crowned league champions in both 1989 and 1991, while Norwich had just barely stayed in the top flight to be a part of the new revolution.

When the pair met at Highbury on the opening day, the game looked to be following the script when the Gunners went 2-0 up by half-time. But the Canaries came roaring back after the brace and scored four unanswered goals – Mark Robins netted the first and last.

Norwich went on to challenge for the title and Arsenal finished a distant tenth.

Also that weekend: Sheffield United’s Brian Deane scored the very first goal of the Premier League era during the Blades’ 2-1 win over future champions Manchester United.

Crystal Palace 1-6 Liverpool, 1994

With talented young players, Liverpool were ready to fully embrace the ‘Spice Boys’ generation by the start of the 1994/95 season, but still enjoyed the experience of Ian Rush and John Barnes.

The Reds had fallen short in the previous seasons and started the new campaign with a bang against Crystal Palace at Selhurst Park.

In a seemingly perfect blend of old and new, Jan Molby, Steve McManaman and Robbie Fowler all scored in the first half. McManaman got another later on, in between two Rush goals. Palace got a consolation from Chris Armstrong.

Aston Villa 3-1 Manchester United, 1995

One of the most infamous lines in English football history was uttered in reference to Aston Villa tearing apart a young Manchester United side on the opening day of the 1995/96 campaign.

“You can’t win anything with kids,” Alan Hansen said on Match of the Day that night, having seen Ian Taylor, Mark Draper and Dwight Yorke all score in the first half. United held their own after the interval and a 20-year-old David Beckham netted a consolation from long range.

The new-look United side would eventually go on to re-claim the Premier League title, but only after reeling in a Newcastle team that had a 12-point lead by January.

Middlesbrough 3-3 Liverpool, 1996

As the Premier League increasingly became a destination for international players from the mid-1990s onwards, Champions League winner Fabrizio Ravanelli was a major coup for Middlesbrough in the summer of 1996.

The white-haired Italian became an instant cult hero of English football when he netted a hat-trick on his debut against Liverpool and pulled out his trademark shirt over the head celebration.

Liverpool actually took the lead three times at the Riverside Stadium, but Ravanelli pegged them back after each one.

Leicester 2-2 Manchester United, 1998

Manchester United kicked off their 1998/99 treble season by snatching a late draw against a competitive Leicester side on the Premier League’s opening day.

The Foxes looked to be heading for a famous win when Tony Cottee doubled the lead given to them by Emile Heskey, until David Beckham intervened.

Beckham was playing his first Premier League game since a red card at the 1998 World Cup had turned him into a public hate figure. But he assisted Teddy Sheringham to cut the deficit to 2-1 and then scored the equaliser himself with a stoppage time free-kick.

Charlton 4-0 Manchester City, 2000

Manchester City’s first Premier League game in four years ended in a comprehensive thrashing at the hands of Charlton in August 2000. Manchester’s sky blues had been relegated in 1996, dropped into the third tier in 1998, and were only just back in the top flight.

Charlton were newly promoted themselves and had pipped City to the First Division title by two points the previous season.

City gave debuts to Paulo Wanchope and 1995 Ballon d’Or winner George Weah, but Andy Hunt, John Robinson, Mark Kinsella and Graham Stuart all scored for Charlton without reply.

Manchester United 3-2 Fulham, 2001

Newly promoted Fulham threatened to upset Manchester United at Old Trafford on the opening day of the 2001/02 season. The Cottagers had made light work of the First Division to get into the top flight, but United had won three Premier League titles in a row.

Louis Saha was the breakout star of the day, handing Fulham a shock lead after only four minutes and then restoring that advantage after David Beckham equalised.

Ruud van Nistelrooy made it a debut to remember, scoring twice for the hosts in quick succession early in the second half to give his team a 3-2 win. It was also a Premier League debut for new Fulham goalkeeper Edwin van der Sar.

Liverpool 1-2 Chelsea, 2003

Chelsea pipped Liverpool to the last Champions League spot in what was a de facto playoff between the two on the final day of the 2002/03 season. They met again on the opening weekend of 2003/04, by which time Roman Abramovich had ploughed millions into Chelsea.

Chelsea gave debuts to Glen Johnson, Wayne Bridge, Juan Sebastian Veron, Damien Duff, Geremi and Joe Cole at a combined cost of £59m, which still only represented some of their summer business.

But it was existing star Jimmy Floyd Hasselbaink who netted the late winner.

Wigan 0-1 Chelsea, 2005

Missed opportunities and a stoppage time screamer from a world class striker was the difference as newly promoted Wigan almost stunned reigning champions Chelsea in August 2005.

The Latics, who had been playing in the third tier only two years earlier, frustrated Chelsea and created chances of their own. They couldn’t take them, however, and Hernan Crespo sent a rocket into the top corner in the 93rd minute.

Chelsea manager Jose Mourinho seemed almost apologetic when he embraced Wigan counterpart Paul Jewell on the side-line when the ball flew into the net.

Manchester United 5-1 Fulham 2006

All eyes were on Manchester United as the 2006/07 Premier League season kicked off, more specifically how Cristiano Ronaldo and Wayne Rooney would get on following their clash when England faced Portugal at that summer’s World Cup.

Concerned United fans needn’t have worried because United raced into a 4-0 lead inside the first 19 minutes and Ronaldo and Rooney were both among the goals, playing in perfect harmony.

Rooney set up Ronaldo’s goal, while Ronaldo was involved when Rooney netted his second of the game, United’s fifth, in the second half.

Aston Villa 4-2 Manchester City, 2008

One of Manchester City’s final games before Sheikh Mansour’s 2008 takeover and the Abu Dhabi revolution that has transformed the club into one of the world’s best was a 4-2 thrashing at the hands of Aston Villa on the opening day of the season.

John Carew and Elano netted for each side, but the game was decided by a seven-minute hat-trick scored by Gabriel Agbonlahor – one of the fastest trebles in Premier League history.

By the end of the month, City had ambitious new owners with seemingly infinite resources and made their first big statement by signing Robinho from Real Madrid.

Everton 1-6 Arsenal 2009

Everton were threatening to break into the top four in the late 2000s and had enjoyed consecutive fifth place finishes under David Moyes in 2007/08 and 2008/09. But the Toffees were knocked firmly back when Arsenal humiliated them at Goodison Park to kick off the 2009/10 campaign.

Thomas Vermaelen marked a fine Arsenal debut with a goal, while Denilson, William Gallas, Cesc Fabregas (2) and Eduardo all got in on the act.

Everton had only conceded 37 league goals in the preceding season and shipped virtually one sixth of that entire total on the opening day of 2009/10.

Wigan 0-4 Blackpool, 2010

By 2010, Wigan were no longer the Premier League new boys and were an established Premier League side. Instead, the plucky underdogs in 2010/11 were Blackpool, whose promotion to the top flight for the first time since 1971 had come as a complete surprise.

The visiting Tangerines raced into a 3-0 lead when Gary Taylor-Fletcher and Marlon Harewood (2) scored in the first half. Alex Baptiste made it 4-0 in the second half with a misplaced cross, proof that everything was going Blackpool’s way that day.

The result even put Blackpool top of the Premier League table for a few hours, their highest league position since 1957 when they briefly topped the old First Division.

Manchester City 4-0 Swansea, 2011

Manchester City began the 2011/12 season as ambitious FA Cup holders determined to break a 44-year drought in the league. Facing newly promoted Swansea at home, they had £38m record signing Sergio Aguero on the bench awaiting his debut.

With Swansea determined to play the same open possession-based style that earned them promotion, Edin Dzeko got the ball rolling for City, before Aguero netted shortly after coming on.

The Argentine then turned provider for David Silva to score, while he got a second of his own with a long-range effort. He finished the season by scoring the goal that won City the title.

West Brom 3-0 Liverpool, 2012

Having finished eighth in 2011/12, Liverpool endured a difficult start to 2012/13 against a West Brom side that would go on to record their best ever Premier League finish – ironically, eighth.

It was Brendan Rodgers’ first league game in charge of Liverpool after being poached from Swansea and it could hardly have started worse. New Baggies boss Steve Clarke had been sacked by the Reds only months earlier in an Anfield clearout of the backroom staff.

Zoltan Gera, Peter Odemwingie and Romelu Lukaku scored the goals against a ten-man Liverpool, with West Brom even wasting further chances to make the win even more emphatic.

Swansea 1-4 Manchester United, 2013

A week after a comfortable Community Shield win, David Moyes led a Manchester United side in the Premier League for the first time on the opening weekend of the 2013/14 season.

United were in control of the game from midway through the first half when Robin van Persie and Danny Welbeck scored in quick succession. Both players scored again in the second half, with Swansea’s consolation goal coming from Wilfried Bony.

Things never looked as rosy for Moyes after that and he was sacked just ten months into his six-year contract, which would have expired as recently as 2019.

Arsenal 0-2 West Ham, 2015

Arsenal were outfought by West Ham to open the 2015/16 Premier League season, with a 16-year-old Reece Oxford emerging as the star of the show. The teenager was sensationally still awaiting his GCSE results at the time after only just leaving school.

Dimitri Payet created the first Hammers goal for Cheikhou Kouyate, with Mauro Zarate making it two for the visitors in the second half.

Arsenal dominated possession but had 14 shots off target, largely failing to trouble West Ham.

Arsenal 3-4 Liverpool, 2016

Jurgen Klopp’s first full season as Liverpool manager began with a seven-goal thriller against Arsenal, edging the Gunners out by a single goal to win 4-3 in north London.

It took 31 minutes for a goal to come and it was Arsenal who broke the deadlock through Theo Walcott, who had earlier missed a penalty. Philippe Coutinho made it 1-1 soon after, before Liverpool scored three more unanswered goals in the second half to go 4-1 up.

Sadio Mane had made a goalscoring debut for the Reds, who then conceded twice to set up a potentially thrilling finish. But Liverpool held on for the victory.

Watford 3-3 Liverpool, 2017

Liverpool were already being linked with Virgil van Dijk when the 2017/18 season kicked off and it was clear then that defensive frailties would hold them back unless addressed.

Watford took the lead twice in the game, but Liverpool turned things round in the second half when Roberto Firmino scored from the penalty spot and a debut goal from Mohamed Salah put the Reds 3-2 up and course for victory.

Liverpool even dominated the latter stages and could have extended their lead, only to see a soft stoppage time goal scored by Watford defender Miguel Britos level things at 3-3.

Liverpool 4-1 Norwich, 2019

Having run Manchester City incredibly close in the 2018/19 title race, Liverpool had the honour of kicking off the 2019/20 campaign on a Friday night against newly promoted Norwich.

The plucky Canaries caused Liverpool problems and were guilty of wasting opportunities. Defensively, they were poor, a factor which eventually led to their relegation back to the Championship, and the European champions were clinical.

Liverpool went on to romp to the Premier League title in record breaking fashion, although the season lasted a mind blowing 50 weeks because of the coronavirus pandemic.

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Source : 90min